Bloggers Pass Journalists On The Credibility Barometer – Mark This Day

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Several years back, I was asked to speak in Toronto at a two-day conference called, Leveraging Blogs For Corporate Communications (I just checked – the link has been removed). One of the stand-out sessions involved a panel discussion with the top two national newspapers’ Technology Editors and another very senior reporter. Blogging was still nascent, and these journalists were adamantly defending the reasons why Journalist are trusted sources and much more credible over Bloggers. The reasons included everything from credentials to checking sources to the infrastructure of the large media companies to support and deliver quality information.

Times have changed.

As Blogged about here last week – Twist Image Wins Canadian Marketing Association Digital Innovation Award – we took home a newly-created award at the Canadian Marketing Association Annual Awards – they are the largest national awards show for the largest national Marketing association in Canada. We also did some traditional press release public relations. Because it was deemed newsworthy, we got picked up in most of the trade publications and even in some of the local newspapers and monthly business magazines.

I got an email this morning that shocked me. I won’t say which publication it is, but it does serve the greater Quebec community on the topic of Marketing, Advertising and Communications. This email was sent to me by the Publisher. Here’s a snippet of it:

"We have an overload of information to publish every week, so we have to give priority to our paying subscribers. If we are important enough to promote you, we should be important enough for you to count you in as subscribers."

Are you following that? The priority of whether or not your story is newsworthy for this trusted publication (and trust me, it is highly regarded) begins with whether or not you are a paid subscriber.

Bloggers go at it tooth and nail on the topic of pay-per-post and can get evil on the innocuous topic of running ads on a Blog, and here is a trusted traditional print media outlet that is prioritizing news based on whether you are paying them or not. If that’s not pay-per-post… what is?

Mark this day, Bloggers (in my humble opinion) just whizzed past Journalists on my credibility barometer. When I think about what gets a Blogger to Blog about a topic, more often than not, it has to resonate with them, it has to enthrall their audience, and it has to inspire people to click on it (and comment). The days of just Blogging about anything or Blogging without authenticity are dead – the competition for time and attention is too high. If I can’t get quality from your Blog, I can move on – there are plenty of Blogs out there.

There’s a lesson here for how traditional media should govern itself. Something that this specific Publisher needs to consider as the world changes.


  1. I’m of mixed minds about this Mitch. While I get your larger point, and think your win was fantastic, I can’t help but think of your news in a traditional sense (for a newspaper) as being more in the advertorial vein than straight news.
    Of course, I have no idea how or what you pitched to the paper, but in my mind, if it wasn’t the new category itself with the focus being on the CMA and was instead about your company ‘win’ then it would just be paid promotion for Twist Image, and the paper would be well within their rights to treat it as an advertorial (I don’t get the correlation to being a subscriber though).
    Perhaps you could share more about the pitch itself to help balance out?

  2. Hey Tamera. I can see (after re-reading this post) how this might sound like an “I didn’t get my way” kind of post… not my intent at all. We pitched this item the same to every news outlet. It was a personalized email letting Editors and Journalists know about the award, and that the full press release is available should they require it.
    I would say that we had a near-perfect success rate in getting the news item picked up. So, I knew that this being the first-ever award of its kind, and a mid-size Montreal shop winning it was newsworthy. I can also let you know that we got picked up by every single one of the major trade outlets – including the business section of the daily newspapers we targeted.
    As someone with many years in PR, how the content was pitched was not the issue here and none of the media outlets fed back that this had a advertorial whiff about it. The truth is, I’m not bitter about this media property not running the item (Publishers and Editors make the calls, not the PR)… but rather shocked by the response considering how I “perceived” their positioning to be in the media.
    This post was not about us getting media, but rather about how shocked I was to find out how their Editorial process works.

  3. Ahh, okay, makes sense, and in that case the response was completely self-serving and disingenuous on the part of the paper. Imagine if we only blogged about things because someone subscribed to our feed.
    Thanks for clarifying!

  4. The more I think about it – the more sad I am. Understanding this situation and knowing that the readers and subscribers don’t know that this is the ethical practice of the news outlet is frustrating, especially when you lay this up against the reality that if a Blog was doing pay-per-post it would not take much more than a simple search to uncover the reality.
    How would you feel subscribing or paying for a news service without knowing that what qualifies as “news” is based on a pay-per-post model?

  5. Media has long used the pay to play card. Another barometer to this (besides the insider perspective that you describe Mitch) is correlating magazine/newspaper ad spending to content and products featured in a given publication. It’s specifically pervasive in the music industry. Luckily, online media is advancing the democratic agenda in this regard.

  6. Hey Mitch, very intriguing post. I guess my thaughts are and always have been that the print media as well as the 30 second spot are still very powerfull. (ie:godaddy superbowl ads) So, my thinking is this, lets use these media outlets to drive people to the world of blogs and podcasts. I have not recieved a paper for many years now, but I read the Blogs that interest me. Let these guys and their archaic thinking burn their own houses down. Keep leading the field Mitch and those traditional media outlets will take care of themselves. Like the downturn in the record industry these outlets will lose if they fail to adapt! Marketing rule #1 adapt and serve your customers needs.

  7. Mitch:
    Thanks for bringing this up! I think this is terrible on the part of the “unnamed pub.”
    What’s next, reserving top placement for top advertisers?!?
    I don’t know who this is a greater disservice to…your team or the readers. When news is selected on any criteria other than newsworthiness it loses all credibility in my mind.
    You would think that with the current situation of many print publications fighting for their readers/life they would hold higher journalistic standards than this. What would the readers of that pub think?
    And, to top it all off, the publication loses out on some Mitch Joel wisdom!

  8. I’m a little speechless. Had I been the one to receive such an email, I would first gasp, then gasp again and again. All in disbelief. While they do have paying subscribers, to just email you with something like that is unbelievable. It sort of sullies what papers are supposed to stand for (although this isn’t the first time).

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