The entire Glenn Beck brand has been deeply discounted these days. Oh, not unlike Harold Camping he's still with the rest of us here in earth, and still utters utterly insane ideas. But since he became a lame duck on the Fox News Channel and got yanked from the airwaves here in Philly, in New York and elsewhere, it just doesn't seem to matter as much. Meanwhile, Beck has promised all of us that his break with Fox News will give him an opportunity to do amazing things on the Web.
Uh, like this?
On Monday, Mercury Radio Arts, Mr. Beck's production company, plans to announce a new website called Markdown.com that will sell discounted products and services. It will launch with two deals: a $10 voucher for $20 of chocolate on Chocolate.com and a 55% discount on a credit-score monitoring product made by LifeLock, an identity-theft prevention company. Markdown will offer one to two deals a week.
The discounted deals service is entering a market dominated by giants such as Groupon and filling up with niche players, too. Chris Balfe, president of Mercury Radio Arts, says the company's skill "curating content for a specific audience" of rabid fans of Mr. Beck will help it stand out.
That is sort of true: As I chronicled last year in my book "The Backlash," Beck had a special talent for whipping up fear in the "editorial" portion of his show and then using that fear to sell useless things to his emotionally battered audience -- things like freeze-dried food and survival seed banks and ridiculously marked-up (heh...Markup.com?) gold coins. Now, he's too lazy to do even that -- he's just going to offer you overvalued crap at low prices and hope to take a cut.
There's nothing wrong with Chocolate.com, as far as I can tell (it's hard for anyone to make chocolate into a scam) but Lifelock, which has long been a favorite of Beck, is a classic case of buyer beware:
NEW YORK, March 9 (Reuters) - LifeLock Inc, which promises to protect consumers from identity theft, agreed to pay $12 million to settle claims by the Federal Trade Commission and 35 U.S. states that it overstated the value of its service.
As officials noted:
The FTC said LifeLock has advertised since 2006 that it could stop identity theft for consumers who buy its $10 per month service. But it said the company's fraud alerts did not protect customers from misuse of existing accounts, the most common form of the crime.
"While LifeLock promised consumers complete protection against all types of identity theft, in truth, the protection it actually provided left enough holes that you could drive a truck through," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement.
Indeed, Lifelock has had all kinds of problems over the years, including scammers using the Social Security number that the compamy founder read over the air. So Markdown.com may just be a new way for Beck to peddle the wares of his dubious friends. But in his prime, Beck sold his faithful on products like Lifelock by scaring the bejeezus out of them. Now he's just hawking it at 55 percent off.
That's why Markdown.com seems less a business venture than a metaphor for the Beck brand these days.