Pay to play?

WORKING AT one of their other gigs, a Freelance editor received an extremely interesting email. "I run a business selling consumer goods (home appliances & electronics)," it opened. "Sitting at the cash counter the whole day, often leaves me with a lot of spare time, to actively follow my other passion: writing. I love writing about the consumer goods business as I know its ins and outs. My eventual aim is to establish myself as a writer of some repute."

Leaving out the details of the inappropriate pitch, we were startled by the conclusion: "I am willing to give $30 to have my article published as I am really keen to feature on your site and hence feel that it would be sound investment."Really? We hear too much about companies wanting free copy in return for the notorious "exposure", but this is ridiculous.

As it happens, we also became aware recently of a company in London recruiting hacks, promising £250 a day to write pieces on its clients. The company would pay the hacks a bonus if any of these were published online with a web link to the client's website. There was no mention of the hacks revealing to the publications they pitched to that they were already being paid.

Our informed guess is that this enterprise is involved in "reputation management" - specifically, inserting web links on highly-rated sites, in order to drive unfavourable mentions down the search engine rankings. The topic is obscure enough and the fear of the interwebs still strong enough that the company can probably charge significant fees for this.

If the person who sent that pitch is engaged in something like this, they're not very well organised: the identical wording appears on several message boards about the "Free BSD" computer operating system. But the ethical questions this raises are rather large.

The Freelance would welcome any further information on these schemes - in strict confidence - at scam@londonfreelance.org please.

Last modified: 29 Apr 2014 - © 2014 contributors
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