News & Politics

No, the Newseum Didn’t Actually Buy the Ad for “Worst Museum in Washington, DC”

But it did make a smart play with Google ads.

Photograph by Flickr user Ron Cogswell.

What’s the best museum in Washington? What’s the worst? If you ask Google, the top, advertised result directs you to the Newseum, downtown DC’s archive of newspaper front pages, Anchorman props, and famous people’s hats.

The Fader‘s Myles Tanzer stumbled upon the “worst museum” answer when a Twitter pal of his asked for advice on spending a day in DC, and made clear her distaste for the Newseum:

This could be a clever act on the part of the Newseum’s marketing department to troll its haters. More likely, it’s a ploy to goose revenue. Even with a bustling events business, luxury apartments, and a Wolfgang Puck-branded restaurant, the Newseum is reeling financially, with debts totalling $307 million, according to the Washington Post. The organization is reportedly considering selling a stake in its Pennsylvania Avenue complex, which is appraised at $677 million.

But the Newseum didn’t actually buy ads for the search term “worst museum in DC,” says spokesman Jonathan Thompson. The Newseum also appears in Google’s ad-supported result when you search for “best museum in DC,” “pretty good museum in DC,” or even “fairly average museum in DC.” That’s because the Newseum bought the results for “museum in DC.”

In other words, however insulting a query you put into Google, if it has to do with DC museums, the Newseum will be first.

UPDATE, 1:01 PM: Actually, there’s at least one variation on “museum in DC” that boinks the Newseum off the ad-supported result slot.

Makes sense, considering the Newseum’s current financial outlook. Two-day passes are $22.95 for adults.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.