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Press Credentials for Corporate Bloggers – Coverage at any cost?

Some conferences seem to be loosening the standards by which they decide who will cover their shows as members of the press. One reason may be to embrace new media writers and online mechanisms (e.g., bloggers, tweeters, etc) amidst a pool of shrinking journalists. The other reason may be one of desperation by conference promoters who want coverage at any cost.

I’m not talking about the “traditional journalists vs independent bloggers” debate. Instead, this new trend involves granting press credentials to corporate bloggers – often full-time employees of a sponsoring company – as well as for-hire marketing consultants who may or may not be former editors.

For example, I’ve been told that this year’s Design Automation Conference (DAC) will open its press ranks to a much wider – some might say looser – range of “writers.” As of yet, I have not received verification from EDAC that this is truly the case. Indeed, a quick read of the “46th DAC Media Credential Qualification Guidelines” suggests that the opposite is true:

Media accreditation is limited to those acting in an editorial capacity for relevant print, online and broadcast media. Publishers/associate publishers, sales, advertising, PR, marketing, market research, technical support staff, consultants and exhibiting company personnel are not eligible for press credentials.

Still, several trusted colleagues have told me that DAC is indeed extending press credentials to corporate bloggers as well as marketing consultants. Those of us in the business understand the reasons behind such a move, but that doesn’t lessen the serious long term implications.

Before I delve any further into the potential consequences of such a trend, I’d like to get your opinions and thoughts. Please share them with me directly via the blog or discreetly at: jblyler@extensionmedia.com

11 Responses to “Press Credentials for Corporate Bloggers – Coverage at any cost?”

  1. Erik Sherman Says:

    It’s an interesting question – and I write as a freelance journalist who does some select corporate work now and again. There’s a problem if the trade show producer explicitly sets an expectation set that it doesn’t follow. Is the “press” person a company speaks to actually with the press, or is it someone being employed by a competitor to gain nuggets of confidential information “on background.” There are plenty of other ways to allow industry-associated people into a show and even set up facilities so they can work, if that’s a consideration. Why allow subterfuge, particularly if it’s not necessary? But then, I’ve heard from information security consultants I know that sometimes “trade shows” are secretly set up by one vendor to entice competitors to be on panels and spill information that might not be otherwise available.

  2. Lou Covey Says:

    John,

    I’m not sure I would call it a loosening of the requirements. Last year, when I launched New Tech Press, Techinsights granted me ESC press passes based on the fact that my State of the Media blog had reached the requisite 1000 unique visitors per month and that I was not representing any companies at the ESC events. DAC, on the other hand, which also had similar requirements, turned down my request for press passes, even though I had met the stated requirements.

    Last year, DAC opened up to bloggers for the first time, but applied the restrictions indiscriminately. This year I was granted a press pass because I met the requirements set last year.

    Of course, last year, I had just launched New Tech Press and had a single article on the site that had nothing to do with EDA. This year, with an average of 5,000 unigue readers a month and with several EDA related articles, it makes more sense than last year.

    I agree that corporate bloggers might be stretching it a bit, considering the restrictions on representing a company at the conference. However, the difference is that some of the corporate bloggers, like Richard Goering and Mike Santarini, have earned their position and some fudging of the rules are appropriate. I think we are still all feeling our way around this issue.

  3. Sean Murphy Says:

    5 or 10 years ago it was generally understood what a press pass meant. You might be approached by the business folks from the publication but for the most part coverage and advertising were not directly coupled and the business model was clear. In 2009 a consultant with a press pass is harder to figure–and may in fact be wearing two or three hats. Certainly at DVCon one of my clients ended up in some conversations that were uncomfortably ambiguous.

    As an independent consultant and a blogger I don’t think I would apply for a press pass unless to a conference unless:

    1. I was interested in the domain but was not planning to solicit for business from anyone I was talking to. And didn’t solicit business from anyone I spoke with.

    2. I had clear idea of the number of articles/posts I was going to write and had reached an agreement with conference management to deliver that many. Not to be positive or gloss over problems, but to actually cover meetings, developments, newsworthy folks.

    3. I made clear who my clients were and disclosed in advance any potential conflicts of interest or other facts that if they became known after the conversation might cause folks I interviewed to question my motives.

    The net net I think is that it’s a fluid and evolving situation. I think the DAC team has tried to strike a balance that will improve coverage of the conference from bloggers who have already demonstrated a commitment to writing about EDA.

  4. Karen Bartleson Says:

    I think one of DAC’s motivations to extend media credentials to bloggers is insightful. DAC wants bloggers to write content about the conference instead of complaining that they’re treated like second class citizens. The bar is set fairly high for online content publishers, though. Casual bloggers won’t be granted credentials per DAC’s requirements:

    “Online Media

    “Reporters, bloggers and editors from online publications, Internet-based newsletters, and blogs who are currently writing about the EDA and semiconductor industries are admitted at DAC’s discretion. To qualify for DAC press registration, publication Web sites and blogs must have been in existence for at least six months and contain original, dated industry-focused editorial content, posted at least once every other week. Additionally, the Web site must have a readership of more than 1,000 unique visitors per month.”

  5. Daniel Payne Says:

    I’m an EDA consultant that blogs and will have a Press credential at DAC again this year. I enjoy walking up to an interesting booth at DAC and getting to speak with marketing folks who can tell me their story. If I find the story interesting then I blog about it.

    Yes, I use my blogging as a platform to drive my consulting business.

    It’s really up to the DAC organization to set criteria for who is Press worthy.

    See you all at DAC.

  6. Sean Murphy Says:

    @Daniel, obviously I don’t have a problem if you use your blogging as a platform to drive your business. I would have a problem if you talked to someone using the Press pass as a pretext and then gave them a sales pitch, or told them that you could write about them but that it would cost.

    I think Graham Bell for EDA Cafe does a good job of drawing the line in the right place. He will record your two minutes of fame and post it on the site for no charge, if you want to talk about other opportunities to advertise on the site he is happy to oblige, but he doesn’t record the two minutes and then tell you there will be a charge.

  7. JB’s Circuit » Lack of Pubs and Engineers Lack of Comm Skills Says:

    [...] discussion on Lou’s blog heralds back to my recent blog about DAC relaxing the press rule for bloggers (both independent and corporate) and marketing folks (as press). Those few of us left [...]

  8. Karen Bartleson Says:

    An a somewhat related note, with the FTC’s interest in forcing bloggers to disclose sponsor relationships and if compensation is received for our posts, we might all soon have to include disclosure statements.

    Here’s an automatic disclosure policy generator that could make our lives a tad easier:
    http://disclosurepolicy.org/

    BTW, I have no relationship with this site, nor did I receive any compensation to put it in this comment. :)

  9. John Blyler Says:

    Hi all. I apologize for not getting back to all of the good comments on this tread. The demands of keeping the “media” business afloat is starting to dig into my writing time.

    Karen’s last comment about the requirement for full disclosure is encouraging. That will at least level the playing field in terms of the potential bias of editorial. It won’t help a priori, i.e., those folks who use blogger as a way to find future consulting gigs. But it’s a start.

  10. SKMurphy » A Conversation with Ed Lee on the Changing Media Landscape for EDA Says:

    [...] July 9: Press Credentials for Corporate Bloggers, Coverage at any Cost? [...]

  11. JB’s Circuit » Bloggers and Journalists at DAC – Two Years Later Says:

    [...] Press Credentials for Corporate Bloggers – Coverage at any cost? (Jul 2009)  [...]

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