It’s staggering just how ignorant right wing bloggers are about how the business of media works, or business in general. Which wouldn’t be so ironic if they didn’t run around thumping their chests about the virtues of "free markets" and capitalism all the time. They only understand it through their own lens of blasting propaganda, and in characteristic wingnut fashion, are shrieking j’accuse! most loudly about the things they themselves are guilty of.
As someone who actually has a business degree and has made a career of running media businesses, I wrote this in a comment over at Talk Left:
A traditional marketing campaign has two components — paid media and earned media. Paid media (advertising) is purchased, and earned media would be in the form of reviews, articles and other "free" content that a PR department pushes.
AARP, for example, had the "Divided We Fail" campaign. They put millions into buying ads in newspapers and networks, but sent the blogs a press release. Which means that the New York Times fell into the "paid" media category because of an ad buy, but was also counted on to be "earned" media in the form of news. Blogs were simply consigned to the latter.
The reason the New York Times is around to do "earned" media is because they make revenues off of "paid" media. Everyone understands that, it’s just how business works in a capitalist system. And if you look at an advertising campaign for Toyota or Dove or Marlboro, they devote an increasing percentage of each campaign to online advertising. So it’s not like we’re asking anyone to participate in a system that has no benefit to them as advertisers.
The problem is that groups who send us their press releases expecting "earned media" just as they do the New York Times get the same "earned media" from us that they do from the New York Times. The difference is that they aren’t factoring us into their "paid" media budgets, and like the New York Times, without that, we don’t have a sustainable business model to keep offering "earned" media. As groups increasingly depend upon us as the only news outlets covering their issues (which we do without consideration as to whether they advertise with us or not), participating in a sustainable structure is something they need to be thinking about.
Right wing bloggers at the top of the food chain don’t have to worry about this dynamic, because they’re well compensated through a variety of means — and also conspicuously silent on the subject. It’s the toadies on the bottom who churn right wing propaganda for free who are whining, and they clearly don’t understand the financial structure that both traditional media outlets and liberal blogs are operating within.
The allegation that liberal blogs are asking to be paid for content is absurd — letting people know that this is a business does not equal "pay for play." As Aravosis notes, we’ve forged successful relationships in the past with many organizations that encompass both paid and earned media, with no conflict of interest that anyone can point to. We’re capable of covering a subject without being drones programmed by those who have an interest in promoting a point of view about it.