Lessons from Patch: Pay your writers and editors

If you’re interested in the business of journalism at all, Jim Romenesko’s blog should be part of your daily reading. Romenesko was a former police beat reporter with the Milwaukee Journal, and later went on to develop his own successful blog.

Last Friday, he posted a letter from an anonymous editor at Patch.com — AOL’s local news source — about the hats and buttons that Patch had sent out to editors in advance of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions that took place over the last few weeks.

The anonymous editor wrote about his uneasy feeling about representing a journalistic website and handing out free stuff that appeared to endorse one candidate or another. But the closing lines really hit home for me:

Why did Patch waste all this money on political hats and buttons when I can’t get $50 approved for someone to go take pictures at a damn event on the weekend so I can have a day off? You want to know why Patch struggles to succeed? It’s because it thinks asking journalists to pass out ugly hats is a more important investment than freelance budgets and copy editors.

The message is clear: writers and editors are the cannon fodder of both journalistic and marketing endeavors. In a world of search engine optimization, many folks feel like it’s good enough to have an infinite number of monkeys tapping away on their Smith-Coronas, occasionally creating the occasional Shakespeare play, but more often than that churning out keyword-optimized gibberish.

We’ve seen it time and again where content farms pay — or don’t pay — college interns to write something — ANYTHING — as long as it has words in it. Doesn’t matter whether they make sense or what order they happen to be in, as long as there’s a string of characters.

We pay writers who are experts in their field, not only because it’s the right thing to do by the writers, it’s the right thing to do by our clients.

We’re providing them with meaningful, relevant, timely and factually correct editorial. It’s a huge investment every year, but it’s worth it because the quality of editorial we produce is demonstrably better than what you’ll find elsewhere.

The old adage goes “You get what you pay for.” If you’re paying a college kid minimum wage to write copy, is that really the way you want your brand to be represented in the marketplace?

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