Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Companies Buying Their Way Into Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company and HuffPo Stories

Apparently Business Insider and Entrepreneur as well.
It's a fine state of affairs when you can't trust Mashable for you corporate and financial news.*

From The Outline:

Bribes For Blogs:
An Outline investigation found that contributors to prominent publications have taken payments in exchange for positive coverage.
In late October, TechCrunch editor-at-large John Biggs noticed a Facebook Messenger request from someone he didn’t know, a man named Varun Satyam. When Biggs accepted the request, Satyam introduced himself as a marketer for technology startups. He was looking for coverage of some clients, he said, and he was willing to pay Biggs to write about them.
It was a bold opening move, and an unethical proposition for any journalist who wants to retain their credibility. But Biggs wasn’t surprised. He estimates that he receives two or three similar offers each month, and he doesn’t take them seriously.
“They’re stupid,” said Biggs. “Organic press is far more effective and anyone with a brain can see through them.”

But solicitations like Satyam’s may be more successful than Biggs is aware. Interviews with more than two dozen marketers, journalists, and others familiar with similar pay-for-play offers revealed a dubious corner of online publishing in which publicists, ranging from individuals like Satyam to medium-sized “digital marketing firms” that blur traditional lines between advertising and public relations, quietly pay off journalists to promote their clients in articles that make no mention of the financial arrangement.
People involved with the payoffs are extremely reluctant to discuss them, but four contributing writers to prominent publications including Mashable, Inc, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur told me they have personally accepted payments in exchange for weaving promotional references to brands into their work on those sites. Two of the writers acknowledged they have taken part in the scheme for years, on behalf of many brands. Mario Ruiz, a spokesperson for Business Insider, said in an email that “Business Insider has a strict policy that prohibits any of our writers, whether full-time staffers or contributors, from accepting payment of any kind in exchange for coverage.”

One of them, a contributor to Fast Company and other outlets who asked not to be identified by name, described how he had inserted references to a well-known startup that offers email marketing software into multiple online articles, in Fast Company and elsewhere, on behalf of a marketing agency he declined to name. To make the references seem natural, he said, he often links to case studies and how-to guides published by the startup on its own site. Other times, he’ll just praise a certain aspect of the company’s business to support a point in an otherwise unrelated story.
Robert Safian, editor of Fast Company, sent a statement: “No editors or other leadership at Fast Company were ever contacted in regard to this story. We were unaware of this practice happening at Fast Company, and no proof has been provided by The Outline of specific instances of paid mentions in our editorial content.” The Outline reached out to Fast Company’s PR email address the day before publication with a detailed email inquiry. After publication, The Outline described to Safian specific examples of brand placements that appeared on Fast Company’s website between 2013 and 2016, which we are not publishing in order to protect the identity of sources. Safian’s statement continued,

“It is a violation of our editorial policy and our rigorous journalistic standards. If we found any writer or contributor engaging in this practice, they would be terminated and their stories taken down. Any editor who might condone this practice would be fired.”

The Fast Company writer also defended the practice by arguing that it’s enabled by editors who are hungry for cheap or unpaid blog content. Many high-volume sites, including the Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Forbes, maintain networks of unpaid contributors who publish large amounts of material. Forbes, for instance, marks articles by contributors with a small disclaimer, but the Columbia Journalism Review has pointed out that those dubiously sourced articles are often cited as though they were normal stories written by Forbes staff. In reality, the editorial process that leads to those articles being published is opaque — a Forbes spokesperson declined to answer questions about how many contributors the site has, whether they’re ever paid, or whether an editor reviews their work before publication. One former Forbes contributor, Josh Steimle, has even offered a “masterclass” on how to get published on the site, an accomplishment he described as “rewarding for both my personal brand and my digital marketing agency.”...MORE
*Somehow related: 2010's "That's the Last Time I Look to 'Rolling Stone' for Climate; Investing Advice: "The Climate Killers: #1 Warren Buffett" (BRK.A; BRK.B)".

And a random sampling of posts based on a lifetime of observing and using the product of journalists in the furtherance of personal goals e.g. an urbane, witty presence, world domination, etc.:

Today in OccupyWallStreet News: "I'm a F***ing Journalist, You Motherf***er!"
 Columbia Journalism Review: The extraordinary promise of the new Greenwald-Omidyar venture
"The Journalist’s New Escape Plan: Start-Ups" (and Bloomberg goes VC)
"Why Aren’t Top Journalists Rich?"
 Media: It's the Talent, Stupid!
"Journalism: Go Longform or Go Home"
"How Will the End of Print Journalism Affect Old Loons Who Hoard Newspapers?"