Definitely one of the stranger experiments from Verizon in recent history, the wireless service provider has shut down a fledgling tech news site that was forbidden to write stories about U.S. surveillance issues or take a position on Net neutrality. Called SugarString, Verizon took the site completely offline as well as removing the official SugarString social pages on both Facebook and Twitter.
During November, Verizon was forced to distance the company from the site after a recruiting email from former SugarString editor-in-chief Cole Stryker mentioned that specific topics would be censored on the site. Stryker has been fairly silent on Twitter since the public release of the email.
Originally, Verizon attempted to defend the site by stating “SugarString is a pilot project from Verizon Wireless’ marketing group, designed to address tech trends, especially those of interest to our customers. Unlike the characterization by its new editor, SugarString is open to all topics that fit its mission and elevate the conversation around technology.”
However, according to a statement provided to DSLReports from a Verizon Wireless representative, the company now says “We’ve always said this was a pilot project; and as with any pilot project, we evaluate, take our learnings, improve our execution and move forward. That’s what we’ve decided to do here.” It’s likely that part of the decision to shut down the site was due to the tarnished reputation of SugarString and ensuing mockery that occurred on social media.
Of course, the misguided content direction on the site wasn’t the only obvious misstep of Verizon. The marketing group behind SugarString appeared to have dumped significant amounts of money into promoting early content on both Facebook and Twitter as well as purchasing ads to increase likes and follows by tens of thousands on those social accounts. That tactic was likely chosen to artificially make the pages appear active. Since both of those pages have been wiped from the Web at this point, that marketing budget was completely wasted on social advertising.