Could you feel the buzz, the tingling in your fingers as you clicked on your mouse and punched in your credit card number? What, you didn’t know? Yesterday was Cyber Monday!


It was almost impossible to ignore the hype surrounding America’s newest post-Thanksgiving shopping milestone. After all, CNN, the “Today Show“‘s Katie Couric and some of our biggest newspapers were doing plenty of educating.


“Perhaps you didn’t know that next Monday is called ‘Cyber Monday,’” Couric reported on her show last Wednesday. “That’s the day when Internet shopping goes up dramatically.”


The same morning, Alexis Glick at CNN’s “Daybreak” beat an even louder drum roll. “We do not have to tell you savvy shoppers that Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year,” enthused Glick. “But that dubious record may soon fall, or perhaps already has, to Cyber Monday.”


As the week progressed, the Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, Wall Street Journal and others followed up with their own Cyber Monday stories.


It was all very exciting, except for one problem: Any serious ranking of important annual events would place Cyber Monday only slightly higher than National Jelly Bean Day (April 22).


Thanks to some nice reporting by BusinessWeek’s online edition, we learned today that Cyber Monday is actually nothing more than the contrivance of an association representing online retailers. According to the article, the association, called Shop.org, “dreamed up the term just days before putting out a Nov. 21 press release touting Cyber Monday as ‘one of the biggest shopping days of the year.’”


That was a bold move, considering that Cyber Monday hadn’t happened yet and there wasn’t much evidence to support the notion that there has ever been an unusual jump in Internet sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving. The truth, BusinessWeek found, is that “Cyber Monday” is only the 12th busiest online shopping day of the year, and that most online retailers expect their sales to peak shortly before Christmas. As Shop.org Executive Director Scott Silverman admitted, “It’s not the biggest day, but it was an opportunity to create some consumer excitement.”


And why did the media obediently glom on to a business association’s public relations “opportunity”? Our best guess is that America’s editors and TV “news” personalities took the bait for only one reason: “Cyber Monday” has a catchy ring to it.


So, behold the power of marketing.


And behold the withering of our media, which is supposed to unwrap the flashy packaging around non-stories like this one.

Gal Beckerman is a former staff writer at CJR.