Yeah, you heard me right. Some unscrupulous newspapers have taken a turn for the worse. I guess it's nice to have a reporter return your phone call, but when they say, "Buy an ad" instead of "great story idea," it's a little depressing. I would rather hear a no.
The great thing about reading an article in the business section of the paper is knowing that the reporter who wrote it is a neutral arbiter of the story. They don't have any outside motivation to say anything nice about your book, product or service. They most likely will have done their homework and confirmed things that have been said to them in the pitch.What the reader gets, in most cases, is an unbiased story, told for their benefit. The purpose is supposed to be to inform the reader of a new business in their community, a new product that they may want to try out, or a problem that a business has solved with their product or service.
But what happens when the newspaper abuses its control and power? I say the iron curtain of separation between editors and reporters and the advertising department has become a sheer wisp of a cotton cloth blowing in the breeze.
Everyone knows that ad revenues are down. The news is depressing. But what would compel readers to buy more newspapers? I dare to say that compelling content is the cure, not more ads.
This week, I had the disconcerting experience of having a respected daily newspaper in Iowa try to sell an ad to me after I pitched them a very relevant and timely business story. I did not just fall off the PR turnip truck yesterday. I know a good pitch from a bad one. My client's story has already received enthusiastic coverage from many other sources, so I know it's a good one. My client's product is new, innovative, and knowing about it benefits the reader.
Advertising is not the best way to promote some products. Public relations and editorial content provides information seekers another resource. It is distinctly different from advertising, and newspaper readers know the difference.
I think this is exactly why social media has risen to prominence. Social media is all about content, which is one of the reasons it is taking over mass media as a resource for people looking for information.
Kudos to those newspapers and other media outlets that have resisted the urge to use their connection to PR professionals as simply another source of income. I hope that others aren't naive enough to fall for this bait and switch technique. It's unethical to say the very least.