A recent quote I came across gave me pause for thought: "Nearly everything you're reading or engaging with online is actually just marketing disguised as content."
That's kind of depressing, even if most of us probably realise that's the case, but then it struck me that there's a lot more to it than just people trying to sell us stuff.
The American Marketing Association defines marketing as "the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large."
That sounds typically business-like and banal, and pretty much what you'd expect, but then take a closer look, especially at the last three words.
Marketing isn't just used to sell trainers, phones, and cars, but also ideologies. It's marketing that gave the world Donald Trump, via catchphrases like Make America Great Again, and Brexit, via Boris' bullshit bus.
Marketing masquerading as content is hardly new. Infomercials have been around for ages, and we've all seen those old ad's in magazines that look like an article, but actually aren't. One of the major reasons for this onslaught of marketing disguised as content is the fact that anyone with a computer and internet access can potentially reach an audience.
Social media has exacerbated the issue. We're now exposed to people calling themselves "influencers" who post photos of themselves beaming happily and healthily, while promoting the free shit they get to potential customers.
But it goes deeper than that. We've now got 'native advertising' which many people can't recognise as advertising. That should be concerning, because that's most definitely marketing disguised as content.
And the worst thing? I'm as guilty as the people I'm complaining about.
I've written stuff here with an eye to drumming up clients, or customers for a book idea I've got. Although that's not as bad as basically tricking the populace into voting for something completely different to what you say it is, it's still a bit underhand.
So I've decided to stop doing it. That way I'll:
a) stop feeling a bit seedy; and
b) not have to crowbar stuff in to fit a narrative.
I'm also going to stop putting links to products I might get a tiny sales commission from without pointing it out.
So be careful when you're reading and interacting with things online. There might be more going on than meets the eye.