FrackFeed: Pro-Fracking Activists Try the BuzzFeed Strategy
A new website created by the advocacy group North Texans for Natural Gas aims to jab its many celebrity critics, using memes and quizzes, in an effort to promote fracking.
As anyone who’s seen the 2012 Gus Van Sant movie Promised Land knows, a major challenge that the energy industry faces with promoting hydraulic fracturing has as much to do with messaging as with the “fracking” process itself.
Sometimes, that messaging—which aims to sell the benefits of fracking to a skeptical public—takes unusual or unexpected forms.
That brings us to the latest effort by North Texans for Natural Gas, a pro-fracking advocacy group. Its recently launched BuzzFeed-style website, FrackFeed, attempts to do two things: highlight the value of natural gas for the public and poke fingers in the eyes of fracking’s many critics.
“What we wanted to do is create an online hub where we’ve got engaging content, interactive content, that reflects the digital age that we’re in right now,” site spokesman Steve Everley told The Houston Chronicle‘s FuelFix.com. “The thrust of FrackFeed is that it allows us to explain the benefits of fracking to a new generation of Americans by putting out information in the areas that they’re looking for.”
The site features a section full of ready-to-share memes, an array of listicles, and a “hot topics” area that aims to counter current news stories and commentary critical of fracking. The articles vary in tone from informative to combative. Take, for example, this quiz disputing claims made by Hollywood activists. On the other hand, “25 Things You Didn’t Know Were Made From Natural Gas” takes a softer tone.
Everly, who also works on the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s Energy in Depth website, says the goal of FrackFeed is to have fun with a topic that can often feel a bit dry.
Many in the anti-fracking world say the industry’s largely corporate messaging approach thus far has been less than effective, including Kate Sinding, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Community Fracking Defense Project.
“I think it’s been almost comically ham-handed how badly the industry has handled this issue,” Sinding told FuelFix. “Most fundamentally, they’ve just taken a complete stick-their-head-in-the-sand approach and their unwillingness to acknowledge any impacts or any nuance to these issues makes them not credible to people.”
She added that despite the change in format, FrackFeed suffers from the same weakness. “Until industry is willing to acknowledge it does have an impact … I don’t see them making a lot of headway with the public,” she said.