Since at least early December 2020, a photograph of “Sin City” actor Nick Stahl appeared in an online advertisement along with the words: “Actors Who Have Died in 2020 So Far This Year…”
This was misleading, however, as Stahl was not dead.
The advertisement was hosted by the Outbrain advertising platform and likely appeared on a number of websites. For example, as of Dec. 10, 2020, it was showing up on the right-hand sidebar on CNN’s website:
To be clear, CNN and other websites that run Outbrain ads do not handpick individual ads. Thousands of new ads are activated on Outbrain each day. Publishers like CNN have the ability to select ad categories and block others, but they do not pick and choose specific advertisements to run on their websites. In other words, CNN did not handpick the misleading Stahl ad that made it appear he was dead.
Readers who clicked on the advertisement were led to a more than 50-page slideshow story on Definition.org. The article was titled: “All The Celebrities We’ve Lost In The Past Year.” Stahl did not appear on the list because, again, Stahl was not dead.
The strategy behind such misleading online advertisements is to make more money on ads appearing against the slideshow than it cost to run the initial ad that showed Stahl’s photograph. It’s referred to as advertising “arbitrage.”
Other than “Sin City,” Stahl is perhaps best known for his work on 2003’s “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” and the HBO series “Carnivàle.” TV Guide reported that Stahl “decided to become an actor at age 4 when his mother took him to see a play” and that he auditioned “five times for the role of John Connor in ‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.'” He was also “briefly thought to be missing in 2012 while he spent time in rehab,” according to TV Guide. His IMDb page showed a number of upcoming projects in the works.
One of the most prominent death hoaxes we’ve reported on in 2020 claimed falsely that Drake was killed in a drive-by shooting. Another falsely reported Woody Allen had died. Chuck Norris wasn’t spared from death hoaxes in 2020, nor was U.S. President Donald Trump.
We reached out to CNN about the ad that appeared on their website, and will update this story should we receive a response.