Blog PostsMedia & PsychologyMarket-Driven JournalismThe advent of pay-to-play publicity

The advent of pay-to-play publicity

A Swedish company is offering a pay-to-play functionality that allows brands to unlock paywalled articles to increase visibility for positive mentions.

Quite a few number of Swedish news organisations have already joined:

Swedish news organisations offering brands to unlock specific paywalled content.
Swedish news organisations now offer to unlock a specific paywalled article with positive brand mentions.

The service is clearly targeting PR professionals and their pitch is that online PR just doesn’t work anymore and that it’s a shame that sometimes great brand mentions gets locked away behind paywalls.

Glimta's aggressive pitch to PR professionals.
Glimta’s aggressive pitch to PR professionals.

Here’s how it works in a nutshell. Below is a local news article with a positive brand mention behind a paywall:

A positive brand mention behind a paywall.
A positive brand mention behind a paywall.

The brand, or any other brand, can unlock this piece of content for a fee.

pay-to-play | Market-Driven Journalism | Doctor Spin
The fee structure for unlocking editorial content behind paywalls.

For a comparison, 10,000 SEK is roughly 1,100 USD.

At these rates, most Swedish companies working actively with PR would consider to unlock a positive brand mention for the allotted time period. A majority of such companies won’t be happy, however, about not being able to unlock the article in full; they will have to take full ownership of distributing their “super link” (which, for most brands, will force an additional investment in programmatic advertising).

What to expect from news publishers:

  • An uptick in publishing articles with strongly positive brand mentions since brands won’t pay to unlock just plain mentions.
  • An incentive to move more business news behind paywalls.
  • Proactive sales teams to contact businesses who are mentioned in editorial articles with offers to unlock them.
  • Journalists will quickly learn what articles gets unlocked and which that doesn’t.
  • Internal scorecards that already include clicks and shares will start to be weighed for revenue as well.

What to expect from PR professionals:

  • Exploring the potential of unlocking negative brand mentions of competing businesses.
  • Exploring the possibility to strategically unlock all articles portraying just one side of a broader story.
  • An opening to initiate site-wide negotiations for do-follow linkbacks.
  • Pushback for edits: A small misquote or misrepresentation of the business = no payment.
  • When pitching a news story to the reporter, PR professionals will offer to unlock the story at full price already at the gate.

See also my previous articles Give me online news like this — and I will pay every day and The future of online news: How to convert news junkies into premium buyers.

Photo by chris panas on Unsplash.


Avatar of Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Communication Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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