SAN ANGELO, TX — Foreign “local” news app company is running fake ads on Facebook claiming Tom Green County Precinct 4 Constable Randy Harris has been shot.
We reached out to Constable Harris via cell phone and he said he is and has been in great health and no one has taken any violent action against him. Although, he added, he was prepared should anyone attempt an act of violence against him.
“The ad produced a number of inquiries to local constables asking about the condition of the officer who was shot,” Harris said. “No sheriff’s deputies or officers or any Tom Green County Constables have been shot.”
Harris attributes the false Facebook ad as “fake news” or clickbait designed to entice an unsuspecting citizen to download the SmartNews app.
Smartnews, a Google Android and Apple iOS mobile app provided by a Japanese company, was introduced into the U.S. in 2014. At the time, SmartNews claimed it was working with local news publishers to distribute their news while the app sells advertising around the content it aggregates.
No representative has contacted this news organization for permission or requested to partner with San Angelo LIVE! Yet, the company aggregates our content and other news sources in the San Angelo region to a fairly large number of users.
The ad was built dynamically taking images that appear to be from San Angelo LIVE!’s breaking news coverage of another prior event. The campaign runs on Facebook. We have reported it to Facebook but have not heard back. the image, with a San Angelo Police Department Dodge Charger cruisers visible insinuates the incident happened recently or overnight.
Over the past 30 days, SmartNews harvested 40,494 user sessions from San Angelo LIVE! without compensating us.
News aggregators like SmartNews and the NewsBreakApp have become popular in recent years. Their content model is to aggregate, or “frame” original news reporting behind their own advertising offerings inside their mobile application without compensating the creators of the news content. While struggling local news platforms like San Angelo LIVE! are paying the salaries, insurance, and assuming the liability of standing on the side of the road at a major crash, parasites like these apps profit off our efforts.
Aggregation is scalable; reporting local news is not. SmartNews is valued between $1.2 billion at a late 2019 round of funding for $92 million, according to TechCrunch. Growth accelerated in the U.S. market in 2017, Axios reported. TechCrunch adds that the app had been downloaded 45 million times since 2014.
SmartNews pushes a great deal of traffic for San Angelo LIVE!, but the traffic is less valuable than other sources for San Angelo LIVE!’s audience. The average time on page from a SmartNews-directed reader is 46 seconds and the bounce rate is over 80 percent. A bounce rate for news publishers measures the reader who looks at one page on the news publisher’s website and then leaves the website. San Angelo LIVE!’s average news reader views two or more pages and stays on the site more than 2 minutes, according to Google Analytics.
San Angelo LIVE! does not endorse SmartNews or its sister app, the Chinese-owned News Break app. Both apps make it difficult to monetize local newsrooms while these companies profit off the work and sweat of our journalists without due compensation.
Google News, another aggregator, has compensated San Angelo LIVE! Our news company was accepted as members of the Google News Initiative to include in-depth consulting on how to best present our news content through search and the Google News platform. San Angelo LIVE! is a full member of the Google Ad Exchange for receiving programmatic ad revenue from Google’s advertising clients. In addition, Google awarded San Angelo LIVE! a grant for its coverage of COVID-19 in June.
Last month, Google announced it will begin paying some publishers directly for content. The move came after anti-trust regulators in France and Australia called for Google to pay for content its platforms harvest.
A Facebook message was sent to SmartNews and a direct message was sent to the CFO of Smartnews Kanisha Roy. We are awaiting their response.
Constable Harris requested that if you see the SmartNews ad to report the ad to Facebook using the tools at the top right corner of the ad displayed.