It is virtual, not real. Fake followers is nothing new. It predates the Internet.

Fake it until you make it. That is an old saying, and it is hard for people to understand that on the whole, people just aren't that into you.

As in, at all.

I was always skeptical of carny. I do not believe the hype of the Kardashians, for instance. People cannot remember the names and ages of their own children; so they are not remembering much of other people's children, either.

How much people pretend to earn -- and I am talking celebrities here -- is vastly misaligned with what they actually do earn, for instance. When I was writing about the business of journalism, one thing I knew about was paywall (back when it had a different meaning than it does now: back then, a paywall was the maximum salary anyone in a set position could earn), and I knew what people were actually making, and what they told me they were making was something two or three times what the paywall was -- not that they clued in that I may know more about their wages than they thought I did.

There is a pay scale, and puffing is a common ruse among people in entertainment and communications. What they are trying to do is make themselves seem like the cool kids who everyone knows, envies, and bothers reading or watching.

Bloat a following and maybe advertisers will be fooled into giving you truckloads of cash to hawk their wares.

Once upon a time, a good hint about a celebrity's true worth came from People magazine when they had a little section about celebrities selling their homes. It was never the ones whose careers were strong; just the ones who had a bad film or two in a row.

The first expense that had to go was the luxury mansion.

Newspapers played those games long before the Internet by including papers they dumped in colleges and greasy spoons as part of their paid circulation. That was their version of fake followers, and nothing that caused the New York Times to get huffy about.

They are whining about fake YouTube views this time. People try to make themselves stand out, and they will pay to inflate the figures. Spin back an odometer or inflate page views, it is always the same game.

That is the reason I always used to verify numbers in different ways than what I was presented by a vested interest. People would build up the hype, but the truth is that much of hype comes from people either recruiting friends and family to anonymously endorse them -- or paying a third party to boost the numbers to gain that grit of traction.

Advertising doesn't always work, and neither does the most clever campaign. You can have a first-rate product, but the push doesn't always bring you what you need, let alone what you want.

Fashion publications can't hype of their September issues anymore -- but it is cheaper for fashion houses to appeal directly to potential customers via social media than in the glossies. I have a soft spot for Louis Vuitton, Van Cleef and Arpels, Shu Uemura, Takeshy Kurosawa, Ralph Lauren, and Moschino, for instance, and I do not need Vogue to show me the goods.

But I haven't cracked open an issue for well over a decade for personal reading because I have ways of looking at what I like directly. I don't need the middle man to tell me how to think or how to dress myself because my style is my own, and always has been. Being a good little middle class sheep and minion was never my thing in the first place.

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But the New York Post seems surprised, but their piece on it had one interesting observation:

“The September issue means nothing anymore,” said Sam Shahid, founder of branding, advertising and design agency Shahid & Company. “You used to hold that magazine in your hand. It takes you to a place — that’s what a magazine used to do. Now they are all doing the same thing. There’s no imagination there. It’s just pure product, it’s pleasing the advertiser.”

Shahid says a lack of funds at publishers, due to a decline in print circulation and ad revenue in the digital age, has led to a crazy scramble to attract any kind of buzz or revenue.

“There’s a desperation right now with print,” he added. “The power magazines used to have is no longer there. Celebrities are controlling fashion.”

Celebrities have the machine to hype their things and buy their followers, but even they have co-opted the puffing, and took out the gate-keepers.

We like the myth of other people worshipping us, but we aren't paying attention to other people much anymore.

For an alternative model to journalism to thrive, it has to take that into its equations.

And not try to bluff its way with a big bang.

But a little pop. A little at a time to cultivate an alternative way of disseminating information in a world where virtual is still mistaken for actual...