Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Although some media outlets claim to have agreed to broadcast these ads to ensure their survival, this could damage their reputation and harm them in the long term, experts say. /p>

A dozen Québébé

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Le Courrier Laval is one of the Quebec media that has published sponsored articles for illegal casinos. They have since been removed.

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Many Quebec media have broadcast sponsored articles for online casinos in recent years, shows an investigation by Décrypteurs. This promotional practice, known as “backlinking”, is used to take advantage of the credibility of the media to manipulate search engine results and thus improve the visibility of these sites, which remain illegal in Quebec.

Thursday evening, the student newspaper Montréal Campus revealed that the personal website (New window) of Patrick White, director of the bachelor's degree in journalism at UQAM, had published articles promotional materials containing links to online casinos. Mr. White announced that he was going on unpaid leave for the year 2024 for personal, family and professional reasons, reported the student newspaper.

The news caused a reaction. His membership card of the Professional Federation of Journalists of Quebec (FPJQ) was suspended. Friday morning, La Presse columnist Isabelle Hachey signed a text on the affair (New window), judging that Mr. White had flouted the b. the basics of journalism.

I take full responsibility for my actions and I do not minimize the situation, responded Mr. White in a written statement Friday morning. Sponsored content was used to pay for site maintenance. I regret having approved it even if it wasn't me who did it. This type of content had no place at all on the site.

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The director of the UQAM journalism baccalaureate, Patrick White, will be on unpaid leave for the 'year 2024.

The Decryptorscan reveal that Patrick White is far from being the only media figure to have acted in this way. Over the past few years, around ten Quebec media outlets have also broadcast promotional articles containing links to illegal online casinos.

We were able to identify articles containing links to these casinos on the sites of several local media, including the Courrier de Laval, the Journal Les Deux Rives of Sorel-Tracy, the Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe, Pensée de Bagot, l’Oeil régional of Beloeil and Estrie plus. Cultural media also published articles of this type, including Atuvu, Baron Mag, Le canal auditorif and Pieuvre.ca.

In addition, the sites web of local media which have ceased their activities now serve as a platform for promoting these online casinos. The former sites of the Journal de Sherbrooke, the Journal le Havre and the Quebec edition of the newspaper Métro today only broadcast advertisements like this.

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The Journal de Sherbrooke website has been transformed into a promotional tool for online casinos.

With the exception of Baron Mag, the articles in question were not identified as sponsored or advertising content. Some of these articles also contained false information, for example praising the legality of these sites.

Because, in fact, these casinos are downright illegal, insists Loto-Québec. There is no ambiguity in Quebec. If it is not Loto-Québec, it is illegal, recalled Renaud Dugas, spokesperson and director of media relations for the organization. There is no gray area. He added that advertising these sites is not permitted in the province.

The director of the Center for Media Studies at Laval University, Colette Brin, believes that the fact that newspapers have agreed to broadcast advertisements that could damage their reputation clearly illustrates the crisis in which plunged the media.

It's a reputation and credibility problem for these companies. I think a self-respecting news media would be very, very careful about this sort of thing. But let's say that I'm not throwing stones, because I know that some of these media have very, very few resources and very little expertise in the matter, she judges.

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Colette Brin is the director of the Center for Studies on media from Laval University.

When you are poor, you are willing to compromise on ethics because you need income simply to survive. It's reminiscent of the old days of brown envelopes and journalists who were poorly paid and who accepted small gifts from their sources to provide more positive coverage, adds Colette Brin.

Because, in fact, promotional articles for illegal casinos are much more profitable than traditional advertisements, several site managers explained to us.

If these Advertisements are also profitable because their target audience is not the readers of the media in question, but rather search engines, such as Google. These articles are part of an advertising strategy known as backlinking, which is used to improve the visibility of a site in search results.

When a user performs a search, Google tries to determine which results are most relevant. One of the elements taken into account by the algorithm is what reliable sources, including news sites, say about the subject. By publishing a link to an online casino on the site of a local newspaper, advertisers hope to encourage Google to show it to people who are searching for online casinos.

Advertisers are therefore prepared to pay a lot to benefit from the special status that Google reserves for media websites.

