Marketing and Propaganda Overload

Greater than 5 minutes, my friend!

Since the newspaper that I read, or at least scan every day, has been recently bought by a skinny, bald rich guy whose name is Jeff Bezos, I’ve noticed how a couple of times a week there are sections in it that look just like news sections, but instead are what is called in newspeak “supplements”, or propaganda of foreign governments, the Chinese government and the Russian government in particular, that is aimed straight at American readers. This foreign propaganda probably looks just like another section of the Washington Post to many readers who may easily miss the labeling in small letters on the first page identifying these propaganda sections of the Chinese and Russian governments as “advertising supplements”.

And why not? If Russia and China pay good money to Jeff Bezos to print their propaganda in my newspaper, why not let them sell their “news coverage” to American audiences? After all, what is the difference between China, Russia and America at this point?

The news broadcasts on my local TV stations are also full of segments that are mostly advertisements masquerading as news, for instance when the beautiful people called “news casters” inform the public about the importance of using sunscreen on hot, sunny days at the beach. It is so hard to distinguish between straight advertising and the news/advertising mixture that I basically only watch weather forecasts on my local TV channels.

Facebook was basically designed to make loads of money by turning everything that anybody says and anything anybody thinks about into an advertisement for something.

My guess is that Shakespeare would not have appreciated that a world that used to be a perfect stage for his comedies and tragedies only a few short centuries ago was turned into a huge marketing platform for launching products and services. There is not a single marketing or advertising segment in any of his plays, unless the end scene in Romeo and Juliet is a marketing platform for assisted suicide.

It is not easy to identify the marketing content that I find so frequently in my newspaper as it is now seamlessly blended with what is at this point called news.

For example, on Tuesdays, the Washington Post publishes a “Health Section”, which contains articles that simply must be hidden, paid advertisements for various medications and medical products and services.

On Saturday I pick up a Real Estate Section with my paper from my driveway – about 20 pages of dozens of advertisements for high-priced rentals and properties for sale, with a few articles thrown in for good measure to laud the beauty of new real estate properties in and around Washington D.C.

Affordable properties, which means small condos with a few hundred square feet, start at about $449,000 (for the really tiny ones), which is still much cheaper than in San Francisco, a beautiful city full of wonderfully weird people where I was very fortunate to live for a whole decade while the rents were still reasonable there in the 1980s, before everything was turned into commercial and political propaganda. With the exception of current rates of lending institutions taking up about half a page, there is no real information in the “Real Estate Section” about what is going on in real estate, it’s all just marketing sold to subscribers instead of news.

It is thus no wonder that when the number of readers of a formerly completely insignificant translation blog mushrooms after a while into a respectable number, a perfectly natural reaction of a happily surprised blogger would be to start thinking: gee, maybe I can make some money out of this thing after all.

Especially given how the community of formerly independent translators has been abused for more than a decade and is still being battered, abused and shortchanged by “the translation industry”, i.e. brokers who may not know anything about translation, but who are genuine and highly innovative experts at creating very sophisticated designs for buying translations low and selling them high, monetization of a translation blog is probably a thought that has been on the mind of many a translation blogger. Since the easiest way to turn a blog into a money making instrument would be to turn it into a marketing platform for something having to do with translation, it certainly did cross my mind that this is something that I might try myself too. After all, the rates being paid to translators by “the translation industry” are quite a bit lower than ten or five years ago.

Since it only makes sense to start looking at alternative revenue sources under these circumstances, some bloggers, including translation bloggers, are pulling out all the stops in their pursuit of life, happiness and trying to make money the American way – by advertising goodies they are selling while pretending to be providing useful information.

I am not going to name names here, but you probably know who they are, and they themselves definitely know who they are.

After all, it is not just bloggers, including translation bloggers, who are trying to make money by offering information that is mostly advertising. Everybody is doing it, and some people are doing it so well that sometimes it feels like the whole word, all of which used to be a stage in Shakespeare’s time, has been slowly but inevitably turned into a huge marketing platform.

It makes me sad when I see that some translation bloggers have converted their blogs into launch pads for commercial propaganda that have very little information in them apart from what is clearly identifiable as marketing content.

The blogs are in this respect very similar to corporate “blogs” of translation agencies that instead of providing useful information for readers (clients and potential clients) mostly just praise the excellence of services provided by wisely managed and totally cool and awesome translation agencies.

I am not really that much against the idea of using a translation blog as a platform to sell something. If I could figure out how to make money in this manner and still dare and be allowed to have some fun, maybe I would start doing it myself.

But what does bother me is when particularly greedy translator-bloggers don’t mind spreading the pernicious propaganda of the translation industry in their posts. Instead of explaining to newbies where things stand at this point, how “the translation industry” really works and what it is about, they offer courses for newbie translators in which they promise to teach useful survival techniques. But instead of explaining to new translators how to find clients, in particular direct clients (which would be very valuable advice), they teach them how to prepare the perfect résumé that will be noticed among thousands of other resumes saturating “the translation industry” mill, and how to adopt new cutting-edge technological tools, such as adding post-processing of machine translation detritus to the range of translator’s skills.

When I read translator blogs that spread this kind of “translation industry” information, I have to wonder whether the bloggers really believe what they are saying in their posts, or whether “the translation industry” is paying them to write these things, just like China and Russia is paying Jeff Bezos to subject Washington Post readers to propaganda disguised as news supplied and paid for by foreign governments – governments of countries that are not very friendly to Americans, or about as friendly as the modern form of “the translation industry” is to translators.

Knowing how to go about post-processing of machine translation is a useful skill, but only if you consider knowing how to quickly and efficiently dig your own grave with the best tools to be a useful skill.

Steve Vitek

About Steve Vitek

Translation of patents from Japanese, German, French, Russian, Czech Slovak and Polish since 1987. Blogs at, website at

8 thoughts on “Marketing and Propaganda Overload

  1. Hey Steve!
    I feel you and personally I try to stay away from blogs that you describe in your post (because when I read I hope to learn something new and useful). However I’m not sure if there’re bloggers who have monetized their blogs, I think most of the time bloggers do promote the “translation industry” voluntarily.

    I’ve been approached several times by translation agencies to place ads on my personal blog and I refused because it just doesn’t make any sense to me.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind advertisement on blogs as long as it is clearly marked and honest. And of course, advertisers shouldn’t have any influence on the content or someone’s writing style.

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  2. Hi Dmitri:

    How about when you are approached by an agency asking you whether they can write a guest post for your blog? It happened to me last week and I said yes because I am curious what they will say.

    Maybe I’ll be sorry for saying yes – if I turned them down once they have gone to the trouble of writing it, they will be justifiably mad at me.

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    1. I’m not interested in that either. Mostly because the content that agencies produce rarely align with the content I produce. Plus I put my readers first. I know I’d be mad if instead of my favorite blogger I got an article by someone else. So I don’t want to let my readers down.

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  3. You forgot the annoying popup and sidebar ads for all kinds of affiliate ads. I hate those and if they are hard to ignore on a mobile, I will close the tab, no matter how much I was interested. There’s nothing wrong about affiliate marketing and trying to make a few bucks with that, but only if it’s done in a way that doesn’t disturb the reader.

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