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May 29, 2024

Andrea Ryan


Vice President of Public Relations

In order to land earned media coverage today, B2B brands must be aggressive. This task is even more challenging in an increasingly pay-to-play PR landscape.

From distracted consumers to highly-competitive markets to a surge in AI-produced content - tech companies have to be hyper aggressive in order to maintain always-on communications programs. And this task is even more challenging in today’s increasingly pay-to-play PR landscape.

A quick media history lesson

Since the decline of printed news in the early 2000s, publishers’ monetization strategies have steadily changed. First came digital subscriptions, paywalls and display advertising.

This was followed by major newsroom contractions. For example, according to Pew Research Center, between 2008 and 2009, the number of newsroom employees dropped by nearly 10% and has steadily declined since.

Then came native advertising, like the pay-to-play Forbes Council program. While contributed articles used to be plentiful and free, Alloy’s PR consultants estimate that today about a third of outlets have transitioned to fee-based bylines while others limit the volume of content a company can contribute.

During the mid-2010’s new platforms, like sponsored podcasts, also emerged giving publishers additional avenues to distribute news and in doing so, gain ad dollars.

As news publishers raced to optimize profits, so did social media platforms with advertising, verified listings and more. As a result, organic social media reach has dropped across all platforms. For example, the average Facebook post will only reach 5% of your followers, but a Facebook ad has a 9.21% conversion rate.

Where we are today

By 2020, many news outlets had more full-time employees in revenue-generating roles than actual journalists.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that the rise in pay-to-play PR even has journalists unhappy. Muck Rack’s 2024 State of Journalism Report asked reporters about their top concerns. Out of 20 concerns identified, “pay-for-play content” came in at number 11 on the list.

As PR practitioners, at Alloy we’re also concerned about pay-to-play journalism. But one thing’s for sure - it’s here to stay. We’ve turned our focus to helping brands deploy a new set of strategies in order to maximize the power of B2B earned media. In fact, we recently compiled the three must-have elements of a tech public relations program today. Click here to get them in your inbox.