There's been a lot of change happening in the world of communications, much of it is affecting two issues near and dear to my heart:
1. My client's thought leadership
2. The swiftly-evolving landscape of marketing, and the expansion of paid content.
Last week had some serendipity happening, in that several incidents converged and prodded me to give some thought to our evolving communications marketplace, and the changing roles of Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned Media*. Here's the outcome:
Three Things Happened
1. Top Media Access for Almost No Money
Yet again, someone called and wanted to be featured in the New York Times for a grand total investment of $500. I responded in my usual fashion; thanking them politely for contacting me, sending on some free DIY reading materials, then hanging up and having a small fit. Again.
2. Yet, Someone is Doing This
A number of someones, apparently, as a partner of mine mentioned one of several companies that provide "cooked to order" articles in top publications, for the cost of most New York agency's lunch meetings. While this has been part of the landscape for quite some time, I'm seeing a proliferation tipping point.
3. I had my Bias Surgically Removed
By this, I meant I stepped back and took a hard look at the industry and its changes. I need to stop automatically dismissing, and start thinking about this here-to-stay member of the marketing ecosystem.
Here is What I Saw, This is What I Think
Yes, indeed, the change in access to top publications has opened dramatically. Content networks, and agencies focused on providing client-vetted articles to "top outlets" has proliferated, and this is not anything new.
It is part of the very democratic ecosystem that allows enterprises and thought leaders to get their messages out in the marketplace in a controlled manner. From dialogue across social platforms, to paid-message positioning and paid amplification, the enterprise is now also the gatekeeper. This is an excellent thing, as elbow grease and budget can now allow companies and their founders to drive their market dialogue.
The Slippery Slope Downside: Third Person Credibility
There is a caveat however; institutions, conventions, media and markets are in many ways like a luxury car or fine jewelry: these things only hold their value if the market consensus agrees there is value; and one of the hallmarks of value is quality and rarity.
To put it bluntly, if anyone with the price of a weekend trip to the beach can be featured in a top business magazine, then what is the value of that coverage in the publication?
Right. Not much. So, what protects the asset value of true earned media, the independent coverage of an issue, executive or company, by a credentialed journalist when favorable coverage and low-cost interviews are readily available?