Misleading LJWorld.com ad still appearing

Lawrence, Kan. – At first, I thought it was a promotion for an investigative story by an intrepid reporter working for 6News Lawrence, a sibling of the Lawrence Journal World newspaper’s LJWorld.com website.

The photo on the front page of the LJWorld.com website appears to promote an investigative report about a local mom who found a job that earns her $77 an hour working from her home.

The photo, on the front page of the LJWorld.com website,  promotes an investigative story by a reporter named Shannon Fitzgerald.  The story is  about a local mother named Jessica Holcomb who turned $97 into $6,795.  “We investigated and found a job that can earn you $77 hour from home,” says the photo caption.

Pretty compelling.  Especially after reading how tough life had been for Holcomb until she discovered a way to make thousands of dollars a month by working from home.

It says:

This ad on the LJWorld.com website gives the impression that it's a real investigative report.

The photo and the story it links to is a phony, a fake, a misrepresentation.

The photo doesn’t say it’s an advertisement. It gives readers the impression that it’s news content- an investigative report produced by a journalist.

Worse yet,  LJWorld.com, a news organization dedicated to providing readers with factual information,  earns money from the misleading ad each time you or I click on the photo expecting to read a true investigative account.

A slap on the wrist for LJWorld.com

Here's another version of the misleading photo featured on the LJWorld.com website.

The ad is actually for a company called Profit System Online.

The company markets a so-called “Internet Income System” that the ad claims made one local mom $6,795 a month while working 10-13 hours a week from home.

“Local mom turns $97 into $6,795,” says the photo caption.  That $97 is what you’d pay to subscribe to the Profit System Online program.

Clicking on the LJWorld.com photo leads readers to this fake investigative report that masquerades as a sales pitch for Profit System Online.

What do you find when you get to the bottom of the fake investigative story about the stay-at-home mom? The mom who earns $6,750 a month working 10-13 hours a week from home?

You’ll find this small print from Profit System Online.

It says:

IMPORTANT CONSUMER DISCLOSURE

We are not affiliated in any way with any news organization. This is an advertisement for Profit System Online.

The small print goes on to say that the website is…

“based loosely off a true story, but has been modified in multiple ways including, but not limited to: the story, the photos, and the comments. Thus, this advertisement, and any page on this website, are not to be taken literally or as a non-fiction story. This advertisement, and the results mentioned on this advertisement, although achievable for some, are not to be construed as the results that you may achieve if you purchase the Profit System Online.”

Yes, it’s an ad.  I personally believe it’s a deceptive ad because it hides the true sponsor behind the message unless you read the ad’s small print.

To me, this appears to be the case with Profit System Online whose ad tries to convince prospective customers with a message that appears, at first anyway, to come from an objective news organization rather than a company trying to convince people to buy an online marketing program.

Online research on the company raises some potential warning flags. The Reviewopedia.com questions the legitimacy of the Profit System Online program and cites customer complaints about the company.

The Reviewopedia website writes:

“To make matters worse they (Profit System Online) use some deceptive methods to promote these programs, the most common being the fake news sites. These are websites made to look like legitimate editorials but in fact they are completely fabricated. They feature a story of a stay home mom that was lucky enough to come across the Profit System Online and now makes a full-time income working an hour a day.”

Another website, BizClaims.com,  published a complaint from a consumer against Profit System Online this month.  The consumer said the program actually cost him $3,550 of which he has only received a small refund. He wrote:

“But I wanted to cancel the whole thing, as I understood it to be a one package deal, but they don’t want to give me almost $3,300 back. They told me that the terms of Premier Coaching Center clearly states in the terms that I only had three days to cancel. I FEEL I HAVE TRULY BEEN RIPPED OFF BIG TIME!”

In my humble opinion, the Profit System Online ad is also a poor reflection on LJWorld.com and its affiliates because it undermines the credibility of those news organization and its own talented, hard-working journalists.

LJWorld.com’s use of such ads raised some questions in my mind:

  • Why would it allow an advertisement to confuse its readers.
  • Why would it allow an advertisement masquerading as an investigative report to appear on the LJWorld.com website?
  • Does LJWorld.com screen advertising content such as this?
  • Does the  LJWorld.com have advertising guidelines for its advertising content?

On Friday, I spoke by phone with Whitney Mathews, an online editor at LJWorld.com.  She cheerfully explained that LJWorld.com buys into an ad network where the online ads originate. “What you’re looking at is something that’s becoming a lot more common in advertising,” explained Ms. Mathews.

“Doesn’t the use of such ads undermine the mission of the LJWorld.com website as a news organization?” I asked.  “Not necessarily,” replied Mathews.  “I think most of the users of the website are really familiar with the placement of advertising on online websites,” Mathews said.

“Who decides what ads go on the LJWorld.com website,”  I asked.  “That would absolutely be a question for the advertising department,” responded Whitney.  She suggested I call Tamara Hand in the LJWorld.com sales department.

And that’s pretty much where things are tonight. I called Friday and left a phone message for Ms. Hand.  So far, I have not received a return phone call from Ms. Hand or anyone else from LJWorld.com.  If and when I do, I’ll give you an update.

I feel that being misled by an advertisement may cause readers to respond negatively  to the LJWorld.com.  Deceptive advertising may also undermine the effectiveness and believability of the news organization. Those are my thoughts anyway. What do you think?

