A website example of a rogue website that is secretly run by a large company
April 28, 2009 5:49 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone think of an example wherein a company built a separate website about its industry without putting its name all over that rogue site? For example, if Ford built and maintained a Ning (or other community-type site, I guess) about car customization, but it wasn't obvious that Ford ran the site?

I know it's an obscure question, but I'm trying to find an example of a successful rogue site that succeeded despite not having corporate oversite.
posted by rev- to Technology (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Look up the entry for Astroturfing on Wikipedia, with examples and further links.
posted by phax at 6:06 AM on April 28, 2009

How about orbitz.com? The airline investors in Orbitz consisted of American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines and United Air Lines.

Hulu? Hulu is co-owned by NBC Universal, News Corp. and Providence Equity Partners. It is operated independently by a dedicated management team with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Beijing.

I'll try to think of more..
posted by namewithhe1d at 6:22 AM on April 28, 2009

It's not around anymore, but Google used to run a site called Searchmash where they could experiment with new search features. I believe they disclosed their ownership on the about page and in microscopic font down in the footer, but otherwise the look and feel was totally unlike Google and the connection wasn't at all obvious.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:35 AM on April 28, 2009

I don't want it to be an astro-turfing example. In fact, this is kind of the opposite, giving more people more opportunity to talk about anything, just in a place we can inject messages into.

I do like the Hulu example, though.
posted by rev- at 6:41 AM on April 28, 2009

Diabetes.com is actually a GlaxoSmithKline site, masquerading as an independent resource.
posted by Kololo at 7:02 AM on April 28, 2009

This wouldn't be an opportunity to abuse that relationship. Mostly I want to convince my bosses that us not getting "credit" for it isn't as important as building an engaged community around us.

diabetes.com is a good example. Any others?
posted by rev- at 7:16 AM on April 28, 2009

You see something like this with movies from time to time. Wasn't it AI that had a whole network of fictional websites with obscure links to each other? These are not community sites (AFAIK), just a way to extend the story and generate additional buzz from fans.
posted by adamrice at 7:28 AM on April 28, 2009

Pearl-Guide.com is an example. At first glance, it's a place for people to talk about pearls. However, if you dig pretty deep, it's purpose is to promote a specific set of pearl jewelry e-retailers.

People who are heavily and positively involved in the forum are sent free pearl jewelry, and options to purchase pearls at a discount via private sales. People who remark negatively about the pearls they received from the connected e-retailers are shot down, mocked, or deleted.

I had an email conversation with another newbie member of that forum, and we agreed this is what was happening. So, I mentioned it in a post... and it was deleted.

I hope you don't do something similar -- it's deceptive, and the backlash when discovered is a deep distrust of the company by potential clients.
posted by Houstonian at 8:31 AM on April 28, 2009

This wouldn't be an opportunity to abuse that relationship.

If you're designing a site that's supposed to look independent, but is really for the purpose of giving you a place to "inject messages into" (while making it non-obvious that this is the purpose of the site), then you are abusing the relationship.

What you want to do, can't be done. You can astroturf, and face the consequences when you're discovered, or you can be honest about the dominion over the "independent" web site.
posted by toxic at 9:13 AM on April 28, 2009

babycenter.com is owned by Johnson & Johnson.
posted by ellenaim at 9:16 AM on April 28, 2009

The Consumerist has some Astroturfing items...

MyTimeToQuit.com which is sponsored by Pfizer and the links lead you to their website about Chantix.
(Although the MyTimeToQuit site does actually have the Pfizer logo on it, so might not count)
posted by Webbster at 9:25 PM on April 28, 2009

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