In October of 2016 I was led to contact Christian Media Corporation International about ads on some of their websites that dramatically lacked reverence for God; in fact, they dishonored Christ and profaned His holy name. If you are not familiar with this organization they publish websites like ChristianPost.com, ChristianToday.com, and GospelHerald.com. Here is a description from their corporate website:
“Christian Media Corporation International (CMC Group) is a faith-based digital news, entertainment, and resource company with over 100 websites based in 6 continents.”
I emailed corporate executives, columnists, and editors, including Chairman, Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO, William C. Anderson, and Executive Editor, Dr. Richard Land. Initially, I contacted the leadership myself. After no response I also copied a pastor on the communications. I wrote multiple emails to Dr. Land, who is also President of Southern Evangelical Seminary, and previously served as the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Here is the text of an email I sent November 21st, 2016:
I hope and pray that you will read the attached letter and that you take to heart the things I’m sharing. I have also reached out to others at CMC. I write as a friend wanting to help, not an enemy wanting to hurt, and everything I write, I write out of love for God, love for you, and love for the church in our country and the world.
Please acknowledge that you have received this correspondence. As a brother in Christ I would like the opportunity to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
One with Christ,
Here is a link to the attachment I included in this email: Please Remove Provocative Ads
[Note: Since my initial correspondence with CMCI, they may have divested themselves from GospelHerald.com—they no longer list the website on their corporate website, and, while the domain registration for ChristianToday.com continues to be registered to CMCI, the domain registration for GospelHerald.com has been made private.]
In addition to the emails I sent, I also encouraged a group of thirty brothers and sisters in Christ, who love the LORD, to pray for God to intercede in this matter. A few weeks after I sent CMCI the first email, a news story was published by the New York Times, titled “Publishers Are Rethinking Those ‘Around the Web’ Ads.”
Here is an excerpt from the New York Times article, on October 31, 2016:
You see them everywhere, and maybe, sometimes, you click: those rows of links under web articles, often augmented with eye-catching photos and curiosity-stoking headlines about the latest health tips, celebrity news or ways to escape financial stress.
Usually grouped together under a label like “Promoted Stories” or “Around the Web,” these links are often advertisements dressed up to look like stories people might want to read. They have long provided much-needed revenue for publishers and given a wide range of advertisers a relatively affordable way to reach large and often premium audiences.
But now, some publishers are wondering about the effect these so-called content ads may be having on their brands and readers. This month, these ads stopped appearing on Slate. And The New Yorker, which restricted placement of such ads to its humor articles, recently removed them from its website altogether.
Among the reasons: The links can lead to questionable websites, run by unknown entities. Sometimes the information they present is false. Recently Chandler Riggs, an actor on “The Walking Dead,” posted screenshots on Twitter of two such ads — “Young Actors Who Quietly Passed Away This Year” and “Young TV Star Found Dead” — featuring a photo of his face.
It is very likely you have seen these ads—they have become a staple of online publishers across all categories and demographics. In the online marketing community, these type of ads are called “clickbait;” they attract a high volume of click-throughs, which in turn increases ad revenue.
The New York Times story highlights digital publishers Slate and The New Yorker, as companies concerned how the ads affect their brands. It is clear that even secular organizations view these ads as reproachable, below the plumb line.
I am writing this article and the correlating follow-up articles to confront (not condemn) online publishers identifying themselves as “Christian,” who use ad networks like Taboola, RevContent, and OutBrain. This is an address to “Christian” news publishers to examine and re-think their strategies to monetize content, for the love of Christ and glory of our coming King.
There is a great opportunity for Christian news publishers to spread the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ—for He is the Author of Life and Hope of the world. Christian news publishers have an opportunity to glorify God, to speak truth in love, to encourage unity in the body of Christ, to share Biblical discernment, to teach what is holy and what is profane, and help us grow in intimacy with our Lord and Savior. For the testimony of Jesus Christ is a spirit of prophecy.
It has been a year and the leadership of the Christian Media Corporation International has continued to publish these ads which are designed to do one thing—stir the flesh and provoke the heart to click on the ad, through the use of sensuous, sensational, critical, and provocative titles and images.
Below are recent screenshots taken this month (November, 2017).
1. The first series of screenshots is from an article on ChristianPost.com titled “Is Prayer Useless If It Can’t Protect Christians at Church?” (the link is a screen shot capturing the full article). As you scroll down to the bottom of the story, before the comments, there is a section of ads by Revcontent, with the title, “Trending Today:”
Worse yet, when you click on the ad titled “This Photographer Snuck 20 Illegal Photos Out Of North Korea,” you are taken to this web page (called a landing page in digital marketing) and a pop-up ad initially filled the screen:
When you scroll down the landing page you see more ads, including this one featuring an image of American actress Julia Stiles, claiming she is dead:
2. The second series of screenshots is from another ChristianPost.com article titled “3 Pastors Accused of Sex Trafficking Underage Girls Face New Charges, Could Face Life in Prison.” As you scroll down to the bottom of the story, before the comments, there is a section of ads by Revcontent, with the title, “Trending Today:”
When you click on the ad titled “20 Final Photos Taken Seconds Before Tragedy Struck,” you are taken to this web page and a pop-up ad initially filled the screen:
Here is a screenshot of the landing page above the fold (what is initially viewable in the web browser):
Finally, here is some of the content of the article, “20 Final Photos Taken Seconds Before Tragedy Struck:”
“Okay, so this is for people who think that they could get away with everything and they would be still alive. But what they don’t realize is that they could do something very harmful to them, and they could end getting killed by these animals. This man was from India, and he went to the zoo one day. He wanted to see the white tiger from close, and that is the reason why he got up to the closure, and suddenly he fell in the closure. He never came out alive, and he was just killed there and then instantly.”
3. The third series of screenshots is from an article on ChristianToday.com titled “When politicians or clergy abuse, the institution doesn’t need protection: it needs honesty.” As you scroll down to the bottom of the story, before the comments, there is a section of ads by Revcontent, with the title, “Trending Today:”
When you click on the ad titled “Look Closely: 25 Photos Taken Moments Before Tragedy,” you are taken to this ad landing page:
This is an urgent call to repentance. Change your mind about publishing any content that does not honor God, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Mark 9:42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
Matthew 12:30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
Daniel 9:9 “To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him.”
Joel 2:12-13 “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.
Nehemiah 9:17 “But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
Jeremiah 7:8-10 “Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? “
Jeremiah 7:24 “But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.”
Jeremiah 7:28 “And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.”
1 John 3:8 “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
Acts 17:30 “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”
Nehemiah 9:5 “Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting.”
Revelation 21:5-8 “And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”