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Friday, March 28, 2014 "Article" Actually Just Taco Bell Advertisement

Posted by on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 11:36 AM

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer was founded in 1863, distinguishing the venerable lady as Seattle's oldest newspaper. When she went online-only in 2009, lots of Seattle folk were worried the PI would become a withering liberal counterpoint to the conservative Seattle Times, but we held out hope when corporate owners vowed to retain its integrity as an online publication.

Hearst CEO Frank Bennack Jr. said at the time, "Our goal now is to turn into the leading news and information portal in the region." To back him up, publisher Roger Oglesby insisted, "The editorial voice is still going to be here."

Five years later, that editorial voice is still here: selling breakfast tacos. promotes the Waffle Taco
  • Via
  • promotes the "Waffle Taco."
A new article on is simply titled "Here's Taco Bell's Entire Breakfast Menu," written by Business Insider's Ashley Lutz. Without commentary or context, the article is: a brief introduction to the new breakfast items for sale at the roughly 6,500 stores from the Yum! Brands subsidiary that reports annual revenues of more than $1.9 billion, a list of menu-item descriptions that are entirely quotes from Taco Bell, and, finally, a video of people sitting around eating the items and talking about how delicious they are. There's no commentary or news. It's literally just an ad for Taco Bell. Over the past few years at, columnist Joel Connelly has been the backbone of much solid reporting, while the site has used typical clickbait of "insufferable celebrity couples" and "Snooki's wedding," but a Taco Bell ad disguised as news? It looks like the "leading news and information portal in the region" is leading us into a morning coronary.

I called executive producer Sarah Rupp to ask why her publication was passing off an advertisement as an article, but she hasn't called back. So I'll leave you with the words of Steven Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers, who said in 2009: "Our goal is to just let the quality of the Web site speak for itself."


Comments (22) RSS

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icouldliveinhope 1
Looks like syndicated content. Probably one of the things helping to keep them afloat. I mean, I have some thoughts about how Business Insider is the worst, but this is only barely the PI's fault. (Same with celeb couples, Snooki's wedding.)
Posted by icouldliveinhope on March 28, 2014 at 11:56 AM · Report this
the best part is they still make you watch a pre-roll ad before the video.
Posted by dalbright on March 28, 2014 at 11:56 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 3
This is the business model of every consumer magazine that exists.
Posted by keshmeshi on March 28, 2014 at 11:57 AM · Report this
icouldliveinhope 4
@3: yep.

@2: That looks like a garden-variety monetizable video. Usually those aren't engineered by the publication themselves, but (again) syndicated through a third-party, who provides part of the ad revenue in return for distribution/views.
Posted by icouldliveinhope on March 28, 2014 at 11:59 AM · Report this
orino 5
Hearst has dumbed down all of their news sites. And they share lots more content than they used to. I'm told Hearst expects Pulitzer-quality reporting but provides almost no resources, financial or otherwise. Oh, well. The U.S. media are controlled by the right, which wants, no, needs an ignorant populace to survive...
Posted by orino on March 28, 2014 at 12:25 PM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 6
@5: I wouldn't categorize Hearst media as "right" - perhaps "yellow" as gold inlays at San Simeon.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on March 28, 2014 at 12:31 PM · Report this
Huh, and here I'd thought had merged with Buzzfeed ages ago...
Posted by COMTE on March 28, 2014 at 12:35 PM · Report this
Mickymse 8
As stated above, it's not signed off on by the P-I. It states clearly that it's provided by Business Insider. It's probably a sad commentary about the difficulty of staying afloat financially that they have to have provider networks feeding links... but it seems like a bit of a stretch to accuse the P-I of placing this item as if it is news.
Posted by Mickymse on March 28, 2014 at 1:15 PM · Report this
Dominic Holden 9
Sorry, @8, but I completely disagree. It's published as an article on the's website--it's their article. They placed it on their own website. It doesn't matter if it originated from the AP, NYT, Business Insider, or Taco Bell itself. It also doesn't matter if they were paid for it or if they paid for it themselves. is responsible for its content. And that content is an ad dressed up like an article.
Posted by Dominic Holden on March 28, 2014 at 1:43 PM · Report this
Aaron 10
I don't find it on the web site, but they ran this story too, in a morning news feature with video (didn't watch so I can't say if it is the same footage).

