On Monday, BuzzFeed’s Myles Tanzer introduced a whole new audience to Angela Cheng, a pseudonymous music blogger who recently shifted her very questionable act from examiner.com to the URL popmusicgadfly.com.
Entangled in this trail is former Billboard editorial director Bill Werde and industry superstar Lady Gaga. The publication of the BuzzFeed story led Werde to reluctantly chime in via Tumblr and sparked a follow-up post from Cheng on April 1. We’re going to focus on Werde’s post, since it addresses the “Culpability of the Media” and what appears to be some very lazy reporting:
On November 17, 2013, “Sabrina O’Connor” [another mysterious examiner.com blogger byline] posted a story on Examiner.com that claimed Lady Gaga’s Interscope label had spent $25 million to promote her album ARTPOP, which had been released 11 days earlier.
Within days that number had been repeated in seemingly any outlet that could credibly cover such a matter: Business Week; New York magazine; Business Insider. A couple of weeks later, the New York Post published a razor-sharp hatchet job on Gaga, once again, floating the $25 million figure.
(Credit where it’s due: the only outlet I could find that called bullshit, and did it the very next day, was Roger Friedman at Showbiz 411.)
This appears to be echo chamber reporting at its worst. I have to wonder if any of the aforementioned outlets could provide independent reporting or confirmation of this $25 million figure. Most of them appeared to simply use the sensational $25 million as click bait, while disclaiming in the fine print that it was “according to examiner.com”, and linking to the source. It’s an ugly gut check for a content farming industry that was once known as journalism. But the truth is, for many outlets and at some times, it doesn’t seem to matter what’s verifiable. If it’s sexy and you can blame it on a different media outlet if it turns out not to be true, fire up the CMS!
Werde says his sources insist that nowhere near $25 million was spent by Interscope to market Gaga’s last album. Cheng, in her Tuesday post, says the figure came from a source “very close to Gaga.” She also claims that Werde knows who she is, and makes no mention of any connection to that other examiner.com blogger, O’Connor.
[Album cover courtesy: Interscope Records]