Reflecting on Rumblr: The 4 phases of the Internet falling for a hoax
It had all the makings for the perfect viral story: The “Tinder for [insert ridiculous noun]” pitch, a premise that sounds believable in this current state of app-phoria, a perfectly manufactured startupland name, a sleek website and a slow Monday morning news cycle.
Yesterday much of the online media was duped into writing about Rumblr, an app that described itself as the place “for recreational fighters to find, meet and fight other brawl enthusiasts nearby.” There was even a mock-up of the app and a promise that it was “coming soon” to the Apple Store.
It was all a hoax. From the beginning, the idea was filled with holes including screenshots of a non-existent Instagram account. an illegal premise that Apple would never approve, a lack of Terms of Service that’s standard on apps, a non-working number on its WhoIs domain database and cheap looking mock-ups (please, everyone with a phone knows that Verizon isn’t written in all caps.)
Let’s reflect on the four phases of falling for it:
Phase 1: Falling for the pitch.
Rumblr’s first victim was VentureBeat, which wrote about it on Friday without an ounce of skepticism.
“No sign of any monetization efforts on the site, just an effort to build a large community of punchers,” it dutifully notes. “But, you know, Rumblr might be a good site for advertisements from emergency rooms, anger management therapists, or first-aid supplies.”
From there, the story was rehashed and re-written nearly dozens and dozens of times according to a search on Google News:
The usual viral content factories fell for it, including the U.K.’s Independent, Metro, Digital Spy, Complex, MMA Junkie, Vice Sports, irrelevant local television websites (KPHO-TV in Phoenix even interviewed a police officer about it!) and lots of others. The New York Daily News even conducted the interview with the “founders” who said it has “raised substantial funding from private American investors.” (They also told the paper it operates out of a “shared space in SoHo,” which only adds to the believability, to be honest.)
Besides Vice Sports and MMA Junkie, the websites listed above haven’t updated the story to reflect that it’s a hoax.
Phase 2: Wait a minute, maybe this is fake?
Of course, there were other websites that were, at the very least, a little uneasy about the whole idea, most notably Gizmodo. In addition to framing the story in the form of a question (“I Have a Few Questions About This New ‘Tinder for Fighting’ App”), the post’s author said that “clearly, somebody is trolling us,” adding this “whole set up screams viral marketing campaign” before debating the legality of a presumed marketing hoax.
The Washington Post also had a similar take, declaring “there’s no way that the app is real” and hedged that Rumblr is a “marketing stunt, a prank or (best case!) an unsubtle parody.” Well, one of those definitely had to be correct eventually.
Phase 3: The truth is revealed.
Business Insider said it spoke to “someone in the New York startup scene” (someone! literally anyone!) confirming the fact that yes, Rumblr it was fake and that someone was “secretly amazed that people had fallen for the stunt.”
At around 5:15 p.m., roughly 72 hours after the first story was written and 15 minutes after the app was supposed to go live, the founders finally came clean, revealing that we’re all dummies. In a pop-up page on its website, founders admitted it was a rouge to launch their new creative firm.
Phase 4: Cue the think pieces.
Now entering its final phase this morning, think pieces sprung up everywhere — even right here (how meta!). Vice expectedly delivered, writing “I Tried and Failed to Fight Someone on ‘Tinder for Fights,’ Because It Was Fake,” while The Daily Beast was more remorseful with the headline “I Helped Promote a Fake Fighting App.”
Perhaps it was Uproxx that said it best, saying the “lesson here of course is not to believe everything (or anything) you read on the Internet.” Especially when it’s as stupid as this.
‘One beat in an ongoing movement’: BET+ general manager Devin Griffin on the streamer’s evolution
Pre-launch research for BET+ found a lot of demand for content focused on Black stories and experiences, but 'the supply is not quite right.'
‘Gives us more control’: To grow revenue, Schibsted built its own podcast platform
Publisher's goal: Learn more about podcast usage, experiment with how they drive subscribers and ultimately earn more ad revenue
Member ExclusiveTikTok’s unusual spinoff: 4 outstanding advertiser concerns
From a distracting IPO, to Walmart's end game, these are the key parts of TikTok's proposed sale that advertisers should pay attention to.
SponsoredB2B events were broken before the pandemic, their online reinvention is creating positive change
Kim Darling, executive producer, Inbound Farewell lanyards, business cards and branded pens — it’ll be some time before people get their hands on these souvenirs of in-person events again. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform the way people work, buy, sell, socialize and entertain themselves, the global events industry is facing its biggest-ever challenge. […]
‘We have seen increasing demand’: Facebook video powers a user-generated content surge
As the number of Facebook pages approved for in-stream video ads has soared over 100,000, demand for user-generated content has swelled too.
Apple’s latest anti-tracking changes present fresh headache for publishers
Apple's Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature switched on by default for all browsers on Apple devices running iOS 14.