A misleading ad that pretends to be an investigative report continues to appear on the LJWorld.com website.

Update: Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Despite leaving a phone message, I have not received a reply from Tamara Hand in the LHWorld.com sales department.  A check of today’s LJWorld.com website reveals that the questionable ad is still appearing.

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About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm a professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
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16 Responses to Misleading LJWorld.com ad still appearing

  1. Interesting how in this age of communication, there is still such a disconnect between advertising and journalism. I hope that media learns to hold themselves to a higher standard.

  2. Hi Barney.

    Thanks for pointing out this ad. I apologize for the delay in responding; Tamara has been out of the office all week. We agree that this ad is misleading and unacceptable, and it has been removed from our site.

    Whitney is correct; this ad is served off of an ad network we use to monetize unsold banner spaces on our sites. As you say in your bio, “As profits have plunged, thousands of seasoned journalists have been laid-off, offered early retirement or been bought out of their jobs.” The revenue from networks such as these are used by many, if not most, news sites to help keep the doors open and pay the salaries of our outstanding journalists here at the Lawrence Journal World. The downside is that occasionally, questionable ads slip into the stream. When that happens, we can (and do) go in and suppress those ads.

    Thanks again for pointing this out.

    Edwin Rothrock
    Director of Marketing Strategies
    The World Company

  3. Barney–

    Thanks for bringing this ad to our attention. It’s a terrible ad that belongs nowhere on the Internet — at least not on what we like to think is a reputable news source. As I think you’ve learned via Twitter already, and as I can confirm, we’ve blocked that ad.

    As Whitney mentioned, it did come as part of an advertising network that we are part of. There’s not a way to prescreen all of the ads we receive from that network, but we are able to block ads that violate our advertising standards. This one clearly does. Unfortunately, those ad networks help pay the bills so we’re loathe to entirely abandon them while we work to build up our own online local advertising. In time, we hope to not use an advertising network over which we have so little control.

    I should also mention that you didn’t hear from Tamra Hand — after leaving her a message — because she was on vacation. That’s certainly no excuse, however. We appreciate your vigilance, and that you took the time to reach out to us directly.

    Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance or if you have any other questions.

    Again, thanks.

    Jonathan Kealing
    Assistant Director of Media Strategy
    The World Company
    LJWorld.com / KUsports.com / lawrence.com / WellCommons.com

  4. I received such an ad and checked it out but didn’t buy into it. Further investigation revealed that I had a hard time finding out who this Shannon Fitzgerald is and I have already been skunked before so I’m not getting skunked again.

  5. Informer says:

    What a scam artist… creates these blogs and then cell CPA or clickbank products through fictitious stories… read the ‘disclaimer’ folks…

  6. XYZTalleyrand says:

    I too feel that P. S. O., News1, and their ilk are a load of old bull excrement. I have noticed their ads all over NBC websites. Sensing a bit of rubbish where it did not belong, I decided to save what I also believe to be deceptive spam. After capturing these ad shots for posterity, I went to their website to confront their shilling and various and sundry other manure, only to find out that they do not want anyone but themselves posting their comments. Scoundrels! They obviously know that they are in the wrong, because i noticed at the end of the posts there was a notice that said, “We’re sorry, but the commenting board is closed at this time,” or words to that effect. News1, if you are out there and you are spying on these posts, remember that we’re onto you and the manure coming out of your mouth!

  7. Marian says:

    I just received that crap as an email and it says she works for “NEWS 10,” and it’s on a blue background. That’s how I found your blog.

  8. Duffy says:

    Obviously a SCAM. Received same “pop up” in my email recently at home
    in West Michigan. Jessica was from Jenison, Michigan. While visiting in Illinois for Thanksgiving week, used another computer and the SAME ad , completely intact. appeared in my email with Jessica Holcomb of
    Plainfield, Illinois. Con me once, damn you, con me twice, Damn me.

  9. Donna says:

    For the people that still are’nt convinced that this is a scam, I live about 200 miles from reno in rural Nevada, I have lived here my whole life and my local news is out of Reno. I have NEVER even heard of this news station or of this reporter!! They DO NOT exist!! Please dont fall for this, I know times are tough, but if you fall for this it will much tougher!!

  10. Angelicus says:

    thanks For posting and letting others know.
    I have been burned before with that real-estate scam that offers you knowledge on making profit in the market. For 60 dollars i got a set of infomercials that never showed me anything except how good their system was and a bunch of call asking for $ 20,000 to work closely with some guy in the infomercial until i can get money for a house and rebuild it for a profit.
    Simply, If I had 20K i wouldn’t need his tapes.

  11. Pingback: Different face on old scam | JournalCetera

  12. JON says:

    GEE, JESSICA HOLMES MUST REALLY GET AROUND, SHE ALSO LIVES IN BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA AND GREENFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS TOO. I ALSO CAME ACROSS HYDERABAD AND AHMEDABAD! AS MANY PLACES AS ADVERTIZED THAT SHE LIVES, THIS LEADS ME TO BELIEVE THAT THIS IS A SCAM……DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME OR MONEY…….

  13. JON says:

    Shannon Fitzgerald is also Wendy Ross SAYING THE SAME THING EXCEPT IT IS SUSAN BECKHAM THAT IS A STAY AT HOME MOM…….SCAM…..

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