The only reason I started noticing Bustle.com is because they kept showing up at the top of the organic search results out of nowhere a few years ago when they first started.
I looked them up and saw that they were brand new. I was perplexed at why Google was giving this site with no track record whatsoever so much precedence over better more relevant search results.
Then I saw that they were funded with a combination of Google Venture capital and Time Warner capital…so two search engines funding a D list celebrity tabloid site in the name of empowering women.
Here is a quote on the funding from Forbes,
“To fund its expansion, he’s raised $5 million more in venture funding from Social+Capital and Time Warner, existing investors, along with R&R Ventures, a fund run by Dick Parsons and Ron Lauder.”
Eventually Google dropped out, but only because they were angry that Goldberg got Time Warner involved behind their back. So now the primary money is from Time Warner and Facebook. Social Capital is a venture capital company owned by Chamath Palihapitiya from Facebook.
Do you think this tiny women’s website may have some pull in terms of their search rank? After all the behemoths of Silicon Valley have been caught making agreements with one another on multiple occasions.
In other words if you or I had the brilliant idea to start a website targeted at women’s issues do you think people would be throwing millions of dollars at us?
Why would these companies invest in an idea that is far from original and actually completely saturated since theoretically if you start a website you have to prove yourself to Google and other search engines and work your way up which takes years—unless you have a way to control your search rank.
If you have ever started a website you know no matter how great your content is you will be lucky to make $3 a day your first year and by year 4 or 5 you will be very lucky to make 5 figures a year.
But hey in July of 2014 this brand new site crossed 11 million monthly unique visitors after hitting 10 million in June and as of October 2015 was on target to bring in over $10 million in revenue after their 2nd full year in operation. Bustle is now pulling in 31.6 million unique views a month. Again if you have ever started a website you know how absurd and impossible these figures are, particularly in light of the very low quality of their content.
In fact in this BusinessInsider article in the comments section someone calls them out on lying about these statistics pointing readers to this site where you can see Bustle only has 10-15 million visitors a month with a 73% Bounce rate and only 1.05 seconds on the site and a very Slow load time: (2.478 Seconds), 73% of sites are faster.
“Looks like they are buying shady traffic according to Similiar Web. 45mm uniques is great, but not if it’s all paid for…” the reader claims.
I’m guessing this is why Bustle decided to disable any comments. They can’t have anyone calling them out on their lies publicly.
And have you noticed the obscene political bias of the site? Their love for Hillary Clinton is cringeworthy. Im no fan of Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, but the Hillary love from Bustle coupled with their pervasiveness atop any Google search result is disconcerting for sure.
So Bustle is so amped up over their explosive growth they are now launching a demon spawn child called Romper.com (God help us!!)
Margaret Wheeler Johnson, Bustle’s managing editor claims, “We were reaching a huge number of millennial women at Bustle, and we realized that although the average age of first birth is twenty-six years old, there is no millennial-focussed parenting site.”
And yet strangely Romper appears to primarily cover D list tabloid reality show gossip just like its mom Bustle. Just what the world desperately needed–ANOTHER site to aggregate tabloid celebrity news. And the fact that the New Yorker has written an article gushing about this brilliant idea to start a website to aggregate news is also indicative of the inside connections the owners possess.
Check out some of the reviews from Bustle employees on Glassdoor.com,
“Low pay (started at $10/hr), emphasis on quantity over quality (article quota becomes overwhelming), no benefits, creatively draining
Advice to Management
Pay your writers better and allow your writers more time to produce quality articles rather than just pushing them to write clickbait.”
“Pay could be much better. Also article quotas could be a bit much; I would have appreciated more time to really perfect my articles instead of just churning out content as fast as possible.”
Both reviews from writers complain that Bustle is obsessed with quotas and pumping out content with little regard to quality.
My issue with these websites is not that they are horrible. Horrible websites will come and go constantly. My issue is how they are being subsidized and helped by serious inside connections.
How did Bustle go from a PageRank of 0 to 6 in 2 years? — especially since Google claims they no longer change PageRank. (No they no longer change PageRank for sites without inside connections. That way the riff raf aka public can never really compete).
Why are the content curators and internet providers allowed to also be content creators since they determine who lives and who dies in the website biz.
And when will we hear more of an outcry from the public about these so-called “venture” companies rising to the top of the organic search results with such low quality content while the small publishers busting their tails to bring the public the valuable content they are actually searching for are pushed farther and farther down in the ranks? We already know from the leaked FTC documents that Google created a special algorithm to promote it’s own interests. These interests must include Venture Companies.
The pattern I continue to notice again and again with sites like Bustle and The Inquisitr is that they were started by Venture Capital money by big very connected owners and investors, usually the search engines themselves all under the guise of some big social justice meme. Yet ALL end up just being tabloid content farms copying and pasting their content from other places.
There are a lot of issues here and laws that are being broken with regard to disclosures and I hope the public will start raising some hell and demanding this VC insider shell game stop.
If you still think Google is not using their God-like powers to help companies they invest in check out this story on Thumbtack–the site was caught buying spammy backlinks and penalized but the penalty was removed by their biggest investor, Google a mere 3 days later and yet spammy back links still pervade the site.