The Value Of Good Exposure

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People do a lot of things just for the "exposure." It could well be that the concept of exposure is about to become overexposed.

Recently, there was a press release about a new online news publisher that had received some venture funding (not an usual story and not much of a big deal in today’s world). While the news went fairly unnoticed in the grander scheme of things, it created several discussions in online newsgroups and email. One individual commented that while the investment was interesting, their business model is still undefined and that they do not pay their writers (a very similar model to that of The Huffington Post). So, why would anyone (in particular, a journalist) write for an online publisher like The Huffington Post for free?

People will do anything for exposure.

Ultimately, the whole point of publishing anything is to get attention and exposure. Check out this blurb from a Huffington Post blog post entitled, How The Huffington Post Can Pay Its Bloggers, from July of 2009:

"It’s great exposure, the tone is unapologetically opinionated and if you’ve ever met Arianna Huffington you’ve noticed that she exudes a kind of warmth and authenticity that is rare for people at her level in the media world. But not only are people willing to write for Arianna for free, she is also willing to let us write for her for free, something an old guard institution like the New York Times won’t even consider… Additionally, and perhaps less capitalistically, The Huffington Post has a responsibility as a new media pioneer to set a payment precedent that values content providers. Perhaps Arianna’s only concern is the bottom line, but considering that she is a woman who has been a politician, an author and a radio personality, it would seem that she isn’t just in it for the money. She comes across as the type who would welcome the opportunity to shape the future of media in a way that takes into account both profitability and fairness."

You get the exposure there and the money somewhere else. That’s the value.

That’s the basic premise. They give you the exposure, you build up your own personal brand, and you monetize it however you like (it just won’t be with them paying you for what you have written). This works well in a world of gatekeepers (as Seth Godin calls them) where there is a mass audience looking only at a handful of news sources, but how does that scale and grow as places like The Huffington Post continue to add more and more Bloggers (the more, the merrier… the more Bloggers, the more ads to serve)? How does this scale as more and more platforms like the Huffington Post come online and begin to fragment the audiences even further? How does this play out in a world where anybody and everybody can start their own Blog and build their own audience?

Is there a chance that in a world where everyone now has access to gain exposure that the actual value of exposure declines and becomes less valuable?


  1. I feel a bit ignorant that I was unaware the Huffington Post was a no-pay venue for bloggers (among copywriters like myself there has been a bit of a ruffle of feathers recently surrounding copy mills like, which are seen to devalue the craft of writing). I agree that writers may feel less inclined to give for free if “exposure” opportunities are everywhere. But all exposure isn’t created equal — there will be valuable exposure, and there will be rubbish opportunities where the level of writing and insight is poor. As more people come online, won’t an *increasing* amount of value be built up by high-worth venues, as people vote with their clicks and flock to quality outlets? it seems to me the fragmentation you mention must have a natural endpoint.
    Sheila Averbuch – ENN

  2. I think the opposite is true, especially when it comes to aggregated solutions like huff post. Getting traffic to your individual site is indeed getting harder because there are so many blogs out there. To rise above the noise, appearing in highly respected publications, speaking at events and so on is more important than ever.maybe I missed your point.

  3. Like mentioned by Sheila, all exposure isn’t treated equally. There are many avenues of getting exposure and based on your industry, there are many sites that make it a possibility to achieve. The issue is how do you not how to create that initial exposure but how do you keep these people who now know who you are?
    Even if you get that article onto a giant website like Mashable, where are you going to drive those people? And why are you going to drive them there?
    PS: I didn’t know that Huffington doesn’t pay for its articles. Interesting to see how it all worked out.

  4. Mitch, to respond to your question at the end – in one word, yes.
    At some point you have to charge for the work you are doing. I also try to consider ROI when I do guest blogging – for example, will I get exposed to a completely new set of people or will it be the same as my current blog? The former is worth the exposure, but after writing several times for the same publication, the latter posts’ value plummets in comparison to the first or second exposure.

  5. Mitch
    This is a great post. I also answer “yes” to your query at the end. People will always provide content for exposure, at least at first. I would argue that this massive infusion of supply drops the price. After all, there are only so many sites out there that can credibly make the “exposure for payment in lieu of money” argument.
    I used to blog for free for one site but, after maybe seven entries, realized that the squeeze wasn’t worth the juice.
    I now allow others to guest blog on my site precisely because they can reach a different audience. I don’t have the unmitigated gall to ask others to regularly contribute to my site sans payment.

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