Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Newsvertising 2: Are there other sections of the Vancouver Sun/Province that are nothing more than real estate advertising dressed up as news?

Yesterday we introduced you to the topic of 'Newsvertising',  a disturbing trend wherin our City's major daily newspapers publish paid advertisements dressed up as legitimate news stories; executed in a way that doesn't clearly tell you that what you are reading isn't news.

You pay them and they make it look like news.


It's a disturbing journalistic development, especially when leveraged by a real estate industry desperate to 'massage' rapidly falling consumer confidence; confidence which we are now told is dropping faster than ever before.

It begs the question: what other news sections in the Sun/Province portfolio are the editors prepared to journalistically pimp out?

Did you happen to catch two more of those real estate Gallery portfolio's that the Vancouver Sun ran over the past week? You know... like the one that profiled the infamous fake mansion in West Vancouver.

There was this one on March 21st which compared what you could buy in Vancouver vs. Roswell, Georgia.

And then,  on March 25th, the Sun ran another comparing what you could buy in Vancouver with Beverly Hills, California.

In each of these cutsie infotainment-style news pieces the Vancouver Sun gave credit to the originating source, a luxury real estate blog called

Faithful readers probably recognized the comparative style format at play from local blog The Thirties Grind. That's where writer Melissa Carr has spent the last year cranking out real estate comparisons in a feature titled the Absurd Vancouver Property of the Week.

Carr has been earning a certain level of notoriety as Global TV and CKNW radio have taken to regularly inviting her on-air to discuss the insanity.

Enter Pricey Pads.

Pricey Pads (PP) has a strong local Vancouver presence and bills itself as a "luxury real estate" blog.  Run by Mitch Cal, he says:
Pricey Pads was created as a way to showcase the greatest Estates and Mansions around the world. It continues it’s goal to compile updated lists of the world’s most expensive luxury Real Estate and Rentals in todays market. Keep checking back for frequent updates and new and exciting features! Be sure to “Become a Fan” of Pricey Pads Facebook Fan Page to see much more content.
Interested advertisers can contact PP for property listings, advertising and support/requests.

Cal even boasts that PP has "worked with the Auctioneers auctioning Sheryl Crow’s Estate on an advertising campaign and have been involved with a number of Realtors from Canada, Brasil and the United States to help market their properties."

Real estate promotion seems to be PP's gig.

One thing PP doesn't regularly do, however, is profile Vancouver properties in a value-vs-value format with other North American cities. From what we can see, this is something new for them.

Incredibly this hasn't deterred Pricey Pads from achieving an astonishing level of success in garnering media attention with their new concept. One can only marvel at the speed in which they were able to gain major newspaper coverage not once, but twice in the same week with their new feature.

It took Melissa Carr and The Thirties Grind over a year to crack Vancouver's major media and gain exposure.

PP seems to have pulled it off in less than a day.

You see, PP published their Vancouver vs. Roswell, Georgia comparison on their website on March 21st. Later that same day it appeared in the Vancouver Sun.

That's impressive.

Presumably some sharp, eagle-eyed editor just happened upon the Pricey Pad piece the moment it was posted and said, "wow... we need to pick up on this and print it in our newspaper. Our readers would find this very interesting!" 

Suddenly the Sun has their latest real estate oriented human interest story for us and Pricey Pads benefits from unexpected media attention to their website link in the Vancouver papers locally, and nationally as the gallery feature syndicates across the country.


You don't suppose Pricey Pads paid the Vancouver Sun to feature them in their little infotainment Gallery, do you?

How can this be though?... There's no indication that what we are looking at is a paid real estate advertising feature. No indication that the Sun is actually running a promotion to drive web traffic to a for-profit website.


It's the formula by which a once respected news organization sells it's journalistic integrity and soul in a misguided attempt to financially survive.

Based on what we have shown you the last two days, how can you trust the actual motive/source behind anything printed about real estate from an organization employing this formula?


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  1. One thing to keep in mind is that people are desperately looking for these feel good stories. That is why anyone these days can get published with a happy RE story. This is typical cult behavior, nothing less. When people need to be reassured, info hucksters will fill the void.

