The barriers between ‘earned’ and ‘paid’ editorial coverage are shifting. Is your PR budget correctly set and demarcated to allow for the increasing importance of paid-for editorial opportunities in the coming decade?
Although editorial independence remains sacrosanct for journalists, the media is turning to new revenue sources to offset declining circulation and advertising income. As with the music industry, live events are becoming increasingly important income earners and also generate news that is reported editorially by the media host. In future, PR programmes need to budget for such ‘paid-for’ activities alongside traditional ‘earned’ media relations work.
For example, to field a speaker at the Financial Times ‘Business of Luxury’ conference and be included in the newspaper’s accompanying editorial coverage, a company must first become an event sponsor, which can entail a fee upwards of £70,000. Other examples of prominent media-hosted events include Flightglobal’s aviation conferences, GQ magazine’s brand parties and Wired magazine’s technology summits.
Publications are also increasingly open to other forms of commercial partnerships that create editorial coverage. Producing awards ceremonies and sponsored supplements are long-established tactics that shows little sign of fading away. More imaginatively, publications are also exploiting the commercial value of their subscriber lists, for example by co-hosting webinars or offering market research services, which in turn form the basis of editorial content and lead generation. Others publishers are developing training businesses, representing a further area for potential brand collaboration.
Companies should view the costs associated with such paid-for editorial tactics as part of a necessary redrawing of boundaries between departmental budgets. The company may ultimately be spending no more money than before, but some funds may need to be reallocated from Marketing to PR to reflect the changes underway in the media and society.