Recently, Sonder was named #9 out of 10 of Australia’s top marketing agencies to watch by Yahoo. Huge right? Yeah look, it’s not. Tom got a call from a guy who offered to chuck us in the write up if we paid $200 and the website had a Domain Rating of 91 so we were like hell yeah.
And honestly? That’s how a massive, massive chunk of marketing and PR is done today. Half the write ups you see on brands aren’t inspired by the quality of their products, the tenacity of their entrepreneurship, or by their new branding. It depends on their budget for guest posts and sponsored content.
The modern media landscape means anyone can buy themselves to the top.
But what about journalistic integrity?
Look, heaps of journalists still care a whole lot about their responsibilities as the fourth estate. They want to break stories, they want to report on the missteps of our governments, they want to tell you where your tax contributions go, and they want to contribute to making the world we live in a transparent place.
There are a few barriers to journalists being able to do that. The first is Australia’s defamation laws, but genuinely? We do not have the time to unpack that issue. The rest of the barriers? Time and money. These became barriers when people stopped paying for news.
You get your news on Facebook, Twitter, sometimes Instagram, right? Most of the time you’ll get the gist from their headline and their social media caption. Then what? You scroll on. For a journalist to get paid, they rely on that click. Yes, that’s why click bait was born. But, the media industry relies on you actually visiting the site and spending time on the page so the advertisers will pay for it.
Because the industry is relying on clicks for revenue, they need stories to be out quicker. Most publications have an unspoken expectation that a 300 word article should take a journalist 30 minutes. That’s 30 minutes to research, write, and edit, find and resize an image, and share it across three social media platforms.
Sponsored content keeps journalists in jobs.
Big brands coughing up the dough and paying journalists to write an article about their offer for the weekend is a game changer for the media industry. A saviour even. It’s the next best thing to people actually paying for the content they consume.
Guest posting is a bit different. It’s a high authority website that charges you to post on their site and capitalise on the quality of their backlink. And that’s okay too.
How does it work? Does it work?
How do you get yourself onto that sponsored content and guest posting train? Find publications and websites that are willing. What’s the difference between the two? Sponsored content is written by a journalist or the publication, guest posting is written by you.
Sponsored content usually seems a lot more legit, except of course, that the publication will usually have a disclaimer down the bottom of the article acknowledging that they will earn money from the affiliate links in the story.
Stefan Smulders from Expandi, says he thinks that guest posting doesn’t hold the same weight as it used to, because it’s not nearly as exclusive anymore.
“However, certain websites still have a great reputation and they cannot be bought, no matter what. These websites are great guest posting platforms and we can recognise when a competitor gets a post published there,” says Stefan.
It’s a good point for guest posting. Most people in the marketing space know when we land on a Top 10 blog post, there’s a 99 per cent chance that the content has only been created for SEO. But consumers don’t.
What does it mean for the internet? How do ethics play in?
Most publications acknowledge there are affiliate links in their content that they may earn cash from. Many guest posting sites include the true author’s bio and acknowledge that they paid to write the article. And that makes it slightly more ethical.
But what about misinformation?
Publications have a duty to ensure they’re not publishing untrue, misleading, or defamatory content. Well, that’s not totally true, obviously those publications that rhyme with ‘The Bun’ and ‘The Scaley Snail’ do exist. But, typically, sponsored content will pretty much be at best, an embellished story. With the biggest ethical issue at play being that the journo hasn’t even touched the product they’re praising.
Guest blogging is an entirely different can of worms.
Usually, people running these have a marketing or SEO background — they’re likely not even aware of the liabilities and risks associated with publishing the content. And they’re driven by earning the dosh for the article.
This doesn’t go for every single guest posting website, obviously. But, a decent chunk of them don’t have guidelines or editing processes in place to fact check claims and ensure the actual quality of the content. Which is how misleading and also just ~wrong~ content comes into existence.
How should marketers approach Sponsored Content & Guest Posting?
You know what they say about change starting at an individual level? I’m pretty sure there’s a saying about that. Basically, the first step to creating a more legitimate media landscape is to ensure the quality of your own content — even if it’s going on someone else’s website. Use information from reliable sources. Spend the time fact checking and editing for accuracy.
Then, partner with publications and guest posting websites that do the same and ensure the quality of all content and information they publish.
What do you think about sponsored content and guest posting?