Today, the lines for paid media and earned media are blurred. Until the last few years, if you offered a website or news source payment in exchange for a review or story about your company, you’d be laughed out of the business. However, with the rise of a content-heavy Internet, bloggers and online content producers are driving a new market for pay-for-play editorial. Even big players like the Super Bowl are trying to cash-in on this phenomenon by “exploring” ways they can profit from their halftime act, something unheard of doing in the past but a conversation whose time has come.
While you still can’t pay for an article to run in the New York Times or CNN.com, there is an increasing number of high profile “news” sites that you can pay for content to run on, and that can influence the possibilities of future earned media coverage. It’s also safe to assume that even steadfast “news” organizations are exploring pay-for-play revenue streams as traditional advertising gets squeezed out.
So the question remains, should you pay for a blogger to write about you? The answer is No, well, maybe it’s, Yes. Let’s discuss:
No: When it comes to a true news organization, you must treat it as such. If you want paid content, you’ll have to pay for an advertisement to run. These organizations keep the lines of earned media coverage and paid coverage completely separate. For example, you can’t influence the Wall Street Journal to write a positive article about your company just because you paid for an ad. Remember, the staff of a true news organization is paid a salary. They make a living covering news. They don’t pay attention to who is advertising and who is not. They are chasing news no matter what and would balk at anyone offering them compensation in exchange for editorial coverage.
Yes: On the other side of the spectrum, bloggers make their living off their blogs. They produce content but have no one providing them a steady paycheck or revenue stream. Therefore, we have seen a movement of bloggers over the years develop opportunities for sponsored content and other services. Many bloggers have told me that they have built their audiences on their own and at their own time and expense– and now that brands want to cash in on those audiences – they have to compensate them.
So if you have the marketing dollars and really want to drum up some buzz about your company, product, or service, consider sponsoring various bloggers to experience your company and pay them for their time too. If they believe in your company (and you give them reason to believe), they will jump on board and become your biggest advocates.
Worried about Disclosure?
It’s important that any blogger you pay – either through product sampling, cash or other means – fully discloses that they were compensated to work with you. While some readers of their blog will tune out paid content, many won’t because the blogger has built credibility with its audience, and bloggers often make the editorial feel natural within their current content.
Today, when looking to build buzz for your product, service, or event, consider hiring bloggers to help spread the word. While there are still plenty of opportunities for you to earn “free” PR through traditional news sites, there are even more “PR” opportunities with bloggers if you’re open to a pay-for-play relationship.