Losing my innocence – Trading Places pt II

One thing that has shocked me in the last couple of months – since we registered as an exhibitor at a major trade show – has been the number of calls we’ve had from trade publications and websites. These are typically called something like ‘Enterprise Technology Management’, and their salespeople can talk for half an hour without taking a breath about the merits of their publications, how all of their writers are drawn from ‘the analyst community’, and how influential they are in whichever world they claim to serve.

As they wind down, they tell you that they have a special opportunity in this quarter’s issue for an editorial/whitepaper/article/review focusing on your company – they would love to ‘work with you’ on this and it will typically cost you somewhere from £3000-6000. Oh, and it would be very helpful if you could make the decision now because the editor is waiting by their desk.

Now, I wouldn’t mind if a publication that I had actually heard of had called up, said they had advertising space, told me their circulation numbers, and asked if I wanted to buy half a page. And I’ve always known that reviewers of products – for example in HiFi magazines – are offered luxury skiing holidays and suchlike by the vendors of those products. But in my naïvety I hadn’t realised just how blatantly editorial inches were offered for sale, especially in the trade press. This has happened to us several times now.

So, gentle reader, in the unlikely event that you should be as innocent as I was, please don’t trust anything in any magazine or trade publication that might drop through your door. At least, don’t take it at face value. If you are unlucky enough to have to read these things, don’t assume that because an article doesn’t say ‘advertisement feature’ in the corner, that somebody hasn’t paid for it to be there. It could have been me.

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Ah, Quentin… I worked for the trade press for something like 30 years (maybe for some of the titles you might have heard of), and stuff like this always used to piss me off. Not so much that some chancers were trying it on with bought-and-sold editorial, but that people in general got the impression that we were all like that.

Really, we weren’t and aren’t. I’ve done legitimate white papers for companies under executives’ names, done ‘advertisement features’ on condition of editorial freedom and final edit, and have never written anything I didn’t believe to be true and fair. Let’s name the bad guys, and leave the rest of us untarred…

Thanks Peter –

And apologies for my sweeping generalisations. But how is the innocent consumer to know good from bad? Any tips most welcome!


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