I’ve been a fan of Steven Seagal on Facebook for several years now, for obvious reasons. (Steven Seagal is the most interesting man in show business, if not the world.) In the past, this connection just meant that his name would come up under “common interests” when I happened to be Tinder-swiping a lady who was especially compatible.
Then about a week ago, strange links began showing up in my timeline. The links were to your typical clickbaity listicles (“Signs You May Have The HIV Infection” “Amazing Google Hacks Which Will Change The Internet!” “Two Men Try To Stuff A Giant Anaconda Into A Bag But Wait”), but with a new fly-by-night content provider. The site was calling itself “Warrior Zen,” and it had Steven Seagal’s name right under the masthead. The links were shared by Seagal’s verified Facebook account, along with a short tease that I automatically read in Seagal’s trademark codeine sensei rasp:
SEAGAL VOICE: “What were they thinking?”
Link: Two Men Try To Stuff A Giant Anaconda Into A Bag But Wait
SEAGAL VOICE “Warning Signs”
Link: Signs You May Have The HIV Infection
SEAGAL VOICE: “They were lucky that’s all it wanted.”
Link: Alligator Interrupts a Picnic Lunch and Steals Sandwich
Amazing. But also, I had to wonder what gives? Has Steven Seagal started his own BuzzFeed? Or more accurately, his own Buzzfudge? Are we witnessing a historic convergence of fringe celebrity and fringe internet #content? The answer, it seems, is yes.
On the WarriorZen website, which I bravely risked contracting browser herpes just to visit, alllll the way at the bottom, past the links for “She Runs This Loaf Of Bread Under Water And The Reason May End Up Saving You Money” and “Ring Stuck On Finger? Engineers Find Way To Solve,” there was a footer link for something called “Providr.” Which was credited as WarriorZen’s “Celebrity Internet Media Partner.”
This must be the company that built “WarriorZen.com.” Over on Providr, there’s a pitch to “partner with Providr.”
Celebrities make money, build audiences and become internet entrepreneurs by partnering with Providr to create media companies. They do this while maintaining and building their brand integrity. [Providr.com/Corporate]
Providr claims it wants to help you “Build a media company at NO COST and NO RISK that can be sold for millions of dollars,” “Connect with fans by publishing curated content that contributes to your brand development,” and “Grow your Facebook likes up to five times faster.”
Not much information exists about Providr, other than that they have their own clickbait website, that, surprise surprise, looks just like WarriorZen, with articles written by “the Providr.com” editorial team. “This Bear Does Not Give A F*ck And We Can All Relate To This!” “Dude Attempts Second Story Beer Pong Dunk And FAILS Epically,” etc.
The only difference between it and WarriorZen is that WarriorZen has a few links that are specifically related to Seagal. Like The Seven Greatest Seagal Quotes Of All Time, and Steven Seagal Teaches Russian Students In The Art Of Aikido.
Not so with MarlonWayans.tv, also listed as a Providr site, which doesn’t seem to offer anything actually Wayans related. Unless you count “Horny Couples Who Forgot They Were In Public” or “Problems Only Girls With Big Bums Will Understand.”
Thus far, so far as I can tell, Steven Seagal and Marlon Wayans are the only celebrities linked to Providr sites. Why? Well, we can only guess, but Facebook’s mysterious algorithm seems to work in part by serving more of the types of links you generally click on. Thus, the strategy here seems to be, partnering with a company with a massive library of spammy links that people will click on, and increase the visibility of your personal/celebrity page in the process. (Followed by ??? and “profit”).
I also discovered where Providr seems to have gotten its name. This via a listing on “BrandBucket,” a website that sells cool, businessy-sounding domain names. There’s still a listing there for “Providr,” which is listed as Sold, and was advertised as “A cool take on the word provider, this name could be used for anyone providing a service.”
Indeed. The supplied keywords there include “benefactor, breadwinner, bringer, contributor, donor, earner, giver, source, supplier, wage-earner, worker.” (All words that could be applied to Steven Seagal himself).
Providr seems to have left their logo unchanged from what it looked like on the BrandBucket site. By the way, other domain names available from BrandBucket include “hoistr” ($1,555), “fontcrate” ($795), “fundblast” ($1,160), “awesomespace” ($6,995), and more, so I hope you’ve got your checkbook ready.
Thus, we’re left to infer that Steven Seagal has partnered with a Buzzfudge-style clickbait company, whose own name was in turn purchased from a generic-company-name-selling company called “BRANDBUCKET.”
What a f*cked up time to be alive. I’ll leave you with a few more Seagal-teased Providr headlines:
SEAGAL VOICE: An incredible look back in time.
Link: 6 Fascinating Photos From History That Will Make You Smile
SEAGAL VOICE: This big fish story turned out to be true…
Link: Fisherman Finally Reels In 266-Pound Catfish After Hour-Long Battle
SEAGAL VOICE: Incredible security.
Link: 6 Of The Most Heavily Guarded Locations On The Entire Planet
SEAGAL VOICE: Impressive.
Link: British Special Forces Sniper Annihilates ISIS Suicide Squad
SEAGAL VOICE: Straight to the point…
Link: 3 No-Nonsense Martial Arts That Will Keep You Alive on the Street
SEAGAL VOICE: Heartbreaking.
Link: Watch What This Cop Does When His Horse Collapse In The Middle Of The Street… Wow
I can’t get enough of those. We all know that Steven Seagal is an incredible actor, martial artist, lawman, statesman, spy, blues guitarist, reincarnated Tibetan monk, and ornate saddle collector, but I’m starting to believe that his true calling is as Upworthy’s online hype man.
Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.