The so-called 'new economy' tech business magazines may have
suffered their share of fallout from Nasdaq's slide, but at least they
can still have a laugh. Red Herring managed to elicit more than a few
chuckles and score some choice ink for itself this month with its annual
April Fools story.
An article appeared in the Herring's April 2 issue about a Dutch
start-up that offers technology to transmit Web traffic through - what
else? - municipal waterworks. 'Just connect to your bathroom faucet and
you get a broadband connection!' barked the deranged Dutchmen. In
addition to the preposterous premise, the story about 'WaterNet'
included several clues that it was indeed the mag's annual gag. For
example, a 'water policy analyst' named Truman Schuman was quoted, and
founder Dennis de Boer was said to have developed the technology through
something called the Dutch Retrograde Internet Project, or DRIP.
However, more than a few readers didn't catch the joke (and that, we
admit, includes PRWeek's editor-in-chief). Not only did the pseudo
WaterNet Web site receive more than 50,000 page views, letters from
interested investors poured in (sorry), according to editor-in-chief
The head of a national trade association for advertisers even wrote to
invite WaterNet's CEO to speak at an executive conference.
Armed with the giggle-worthy evidence of gullibility, PR firm Plesser
Associates pitched a story on the gag's success to business media using
a faux press release followed by a real backgrounder explaining the
history and the philosophy of April Fools articles in the Herring.
Resulting coverage included a piece on the Knight-Ridder wire,
Inside.com and the San Jose Mercury News. Seems everyone's in the mood
for a laugh these days.