Pledge Driving Down a Slippery Slope

Pledge Driving Down a Slippery Slope

By: Justin Finnegan, Senior Account Executive (@justinfinnegan)

On October 25th, noted blogger and political reporter, Ana Marie Cox, was embedded with the McCain campaign, when she found herself in an unusual situation, her magazine, Radar, folded almost overnight. Despite the loss of Radar, Cox maintained a devoted readership – she is the founder of the popular political blog Wonkette.com and a contributor to Time magazine’s blog, Swampland – who still looked to her for coverage of the campaign. This left Cox in the lurch, as she had no way of paying for expenses for the last weeks of the election season. (She estimated that her daily expense of covering the campaign was $1000 per day, with Election Day costing $1500.)

 

Turning to her audience, she began a pledge drive and posted a rate card on her personal blog. Donations ranged from $10 for a personal thank you e-mail, to $250 to ask a senior McCain adviser a question of the donator’s choice, to $1000 for a one-on-one post-election dinner debrief. For $1500, Cox offered the naming rights to her seat on the McCain campaign aircraft. Throughout the rest of the election season, Cox raised upwards of $9000 and not only continued to publish reports to her blog, but also published her expenses.

 

Cox’s situation raises an interesting issue; as more publications begin to fold, will reporters with large followings begin to turn to their audience to keep reporting? If so, is the reporter now beholden to their now paying audience in how they cover his or her beat? How is the reporter’s impartiality affected? Could a popular columnist decide that they don’t need their publication anymore and begin their own web presence and monetize their coverage or posts?

 

This could be argued that this is no different that a newspaper or magazine running advertisements, but even in those situations the monies provided to the publication does not go directly to the reporting staff and does not directly effect the how the reporter’s coverage.

 

Ultimately, the ending of the era of the printed word is a game changer and the old rulebook will soon have to be thrown out in place of something new. Will reporters begin to use Cox’s pledge drive as a model or something completely different? From a PR perspective, it will be interesting to see how this plays out and how we as an industry begin to interact and use this previously unavailable access.

 

2 Comments
  • Matt

    November 11, 2008 at 4:18 pm Reply

    Interesting concept. Seems to hearken back to pay-for-play, but with a very unique spin. Once money changes hands over information, it leaves a stamp on that information even if it’s 100% accurate.

    Commend Ana Marie’s tenacity, but unsure about whether she’d be allowed similar access in the future.

  • Chris Michaels

    November 11, 2008 at 4:22 pm Reply

    Thanks Matt. I concur, and the PR guy in me cringes that this is reminiscent of Pay-For-Play. Though I wonder if this is relevant to what was being covered. Specifically, the election. Would this model work with any other story or beat?

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