The media-marketing merge

I ran across a program Forbes is running called BrandVoice that gives marketers a place on Forbes’ digital platform. During a brief audio interview with TheMediaBriefing, Forbes European managing director Charles Yardley explained how BrandVoice works:

“It’s quite simply a tenancy fee. A licensing fee that the marketer pays every single month. It’s based on a minimum of a six-month commitment. There’s two different tiers, a $50,000-per-month level and a $75,000-per-month level.” [Discussed at the 4:12 mark.]

Take a look at some of the views BrandVoice companies are getting. You can see why marketers would be interested.

BrandVoice example

BrandVoice example

An arrangement like this always leads to big questions: Does pay-to-play content erode trust? Is this a short-term gain that undermines long-term editorial value?

Those are reasonable things to ask, but I have a different take. When I look at BrandVoice posts like this and this, I’m indifferent toward the whole thing — the posts, the partnerships, all of it.

In my mind, these posts don’t reveal a gaping crack in The Foundation of Journalism. Nor do I have an issue with Forbes opening up new revenue streams through its digital platform. Rather, this is just more content vying for attention. It’s material that’s absorbed into the white noise of online engagement.

Now, if a piece of content earns attention — if it has real novelty or insight — that would change my view (I’m using the word “would” because this is all theoretical). I’d still need to know the source and be able to trust the information, and see clear and obvious warnings when content is published outside of traditional edit norms. But if all of those must-haves are present, is there anything wrong with interesting content that comes through a pay-to-play channel?

Heck, TV advertisers pay to spread messages through broadcast platforms, and from time to time those ads are entertaining and maybe even a little useful. Is that any different?

I’ve been neck-deep in media and marketing for years, and it’s possible my perspective is obscured by saturation. That’s why I’d like to hear other viewpoints on these media-marketing arrangements. Please chime in through the comments if you have an opinion.


Disclosure: O’Reilly Media has a blog on Forbes. It’s not part of the BrandVoices program, and there’s no financial arrangement.

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