John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

Media: Bloggers want PR to pay

33 comments
Has Campbell Live entered into the spirit of the Griffin's Choco-ade campaign? Photo / Supplied
Has Campbell Live entered into the spirit of the Griffin's Choco-ade campaign? Photo / Supplied

Some bloggers are lapping up press releases from a growing corps of PR people.

They can provide easy copy and filler material and provide mini-controversies filling the voracious appetite for content.

But while other media are picking up money for ad campaigns, bloggers say they are often not sharing in the financial spoils.

The arrangement is unsustainable, says Regan Cunliffe of Throng - a blog for television viewers.

Cunliffe says PR companies are using publicity on blogs and claiming their readership, but campaigns are ignoring blogs in favour of mass-audience social media sites and news portals when it comes to spending money.

Cunliffe says PR people claim the benefit of blog audiences in their results to the brand advertisers, but too often bloggers get nothing.

"PR companies should follow international practice and engage with bloggers and pay for the privilege of engaging with their audiences," Cunliffe says.

"It becomes a win-win where content can afford to be produced and, in many cases, audiences respect brands that help keep the communities they participate in alive. While it's one thing to provide content that is a talking point, it's a little useless if it can't be monetised."

Cunliffe seems to have a highly optimistic business model.

MEDIA CIRCLES

From a journalism point of view, the money-for-bloggers approach is a step down the road to cash for comment - and they should be kept apart or at least be transparent. But purely from a business point of view, you can see the point.

It may be that bloggers are facing the same business model challenges as mainstream media people, who are pilloried by digital media. Media commentator Gavin Ellis says that as commercial social media become more sophisticated, they are having a profound effect on what appears in the media, while the number of PR people is growing as the number of journalists diminishes.

CHOCO-ADE AGAIN ... YAWN

Sometimes PR-based editorial coverage can provide a big part of the promotion without spending a buck on media.

As with the Griffin's Choco-ade marketing campaign, the hype and social media ballyhoo is an adjunct to a traditional media campaign.

The latest plug - festooned with commercial shots - beggared belief. It may be that TV3's Campbell Live has entered into the spirit of the Griffin's Choco-ade campaign and seen it as a bit of froth.

But, in my opinion, with the second long item on the Choco-ade biscuit - and its cloying coverage heavy with pictures - there has been a breakdown in the barrier between news and advertising departments at the channel.

Watch a clip earlier this week and judge for yourself at TV3 On Demand.

Campbell Live has gone into contortions to present advertising as news and become the limbo rock of TV news.

The head of news and current affairs, Mark Jennings, says: "I've looked at it and it was basically a cute human interest story done by our Aussie correspondent.

"We are not in bed with the biscuit maker ... Griffin's, Cadbury or whoever it is."

VIVA DAN CARTER

Campbell Live is not alone with these items that Mango PR calls "commercial stories".

An article in the latest Viva, a liftout in the New Zealand Herald, is a classic case in point.

This week a Q&A item featured All Black Dan Carter talking about his flash new shoes from Louis Vuitton, which Viva editor Amanda Linnell says was editorial, while acknowledging that Louis Vuitton was a major advertiser.

The first question sets the tone of the item when Carter is asked: "You are a regular customer at Louis Vuitton. What is it about the brand that appeals to you?"

But Viva is a consumer focused fashion and food liftout featuring product reviews.

Do viewers expect more from Campbell Live?

HEFTY BACKING SOUGHT

Three cheers for Bernard Hickey and his plans for a website providing "public interest journalism" - news stories and investigations he says are not being run in an increasingly commercialised media.

There are risks in the proposed website, called journalism.org.nz, which is built on a media business model that relies on people to pay for information on the internet.

But he is prepared to take the risk of launching the news site, which will be run through a non-profit trust and will rely on donations of money and expertise and voluntary membership fees for added benefits.

Hickey is a former news executive at Fairfax who made his name as the ubiquitous face of interest.co.nz and, like other online journalists, has been a harsh critic of traditional media.

He says that "public interest journalism" is being diminished because journalism is not being carried along as advertising shifts online.

With the advent of paywalls, there is a danger such non-commercial journalism will become the preserve of the wealthy who can afford to pay.

The journalism.org idea is similar to the site Propublica.org in the United States, which has been successful and formed relationships with traditional media.

"It's an open question if we can get support from the public with people wanting to pay $100 a year or pay more, with bigger contributions from foundations or family trusts or philanthropic organisations," Hickey says.

He says that the trust would include expertise "to ensure we do not go around defaming or creating grief".

"There is always that risk with investigative journalism - you come across someone who wants to sue," Hickey says. "You have to have some heft behind you."

So far Hickey has named liberal blogger and TV3 media commentator Russell Brown and businessman Selwyn Pallet as helping his plans.

He stressed Pallet was helping with technical and legal aspects, not supporting the project financially.

OUT OF INTEREST

Interest.co.nz owner David Chaston says he supports Hickey's decision, but he would not be a financial backer beyond joining as a member.

He says Hickey would continue to have a role in interest.co.nz as a contributing editor.

The political editor, Alex Tarrant, who has shown his mettle as a commentator on TV3's The Nation, is also moving on - for an OE.

Chaston says that the interest.co.nz model - built on editorial and contractual relationships providing data to the banking sector - was working well.

While those two relationships would appear to create tensions for a journalist and Hickey has a reputation for sometimes being critical of banks, Chaston says the business model works very well.

CONTENT NOW KING?

Television New Zealand appears to be focusing back on its content strategy after years of being interested mainly in distribution "onto every screen".

The state broadcaster is looking for a head of digital to replace Eric Kearley, who will run pay TV and internet television at Telstra in Australia, joining former TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis, who was appointed group managing director of digital at Telstra.

Many believe Ellis was too focused on technology and took too little interest in the core channels, programming and content, a view that made him unpopular with programme makers.

Kearley - who came to New Zealand six years ago with experience in European digital TV - was close to Ellis and was seen as geekish in an environment that is a mixture of marketing, conservatism and glamour.

It is understood new TVNZ CEO Kevin Kenrick has cut back on the number of digital projects being developed.

Kearley is the latest in a long list of executivess to exit the state TV company over the past year.

IGLOO UNFROZEN

Igloo TV general manager Chaz Savage says the pay TV company has solved the technical problems that have delayed its launch.

He says it will launch next month, but does not have a date yet.

Igloo is 51 per cent owned by Sky TV and 49 per cent by TVNZ.

Follow John Drinnan on twitter @Zagzigger

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan is the media writer for the New Zealand Herald. A business journalist for twenty years, he has been editor of the specialist film and television title "Screen Finance" in London, focussing on the European TV and film industry. He has been writing about media in New Zealand since the deregulation of the television industry in the late 1980s. He is focused on the business side of the digital revolution in media.

Read more by John Drinnan

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 23 Oct 2014 19:01:27 Processing Time: 595ms