Arnaud Nobile, editor-in-chief of the site atuvu.ca, affirms that his site did not accept the publication of backlinksthat if the advertiser offered a minimum of $400, much more than would be offered for a traditional ad. He says he regularly receives such offers from advertising agencies, and that the amounts promised per ad are often $50 or less.

We reluctantly accept these contracts which distort the content of our platform. We do it to simply supplement our income. Because our small niche cultural media is obliged not to neglect any source of income, however minimal, for reasons of survival, he replied to us by email, emphasizing that his website does not receive the same type subsidies than general media, community newspapers or the cultural sector. The advertisements in question have been removed from the website.

We have no interest in offering publications about casinos for our image or for our readers. Also, we have implemented strategies so that this casino content is almost invisible to our readers.

A quote from Arnaud Nobile, editor-in-chief of the site atuvu.ca

The director of sales and content atEstrie plus, François Lafleur, recognized that there is still significant revenue associated with this, and that, in a context where advertising revenue is declining, there is an incentive to accept this type of advertising.

He assured thatEstrie pluswould no longer publish articles of this kind and that those containing erroneous information were removed from the site, but that the others remain online to respect contracts with advertisers.

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The Estrie plus website still hosts articles promoting illegal online casinos.

The manager of Pieuvre.ca, Hugo Prévost, explained to us that he believed that these advertisements were at worst a gray area, and that he decided to broadcast them because the amount they offer is much more important than what you can get with traditional ads.

The money from these ads is income that allowed me to run the site and pay freelancers. I didn’t put the money in my pockets, he assured. He cleaned up and removed the articles as soon as he was informed that these sites were illegal. I'm not proud of that, laments the one who is a supernumerary employee of Radio-Canada.

As soon as we were informed, we asked for Hugo Prévost to put an end to this practice, because it is incompatible with his status as a journalist, reacted Charles Grandmont, director of continuous news and digital operations at Radio-Canada.

Articles containing links to illegal casinos on the Courrier Laval website were removed after we contacted its owner, 2M Media. The nuance between the sites […] where the game is free and permitted, and [those] where the game is paid and for which it is prohibited to promote, had unfortunately escaped us, reacted its vice-president, Patrick Marsan, by email.

The articles were also removed from the sites of local newspapers owned by DBC Communications, namely JournalLes Deux Rives, Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe, La Pensée de Bagotandl'Oeil régional. It should not have been on our websites, argued the editor-in-chief of the media group, Martin Bourassa. Someone missed it at the advertising level. I like it that my owner is profitable, but I don't think it's this kind of advertising that makes the difference.

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Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe, the oldest French newspaper in America, also hosted articles on its website promoting illegal casinos. The articles have now been removed.

Le Canal Auditif also removed the four casino-related articles that appeared on its website. Its editor-in-chief, Louis-Philippe Labrèche, said he cleaned up a few years ago, but that a few of them remained on his website. We quickly rectified the situation and stopped publishing these because we found that it did not fit the line of what we wanted to do. And this, even if the income that could result from it was attractive, he declared by email.

Baron Mag did not responded to our interview requests.

According to Camille Alloing, director of the Laboratory on Influence and Communication at UQAM, this strategy, although profitable for the moment, could cost the media dearly in the long term.

It's a game that is dangerous, on the one hand, for the press sites that do that, quite simply because, at a given moment, a search engine may notice that there are too many links leading to sites that he himself considers to be spam, he explains. He adds that search engines could punish media sites engaging in backlinking by reducing their visibility.

Colette Brin sees in this whole affair a sad reflection of the media landscape in the context of the plunge in revenues on the web, a real media cemetery, according to her.

She was sorry when she was told that the Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthehad also indulged in this practice. Published continuously since 1853, it is the oldest French-language newspaper in Canada, where among others, historical Quebecois figures such as the former Prime Minister of Quebec Honoré Mercier and the founder of Devoir, Henri Bourassa.

It's really terribly sad. The Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe, it is a legendary media, mythical in Quebec, in terms of reputation, history. And to see him there, it's really worrying, she says.

Precision < strong>: The original version of this article mentioned that Le Canal Auditif had not responded to our interview requests. However, this interview request had not been sent. The necessary corrections have been made.

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