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PR versus journalism: the Livr disease

Is That a Party in Your Pocket?
LIVR™ isn’t just another tired social network. It’s an online party at all times… guaranteed. No baby photos. No puppies. Mom isn’t here. Just a global network of similarly buzzed people looking to have a good time. Join the LIVR Life™!

That’s how Livr is introduced on its website. A snazzy publicity campaign for the social drinking app was launched in March of this year. Livr was described as a social network strictly for drunk people. To log on, you would have to plug a special breathalyzer into your phone and hit a sufficiently high blood alcohol percentage.

Once inside, socialising with the inebriated crowd in your area could begin. ‘Hot spots’ showed where local drunks were cavorting, and the ‘drunk dial’ feature allowed you to randomly call a boozed up stranger. Waking up overcome by shame? The ‘black out’ button erased all your nocturnal activity from the app.

It wasn’t long until journalists figured out Livr was a hoax. But by that time, several publications had already run a story on the innovative social network. The Daily Mail never bothered to take their article down; The Independent added a footnote saying the app was a fake.

Livr creators Brandon Bloch and Brandon Schmittling admitted to the prank, saying they wanted to point out the flawed (or non-existent) fact-checking processes of the modern media. “It turns out that little bit of checking that should’ve been done was absolutely avoided,” Schmittling told Mashable.

Livr’s instant success illustrates the power of PR in today’s ultra-fast news media. In this context, a report published last week by the Pew Research Center is cause for concern. The think tank found that PR specialists now outnumber reporters 4.6 to one in the US – as opposed to 3.2 PRs per journalist ten years ago.

From 2004 to 2013, the total number of reporters in the US plunged by 8,920 to a total of 43,630. Meanwhile, the PR workforce grew by 22 percent to 202,530. The pay gap between PR specialists and reporters grew to nearly $20,000: reporters now make 65 cents for every dollar a PR earns – six cents per dollar less than in 2004.

“One concern it raises when looked at alongside the shrinking newsrooms is the greater difficulty reporters have vetting information from outside sources,” the Pew Center wrote.

Based on these figures, we fear we can expect to see many more Livrs in the future.

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