A small storm rocked the ever tense relationship between tech blogs and the PR industry today, when TechCrunch revealed that one firm was charging a specific amount to clients it successfully got covered there.
PRserve, TechCrunch noted, was charging clients $750 to get a post on an ‘A-level blog’ and around $400 to get on ‘lesser blogs’.
Co-editor Alexia Tsotsis’ reaction of banning PRServe pitches from the pages of the publication seems, on the surface, understandable. Paid posting (read: bribery) is rightfully thought of as a no-go by reputable tech blogs. If a writer is being paid by a company to cover them, and the reader isn’t clearly informed, it’s dishonest, immoral and worthless content.
However, according to PRserve’s reply to the ‘scandal’ on its own website (taking over the full front page, no less), there’s nothing untoward going on here:
“The only difference between how we share stories and the way a traditional PR firm works is that we do not charge a $5,000 monthly retainer, irrespective of results. We only collect an extremely modest amount for successful stories (a flat rate of $425 – $750 per story), depending on the media outlet.”
Many PR firms will charge their client for coverage they achieved on TechCrunch, The Next Web or any other blog, but they’ll also charge a retainer for the ongoing work of preparing press releases, fielding incoming queries and the like. PRserve, on the other hand appears to be merely removing the retainer part and charging for coverage only – something any cash-strapped young startup will appreciate.
So, it’s not that bad at all, right? However, when TechCrunch’s post went live earlier, it’s fair to say that a few TNW writers reacted with shock at this seemingly terrible practice. Why? We bloggers don’t like to think that there’s a price on our words. We don’t accept payment from companies or their PR firms for coverage; we want to be paid by our publisher and not think about any other money flying around that might be related to the consequence of us hitting the ‘Publish’ button.
In truth, if I knew how much a PR firm charges when I publish a post about one of their clients, I’d feel a bit dirty.
BUT: PR-fed product announcements are a reality of the sector we work in. While it’s better to break a story using leaks and trusted contacts inside the companies we cover, and we always prefer to hear news directly from startups and investors (get in touch!), we also have a duty to tell you about the most interesting new services launching on any given day, and PR firms are often the people who tell us about them. And they need to get paid by the companies they’re working for.
Still, whenever we bloggers think about a monetary value to our posts, it jars with our principles, somewhere deep inside. The truth of the matter is, as long as we don’t get paid or otherwise rewarded by a company or PR firm for something we write, there’s really nothing to worry about.
So, how about this? PR firms are free to charge their clients however they see fit – just don’t tell us writers at tech blogs how much you’re charging so we don’t feel like whores. See? Everyone’s happy.
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