Forbes Offers PR a Lifevest for Earned/Paid Media

Businessman With Dollar Sign Paper Bag On His Head Walking On Subway PlatformIn the world of paid vs. earned vs. owned media, things are about to get very interesting. Coming this week, as part of a massive overhaul of its print and Web properties, Forbes will unveil what it’s calling “AdVoice”—essentially, a paid blogging platform for companies, non-profits and other organizations that will reside alongside its editorial content on Forbes.com, and presumably, within its organic search results, as detailed by AdAge this week.

While reading about this new blend of paid/earned media, I was fascinated by the potential branding and content-development opportunities, particularly the content’s prime placement within Forbes’ vaunted editorial landscape, something that has traditionally been off-limits. Also of interest is how these paid company blogs will play into Forbes’ SEO and search results, which at nearly 20 million unique monthly visitors (according to Forbes’ internal analytics), is both large and influential.

From the PR professionals’ perspective, let’s say you’re head of communications for a large non-profit, or you’re looking to give your clients’ blogs a bit more exposure in a highly-relevant, respected and valued branding presence. Is this the golden opportunity we’ve all been waiting for?

The pitfalls of advertorials, sponsored posts and similar paid media opportunities currently available is that they are either boring to the reader/viewer (as is the case with advertorials), or don’t show up in organic search results, forcing PR, comms and advertising professionals to put in a hefty amount of work developing the content for little SEO value in the long run.

But with Forbes.com’s new paid blogging platform, this may be a thing of the past.

Especially as the number of reporters continues to shrink, and resources to cover individual businesses or smaller news stories continue to tighten, I predict paid blogging platforms like this will be a huge hit within the corporate communications and agency world.

While potentially controversial because they do place paid content directly within the editorial ecosystem, this platform appears to offer a nice blend between paid, earned and owned media. I also predict it will be a big boon for the PR profession as PR pros continue their rise as the respected media and brand counselors for companies and organizations.

Put yourself in the PR Director’s chair: Would you pursue a blogging platform opportunity like this, either for your company/organization or a client? What are some potential pitfalls of paid blogging platforms?

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  • Well the first thing an organization/PR firm would have to consider before writing blogs on Forbes is if that will fit with the Forbes model, aka, high-end, luxury products, etc…But, I do think, for the right orgs, this is an amazing opportunity. Advertising 101 tells us to get our customer where they are, and if that’s on Forbes.com and we’re given a platform to do, all the better.
    I’m surprised this idea had not been conceived yet. I can’t wait to check it out!

    • Thanks for chiming in, Elan. I agree with you that like any media opportunity an organization may pursue, it has to be the right opportunity, not only for that organization, but more importantly, for its relevant audiences, customers, constituents, etc. And I’m also surprised that no one has done this before. Seems like a great opportunity to expand a publication’s value to key businesses and organizations, plus generate some much-needed revenue. It will certainly be interesting to see how it works out for certain businesses and organizations.

      I predict that large corporations, say IBM or Ford, will likely use a paid blogging platform such as this for specific initiatives or product launches as a means to boost the search value around those launches. Now, what will be very interesting around that is how Forbes plays the delicate line between allowing a corporate blogging partner (such as, say, Ford) to blog about its product launch on the exclusive Ford blog on Forbes.com, but then also what type, quantity and quality of coverage Forbes is going to give to that launch or to broader coverage of the company. I think that’s one business/ethical issue Forbes may run into frequently with this platform and its relevant partnerships.

      • Thanks for the reply, Keith. You raise an interesting point about how Forbes, while not a daily newspaper or something, may struggle on the coverage of product launches and other events that the blog(s) promote. I’m also curious if an unlimited amount of companies will be blogging or maybe just a select few, at least for the time being, will be on forbes.com

        On the ethics issue, I can’t wait to see the multitude of disclaimers on those blogs saying how Forbes doesn’t endorse the products, etc…

        • Oh boy, the number of disclaimers that I’m sure will show up will be huge!

          Also – Take, for example, today’s LA Times, which featured an entire four-page wraparound of the front page of the paper of an ad from NBC for Law & Order. Now, the LA Times has gotten a lot of grief about its front-page ads before, but this article in The Wrap (http://ht.ly/2LW61), which notes how the LAT gave a rather large and favorable article to NBC & the new season of Law & Order the same day this front-page, wraparound ad ran. Granted, there’s always been rampant speculation that publications are more favorable in editorial pieces to their advertisers, but I have a feeling that Forbes is going to run into a few issues where disclosure, transparency and even editorial/advertising ethics will be called into question.

          Having said that, I still think the paid blog concept is a pretty good idea for companies and PR/comms people to pursue in certain cases.