I have become increasingly frustrated by the fact that many of the publications I used to like are turning into churnicle factories, creating platforms for anybody and everybody to post whatever drivel they want to publish under their brand. The trend to publish without much oversight was started by the Huffington Post, which had figured out that more stuff you churn – especially with bylines of self important people – the more chances you had to build traffic. Free content, free traffic and advertising dollars — HuffPo won big with this strategy. Next came Forbes, that decided it was going to do the same, but with some pretensions.
Now everyone is doing it – and I mean everyone. In an era of Medium, LinkedIn and Quora, I wonder if we need media companies to bastardize their brands, especially as it becomes increasingly obvious that all traffic doesn’t translate into dollars. Traffic-driven monetization can’t be amiable strategy for anyone. So instead of opening their platform to all comers, the media brands should be thinking about how to enhance the value and quality of their offerings.
I remember when we started doing guest posts at GigaOm in 2007. I along with editors on our team would work with contributors such as Allan Leinwand and Robert Young debating and discussing guest posts. Most wrote about things that were of interest to us – social networks, future of work, cloud and over the top videos. These were fellow travelers on the same road – some with different ideas than mine and some who matched my thinking. Each piece took a lot of effort on the part of our contributors and editors. The contributors were not outsiders. They were part of our distributed think tank. Most were readers first and some were contacts established over the years.
For the longest time we treated guest posts as part of our editorial narrative which allowed us to keep them interesting and fun. In the process I learned so much, but more importantly formed long-term relationships with the contributors. There were occasions when I would see some weak editorial and while I was no longer part of the mix, I would lose my cool. We weren’t perfect — in more recent years before the company shutdown there were many posts that didn’t go through the rigorous filteration, and each time our readers let us know.
If as a publication someone wants to build their brand – they need to focus on having a clean and crisp editorial vision. You need to stand for something – not just here today gone tomorrow page views. Anyways, that’s enough of a rant from me, here are the results of a question I asked on Twitter:
Guest posts, contributor networks, disguised advertorials: do you read any of these on big publication platforms?
— OM (@om) July 14, 2016
Recommended Reading: This piece by John Herrman for The New York Times on Facebook and the Sponsored Content.
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