‘Tactics’ may scare site’s traffic

Bogus personalized news hypes Sci Fi show


To the casual eye, it looks like this “news” site is reporting that I’m a fugitive from the military police. I’ve allegedly escaped from “Area 51” and suggests even innocent “Travis Smith”s should be worried. I found out about this story when I received a serious-looking email with a headline and a link to this American News Journal site.

But text at the bottom of the article, and every side link on the site, reveals that the story is a viral P.R. stunt encouraging the reader to watch Sci-Fi’s new show, “Scare Tactics.”

Benign pranks are one thing, and prank shows have a long heritage. However, a prank that is pulled on many potential viewers could leave a sour taste in some victims’ mouths — imagine if Candid Camera did their tricks not on one person, but on thousands.

And pranks that mimic legitimate news can be risky, and could backfire on the sponsor; the Bejing Evening News picked up a false story about the U.S. capitol building, originally published by known satire site The Onion.

“Scare Tactic’s” site allows any class clown to send one of two fake stories: The other, revealing the identity of the Antichrist, is more farcical, if not in better taste, and perhaps less prone to boomerang on the Sci-Fi channel.

Got a site to share with me? Email tfsmith@reedbusiness.com

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