  2. Agree with the first poster: When you have so many people "invested" in RE these articles make everybody feel good and sell papers.

  3. Sticker Shock!!!!

    For those interested in FACTS and comparing PRIME single family coastal Metro Vancouver vs PRIME coastal single family metro Los Angeles median home prices, please see the links below. Also note that while California's RE is currently in the midst of a booming 'recovery', Vancouver's RE is rapidly 'correcting'. Thus, the contrast will likely increase with time.

    PRIME Coastal Los Angeles Metro:

    VS 'Yatter Matters' February 2013 Vancouver Coastal Single Family Medians:

  4. Most media outlets have a policy of disclosing sponsored or paid content. I'd expect that from a huge source like the Sun/Province. It's easy to hide with a huge blog or private magazine, but a huge news organization lying about what they are advertising would get exposed pretty quick and be extremely bad for their business. also after checking out Pricey Pads, I doubt that blog could afford to pay for sponsored post on the vancouver sun. It would be more the sun paying pricey pads to have sponsored content. which i doubt they'd do as well.

  5. The gallery has got to be a vehicle for advertising. It looks like Sotheby's has got today's photo gallery promoting a Point Grey home they have for sale.

    Their hook to make it "news"? The fact it took to architect 20 years to get the home ready for sale.

    1. Basinga! That's a real estate ad, no doubt about it.

      You're right Whisperer... they should be required to reinstitute the banner that says "advertising feature" above that crap.

    2. Well, yes, but...

      People in general love seeing these renovated homes. The love HGTV and seeing ideas on how they might imagine one day making their own homes "nice" and modern.

      So while it is an Ad for Sotheby's, it's also a "story" the readers want in their newspaper.

  6. Since so much of the Sun/Province is r/e spam, maybe it would be easier to put a banner that says "actual news item" above the articles that are real news?

  7. Like many, I see Vcr RE as a Full blown "Buyers Remorse" market

    News-advertisements are there to sustain prices at current levels until the fore-ordained time when prices are taken down to the new levels.

    1. How about we all just stop reading the crap that passes as news and let the papers die the death they deserve?

      You know...don't buy them....don't read second hand copies....recycle appropriately so that the compost worms make good manure.....and don't bother talking about the stories they write.

      Why give them the press?

  8. Hi all,

    Advertising without the traditional "Special Feature" headline is expanding, and it's not limited to local papers.

    There was a Scientology ad printed in the Atlantic earlier this year that followed exactly the same model. Readers noticed, and the magazine was forced to issue a retraction and apology.

    See, for example, "".

  9. Speaking of which, anyone seen the latest Vancouver Magazine fluff piece? Big real estate story on cover, with sub-heading that Vancouver real estate is actually not as expensive as you might think. Of course the story is buried in pages and pages of real estate advertising and home improvement crap.

  10. Hi - it's Anonymous 7:04 pm here again. I just wanted to clarify that I, of course, am a much bigger dumb shit, obviously. I mean, I'm jealous of you, Whispers! I know that I'll never be able to muster up any recognition beyond what my feeble blog trolling brings me. Oh well, thanks for reading!

  11. Whispers from the village? More like Whispers from the vilage idiot! Your article is nothing more than an immature, factless rant from someone who can't tell news from an opinion. Pricey Pads has been around longer than your nameless comparison and does his own thing.
    Where are your facts? Ever hear of referencing or citing information? It almost sounds like you might be doing some PR work now..

  12. It appears another RE industry troll is here... business must be slow.

  13. It also appears W has hit a nerve. Well done, Whisperer!

  14. I've already commented on a more recent post on this topic, but just so everyone knows, this was not paid content. I'm the web editor who made both of these galleries. While I won't lay claim to the compliments in this sarcastic suggestion, what actually went down is that "some sharp, eagle-eyed editor just happened upon the Pricey Pad piece the moment it was posted." Real estate galleries do very well for us in terms of page views, and we hardly need a financial incentive to post them.