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10.06.15

Mouthbox

Posted 10th June 2015

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Having spent yesterday praising a blog about television, today I thought I’d slag one off instead. Always a dangerous game when in the past you’ve published things like the top post on this page, but never let it be said that I am not courageous.

On one of my random click-anywhere-and-see-what-happens jaunts on which I waste most of my life, I came across Mouthbox, a “TV reviews & media blog”. Oooh, a a review of House of Fools – I’ll give that a read. I disagree with most of it – especially the part about being “protected from the truth”, also quoted below – but that’s not the point of this post. The part I want to concentrate on is the second half of the following sentence:

“Reeves and Mortimer also have enough friends in high places at the Beeb to be protected from the truth, and a second series has probably already been commissioned despite the glaring problems with this pilot.”

Which is a very odd thing to write, as this piece was published in March 2015… in the middle of the show’s second series.

A bit of investigation is required. So, I check back on the site’s Twitter feed, and sure enough – here’s a mention of a House of Fools review from the 17th January 2014 – three days after the pilot aired. The link, however, goes to a 404 page.

So, let’s travel back in time via the Wayback Machine, to February of this year. Sure enough, there’s the House of Fools review on the index page, dated… March 2014. Sadly, the actual entry itself hasn’t been archived, but the opening paragraph is exactly the same as the review dated March 2015. As final confirmation, this syndicated version of the column gives the original date of publication as the very same January 17th 2014 given above, and is exactly the same article. Clearly, this article has been redated – at least twice.

But why? Why would anyone do this? A quick trip to the site’s About page:

“He also loves to write about himself in the third person and is adept at cynically cramming keywords into web copy, purely for the purpose of search engine optimisation.”

So, maybe this is SEO-related – giving Google new pages to index so they appear more relevant, and thus higher up in the search results. That’s certainly a more charitable explanation than the other possibility – that they just want their website to look more up to date without having to put in the pesky work of writing a new article. (Without wasting your time by going through the rest of the site, there are signs that this practice is hardly limited to the House of Fools review. W1A also suffered the same fate, amongst others.)

There are many problems with this. First of all, by getting rid of the original entry and its URL, you are breaking existing links. (Never a good idea for SEO in any case.) Secondly, pretending an old article is a brand new one just feels shady full stop. Thirdly, by stripping the entry of its original date of publication, you deny the piece the right to be judged in the context of when it was written. Republishing an article in the middle of a show’s second series and referring to “this pilot” and “a second series has probably already been commissioned” without even tacking an explanatory note onto the end is just bizarre.

But actually, the above are just quibbles. The real issue I have with it goes to the very heart of the review itself. Which is: I’m genuinely interested in what the reviewer thought of the second series. Do they think they were mistaken in their original piece? Or do they think their argument was entirely justified? Instead of just dragging out an old review and pretending you’re up to date, why not actually be up to date?

That’s where the real meat would be if you’re publishing a House of Fools review this year. It also, frankly, wouldn’t take that long to write another review of the show to that length and depth. So dragging out an old review and republishing it seems a bizarre choice for a TV reviewer to take. Have you got something to say about the series, or not? If so, write it. Republishing your old review just seems weird, especially for someone so seemingly proud of being “outspoken”.

So yeah, kids. Don’t do this. It’s one of the most thoroughly bizarre practices I’ve ever seen online. And that includes ScatTube.

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