The Albany site has a Canadian counterpart, City of Edmonton News, that’s generated more pageviews than authentic local news operations such as the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun, according to SimilarWeb. Those two were recently joined by another fake local site, the Laredo Tribune, which began receiving significant traffic in September. There’s also a now-dormant site called the Stanton Daily whose domain now redirects to the Albany site.
“It’s remarkable — who said local news is dead, right?” said Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, after examining two of the sites and their analytics for BuzzFeed News.
The Albany and Edmonton sites have not been updated in months, have no employees associated with them, and list no larger corporate entity. Their homepages are filled with bland, out-of-date rewrites of local stories first reported by real news outlets. Beyond the homepage, the sites are chock-full of old celebrity content that has nothing to do with the cities they supposedly cover. They do not have active social media accounts, nor do they list an office address or any contact details.
“You’d think they would do a better job of hiding their non-reality,” Benton said.