Increasing the number of writers for The Voice Magazine is one of the tasks I’ve been set to accomplish as editor here, so you can understand my excitement when I saw an email offering original content for The Voice Magazine. Even better, it seemed the person was willing to provide this content for no cost. Of course, that’s when the first alarm bells went off.
Reading more carefully, what this person was offering to do was to write content, supposedly original, that would subtly mention partners this person had and provides links to them. It seems they weren’t as interested in providing content as they were for me to provide viewers for their hidden advertisements.
Now, one of the other tasks I’ve been set is to increase paid advertising to The Voice, with the goal being to one day be able to run completely independently of AUSU Council. So I have to admit, part of me looked at this offer and was thinking, “Two birds, one stone! I can call not paying this person for the article the fee I charged for allowing her to advertise, and I get additional content as well!” But the larger part of me found that this didn’t sit right. The Voice Magazine has a responsibility to make sure that the trust you give us is earned. To do that, we need to be honest and open about when we, or others, are trying to sell you something. Calling advertising content violates that trust, in my opinion. Personally, I don’t even like those “Advertising Features” you sometimes see in other magazines or newspapers, and I hate those “Brand Power” commercials that attempt to sound like they’re unbiased reviews or education rather than the corporate sponsored advertisements that they really are.
This has been on my mind this week because we’ve had a number of advertising inquiries. Some conventional, some, like the one I just mentioned, not so much. But then there are those grey cases in between, such as recently The Voice Magazine has been contacted by a new musical group who are hoping to get PR for their first album and are willing to provide press kits, CDs, streaming or downloadable tracks, as well as be available for interviews or other things should we want.
Part of me immediately revolts. Those same alarm bells as from before warn me about letting The Voice Magazine be used by people just looking for free publicity. I certainly don’t want The Voice Magazine to become the student media equivalent of Brand Power. But, on the other hand, they can’t control the reviews we write, and who knows, maybe they are a really excellent group that’s attempting to get started on their own, without having to restrict themselves to the dictates of the traditional music publishers. Getting interviews and reviews with the group at this stage may turn out to be a scoop if they happen to become the next big thing. Also, if I’m being honest, I want the content, and who doesn’t like a free CD or two?
This brings me face to face with the symbiotic relationship between the publisher and the advertisers. We need each other in a sad, desperate fashion. I’m just lucky to have it easy right now. With AUSU providing funding for The Voice Magazine, I have the luxury to look at these offers and not have to balance them against being able to pay writers and staff. So while I probably will take the musical group up on its offers, I’ll do so because I know I can afford to have any review be an honest one. And because I have that luxury, you won’t find any advertising masquerading as an article here.
What you will find, however, are the honest experiences of Wanda Waterman in Tunisia, and her interview with Matt Zimbel of the group Manteca, whose album she reviewed last week. You’ll also find Hazel Anaka with too much time on her hands, S.D. Livingston exploring the finer points of sitting around, Christina M. Waterman providing examples of, well, exemplifying, and a number of other small goodies throughout the magazine. Another thing you will not find, yet, is our Reader’s Survey. I haven’t forgotten, but it’s going a little slower than I hoped it would. I’m currently projecting that it will be ready by the next issue.
However, I do have an idea about the prizes I talked about, and have gotten tentative approval on them. I’ll just say that if you’re going to be a student at AU for a few more years, then you’ll probably want to fill out both the Reader’s Survey next week (fingers crossed) and the larger student survey that will come after that to maximize your chances.
Until then, happy reading.