Everything you read isn't a lie, it's a MyVoucherCodes press release
It started when we looked into the numbers behind a story on the RAC's website, which led to a search through Google News.
There we found the original source of the RAC story - a survey about loose change left in cars - and dozens upon dozens of similar press releases, all published by the same source.
Together with their PR company, MyVoucherCodes is publishing an insane number of press releases about an insane number of surveys they've alleged to have carried out. For a voucher discount business, they're spending an incredible amount of time conducting polls and questionnaires about everything from pocket money to PINs.
This is they list of surveys we found - all apparently published in the past four weeks alone. We've linked to the original release where possible:
25th January - Two fifths sneak a peek at other peoples’ PINs
26th January - 1 in 10 Considering Private Rubbish Collection Services
27th January - Bribery alone costs parents £240 a year on average
27th January - We can name takeaway staff - but not neighbours
27th January - Poll reveals January as month when most take out credit
28th January - Quarter of young women feel mothers dress too young
31st January - Third of parents ‘don’t trust’ babysitters
4th February - Should you rent for life?
4th February - 1 in 10 fooled by spam financial e-mails
4th February - Study reveals, smart phones mostly used for ‘playing games’
10th February - Brits reveal woolly knowledge of RAM
18th February - £109 million stashed in vehicles across Great Britain
17 surveys published in less than four weeks, nearly one per working day on average. Looking back through Google News and the websites of press release aggregators, it doesn't seem like unusual activity for MyVoucherCodes, but any newsroom hack will tell you there aren't many companies churning out a press release per day. As is often the case, some press releases go ignored while others attract attention from the national media and other popular websites.
One by-product of the tactic is to ramp up MyVoucherCodes Google ranking; while SEO consultants charge thousands to optimise a website's copy and metadata, one of the easiest ways is to publish content that may be of interest to other websites, and hope they'll return the favour by linking to the source.
When Google Search determines where a website should appear in search results, one of the key factors is how many other sites link to it. The higher the ranking of these sites, the higher the ranking of any sites they link to. Paying third party websites for links to improve search results is tantamount to cheating as far as Google is concerned, as American chain JC Penney recently discovered. Spamming publications with editorial content on a near-daily basis is perfectly acceptable; some sites link back to MyVoucherCodes, but nearly all quote directly credit the press release, so job done in terms of publicity.
More worrying is that a company like MyVoucherCodes can become a content farm for lazy or time-pressured journalists, ever eager to cut and paste the surveys into their articles - no questions asked. There's no indication as to how rigorous or scientific the surveys are, since no third party polling organisation is ever credited; MyVoucherCodes is seemingly responsible for surveying thousands of people every day.
And that's just one-company. Imagine how much of the news you read is nothing of the sort, but instead the product and agenda of companies and their PR agencies - all of it unsubstantiated by anyone other than the company that has everything to gain by its publication, and all of it passed off as objective news to an unsuspecting public. Well, mostly unsuspecting.
Disclosure: Bitterwallet is part of the HUKD family of blogs; HUKD is considered by MyVoucherCodes owner Markco Media to be a competitor