On the heels of the previous blog, I must admit that writing about media seems a little self-serving, but we quite often field questions about the inner workings of news outlets.
About a year-and-a-half ago, I spoke to a group at the Golf Business Canada Conference and Trade Show, hosted by the National Golf Course Owners Association in Niagara Falls, Ont., and one of the first questions asked was, `Do I have to advertise to get a story published?’
I would hope not in many cases. If a golf course operator hosts a charity tournament, for example, and would like to get results published and how much was raised, it’s a legitimate community story that I hope a news outlet wouldn’t turn down for financial reasons.
That discussion is one that Norm Woods, publisher of GolfScene Magazine in Southern Ontario, had with NGCOA members recently and he pointed out to that gathering that the first step in getting something written is a phone call or e-mail to the publication/website with your suggestion.
As Woods pointed out, however, the proposed story needs to have merit so if it’s a human interest story about your golf professional or a member or an event, then it’s likely to be considered, whether you’re an advertiser or not.
If it’s a purely commercial suggestion that promotes your golf course or a product, that’s when you start talking advertising and the line between the two has been blurred over the years.
These days, editors are bombarded with daily e-mails from public relations firms representing various product companies and/or golf courses.
The PR firms have convinced their clients that they can get product stories placed in a magazine or on a website, so the money they put into their advertising can instead be redirected into PR, which will then get the message out through editorial.
Woods tells the story about being invited recently to meet with representatives of a travel destination in order to discuss all of its attributes in the hopes of him writing a story.
There was one caveat, however. There was to be no discussion of advertising, so it became all about benefiting the destination, but not the publication that was supposed to get the message across to its readers.
When GNN first launched, I received calls from representatives of various companies who thought the idea of a Canadian golf industry website was a magnificent idea and that it could be a huge boon to their businesses, but seemed shocked when advertising was mentioned.
The bottom line is that they were expecting a one-sided business deal that doesn’t keep the other side in business for very long.
It’s a short-sighted approached because, as time goes on, the lack of advertising revenue, the main source of income for media outlets, will cripple the very vehicles that are being promised by the PR companies as conveyors of commercial messages.
As I mentioned prior to the Golf Canada rebranding, it’s fine for what was the Royal Canadian Golf Association to ask the media to attend a splashy press conference and then write about it, but what happens after those stories appear? It’s a one-shot deal with a short shelf life.
As great as it is to have a story, what’s needed to drive a message home is the consistent message that is offered through advertising.
The e-mails received from media outlets from public relations companies hoping to promote their clients’ products and/or services are easy to overlook in a vast sea of promotion. Here at GNN, most of them are deleted immediately.
There are various reasons for that. Many of them are PR companies that I’ve never heard of and others are trying to promote products that aren’t even available in Canada, even if you can order them online.
At times, it could take hours to get through them all and even more time could be consumed if we decided to run everything that came through the inbox.
This isn’t meant to be an all-out assault on PR companies/people. I know many of them and work closely with them and do feel they have an important role as far as information and event organization goes, but the sheer number of them suggest the efforts of many are a shot in the dark.
GNN is a different cat from other golf websites in that we regularly run product stories in an effort to keep the industry up to date on introductions etc. It would not be serving the industry well if we limited our editorial to just advertisers.
There are some media outlets that do take the advertisers-only philosophy, with perhaps a spot or two now and again for non-advertisers, but to not properly serve the industry means not properly serving our advertisers, who have seen the value in a consistent message and a click-through to their respective company websites through their ads.
Advertising is an important complement to editorial that isn’t a cut-and-paste from the press release, but rather a genuine story that has all the sell-lines stripped out to concentrate on technology and other features in product stories.
So, advertising is not a requirement in order to get a story written at media outlets that pride themselves on credibility, but that day may come. One discussion that I’ve heard in media circles is the possibility of charging non-advertisers for any product or commercial story that appears.
It’s all loose talk right now and I hope it remains that way.
To do so means that the line between advertising and editorial is not only blurred, but totally obliterated.