Don't shoot the golden goose

It happened almost imperceptibly - slowly but surely.

Rob Willock
Rob Willock
Bit by bit and year by year, advertisers have diverted increasingly significant proportions of their budgets into PR.

The traditional features list approach to publishing is dying as, while companies remain keen to submit content for consideration, they are less willing to advertise against those articles.

And editors have been complicit in this destruction of their own business model, providing valuable thought-leadership opportunities for organisations and individuals who fail to back their title financially.

I have no doubt that some PRs have encouraged their clients to reduce advertising budgets, and to replace them with enhanced PR services. 

I imagine the conversation is probably along the lines of: "We’ve got good relationships with all the significant journalists in this sector and will ensure you get great coverage, which will reduce your need to spend money with their titles." 

In this way PRs are working in competition with the very publications they hope to influence. 
And that’s not a sustainable situation.

Of course no one wants to be too explicit about the link between the levels of advertising support a company provides a media brand and the number of editorial column inches it can expect, but in the real world we know it exists.

Employing journalists is not cheap, neither is developing an audience nor producing and distributing magazines and digital services.

PR might pay your bills, but it doesn’t cover our costs unless it goes hand in hand with real financial investment.

So the free ride stops now. 

We are exploring a move from ‘push’ to ‘pull’ content creation.

Product and service-based features will need to achieve a sufficient level of demand from advertisers before they are commissioned. 

Those ‘ad-get’ features just won’t happen anymore unless they ‘get ads’.

Publishing is a tough business. I know PR is tough too. 

But they remain to a large extent interdependent functions; so the relationship needs to be more reciprocal. 

More: "You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours," than: "You write about my client’s backscratcher and suffer from an itchy back."

Rob Willock is group editor of The Publican's Morning Advertiser and M&C Report

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