If you want to retaliate, take your cravings to Taco Time. NW owned and operated.
Posted by Aaron on March 28, 2014 at 1:48 PM · Report this
The PI slowly withered and died over 2009 and 2010. Little remains of it, save its placeholder website for reposted articles from other Hearst publications.

If you use AdBlock and NoScript on the site, each page appears nearly empty of actual content. Of course, staring at a nearly empty page is preferable to being bombarded with the overwhelming onslaught of ads that invades every pixel of the screen.

If you run the stories through an SEO keyword checker, you'll discover what, not who, is the real "editor" of much of the content and find that several, if not most, of the reposted, syndicated articles are little more than clickbait and advertorials that aren't real news articles by any stretch of the imagination.

The very few original articles by local writer(s?) get lost under the mountain of worthless, syndicated crap. It's akin to listening to a local Clear Channel radio station.

Going to the website just makes me angry, bitter, exhausted and sad.

Fortunately, some of PI's former staff can still be found producing excellent journalism like Tom over at Search for them with Google, Twitter, Flickr, etc. and re-discover the journalists and photo journalists that once made the paper great. Every time you find one a little ray of sunshine breaks through the clouds.

Journalism doesn't exist without real journalists. The PI bears witness.
Posted by To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield. on March 28, 2014 at 1:51 PM · Report this
JonnoN 12
@1/3 you're saying the PI editors have no control over what they publish, or the PI doesn't have editors?

Anyway, I gave up on them long ago. Sad.
Posted by JonnoN on March 28, 2014 at 1:57 PM · Report this
Meh. Stopped reading there when they cut the Facebook comments.
Posted by Bloated Jesus is Bloated on March 28, 2014 at 2:07 PM · Report this
Is this you crafting that long-form style?
Posted by SLOG AG on March 28, 2014 at 2:18 PM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 15
@11: And David Horsey's talent is at the LA Times:…
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on March 28, 2014 at 2:27 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 16

I don't know if they do, but there are many publications out there that are 100 percent ads. Basically any magazine that's consumer-oriented consists entirely of "articles" about the magazine's advertisers. Vogue, for example, doesn't acknowledge the existence of designers who don't advertise in that magazine.

It stands to reason that this is the new "newspaper" model in the age of free/cheap online content.
Posted by keshmeshi on March 28, 2014 at 2:49 PM · Report this
treacle 17
It's ok, nobody actually reads anymore.
Posted by treacle on March 28, 2014 at 3:23 PM · Report this
@16: Another new model is being implemented by First Look Media. Their first project is the excellent The Intercept, which launched last month.
Posted by Phil M http:// on March 28, 2014 at 4:07 PM · Report this
Kyle Fleck 19
With the waffle taco I really just feel like they're trolling at this point.
Posted by Kyle Fleck on March 28, 2014 at 4:24 PM · Report this
mikethehammer 20
Your guys' outrage is misplaced. Did you actually read the menu? Just horrific. I think THAT might actually have been a syndicated Onion piece.
Posted by mikethehammer on March 28, 2014 at 4:53 PM · Report this
Which is why local and political reporting by the Stranger is magnified in importance. There is little other counterweight to the Seattle Times.
Posted by pat L on March 28, 2014 at 6:10 PM · Report this
Paul Pearson 22
I wrote a couple of album reviews a few years ago for, about a month after I stopped contributing to the Seattle Times. Blogcritics is a take-your-chances aggregate of a bunch of unpaid writers, a few of whom were pretty good, and a lot of whom were fairly tired-sounding or pre-opinionated; i.e. "Music of today is crap and all the stuff put out today is worthless and with those tenets in mind I'm now going to review this new electronic album." (I don't know where I fell in the spectrum because I'm terrible at self-assessment, except for never taking that latter position in print.)

The point being, about a month after I wrote a review of the Black Keys' "El Camino" album I discovered it was showing up on the Seattle P-I's website. The P-I was running material from Blogcritics. I don't assume they picked and chose which articles to run with. I would imagine with their skeletal crew they didn't have a checks-and-balances system for farmed content, and I doubted Blogcritics would either.

So literally everyone who wrote a reasoned opinion or a gaseous blubbering tirade for Blogcritics was also writing for the P-I, de facto. That's the business model for mainstream journalism. Content's like oil or polyethylene: It's just expected to be there in indiscriminate mass quantities and the P-I just needs to be the placemat.
Posted by Paul Pearson on March 29, 2014 at 12:10 PM · Report this

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