Pledge Driving Down a Slippery Slope
By: Justin Finnegan, Senior Account Executive (@justinfinnegan)
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.