As online poker operators, players and media were gearing up for a tournament-filled weekend this past Friday, a peculiar article written by “Financial Advisor” Allan Smith surfaced over at the Huffington Post’s online news service.
In the blog entry, Smith (or whoever that is) ran off more than 800 words on Why Most Americans Don’t Want Legalized Online Poker. Some time around Friday afternoon, word got out that there was a stinker of a hit piece about online poker at HuffPost, and the comments started pouring in from authoritative personalities within our industry.
As I moseyed on over to the Huffington Post blog section, I wondered to myself, “What will it be this time?” A fervent pitch by an Adelson-backed organization ranting about the dangers of online gaming while pimping live wagering? Or perhaps more small sample size mumbo jumbo from the fine execs in the DFS industry about how there’s less skill in our game than in theirs?
None of the above it seems.
How Could This Happen?
The article is so poorly written that I doubt it will get play even among online poker’s staunchest critics. If you’ve been around the Freelance Writing block and take into account that the Huffington Post doesn’t compensate a good number of its contributors, then you can take an educated guess as to what happened upon browsing through just a few sentences of Allan’s work.
“This is the one of the major reasons that people don’t want online poker to be legalized as they are not much sure about the consequences. There are people who are using specific online gaming sites and they are much accustomed with their rule regulation and are comfortable playing there. The question is, if these famous sites are going to get license when this become legalized.”
I’d say some Reputation Management genius who’s about a decade behind the SEO curve wants to get this “Allan Smith” character over as an established financial advisor in the online realm. So you submit a pro-bono article to a mainstream media site and hope it circulates without any negative feedback pertaining to its inaccuracy and “non-native speaker” tone. Link up a few social media sites, keep sending in the fodder, publish an online book via Amazon, write your own Wiki entry, turn your own website into a Link Farm, and you’re a star!
Or at least that’s the way it might have worked back in the day. Allan Smith — the Financial Advisor — is unlikely to rank high on Google anytime soon unless it’s for criticism. Fortunately there were a good number of authoritative online poker industry representatives who took the time to point out the flaws in the article by posting in the Comments section.
More On The Huffington Post
As I mentioned, the Huffington Post has a policy of exchanging “the unique platform and reach our site provides” for content. In other words, HuffPost does not pay some of its writers and instead offers them distribution.
Enter Wil Wheaton — actor, writer, social media personality, cast member of Stand By Me and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and former celebrity member of Team PokerStars.
The man known to many as Wesley Crusher has been out of the online poker scene for a while, but last year he published a blog entry on WilWheaton.net about self-help tactics. An editor at (you guessed it, the Huffington Post) contacted the professional writer, and wouldn’t you know — she was interested in publishing the Burbank, California native’s work. When negotiations got down to brass tacks however, it turned out that no monetary offer would be on the table, so Wheaton obliged with a Tweet to his 3 million Followers.
HuffPost: We’d like to publish a story you wrote!— Wil Wheaton (@wilw) October 27, 2015
Me: Cool! What do you pay?
HP: Oh, we can’t afford to pay, but EXPOSURE!
Me: How about no.
Then he got about a thousand comments to his website response — you can’t pay your rent with “the unique platform and reach our site provides.”
What writers and content distributors want to work out amongst themselves is their business, but the content acquisition policy of HuffPost (and other mainstream news sites) brings into question just how much longer services can maintain their “reputable” status among a critical mass of their readers.
As if constantly defending your stance on a particular topic doesn’t wear thin enough, doing so in response to a hit piece that is only relevant because of where it’s distributed has to be double the fun. Perhaps Smith will share some “Financial Tips” next and the word will get out.
But the moral of the story is that content is trending towards authoritative entries. Gone are the days when you could dupe an uninformed Internet crowd with extraordinary tales of expertise in everything from outdoor plumbing to making money on YouTube. Readers want their news and opinions from informed, interested observers. Without that, the only social media sharing you’re going to enjoy is from critics who ridicule your material.
So as the Allan Smith-Huffington Post piece makes its rounds this coming week, take a moment to reflect on exactly what’s at stake for legalized online poker in the United States. Many of us who believe in spreading the online game share strong convictions regarding regulated access, and are available to engage in meaningful debate on the subject… so please don’t disrespect that willingness to communicate by posting nonsense.