One thing that gets agonized over a lot is: who should pay the costs when media are invited to publicity events put on by corporations.
When the journalists work for a large, wealthy media conglomerate, like AOL's Engadget or Wall Street Journal's AllThingsD, then there is no problem: media pays. Indeed, the media corporation may well have a policy that insists they pay. The policy is easy to enforce, because they have millions in revenues to cover the transportation costs.
When it comes to self-employed bloggers like me, the revenues simply aren't there to support a travel budget, other than perhaps paying for parking at a local event. In the CAD world, it has been customary since the year 2000 for CAD vendors to invite journalists and to pay for their airfare, hotel, sometimes meals, and once in a while even ground transportation.
The catch, then, is that these journalists suffer the appearance of being "bought." Which is why a few years ago I instituted the disclaimer that indicated when a vendor paid for my costs in covering a story.
Then there is the third angle: why should the media subsidize the marketing costs of another company? When Siemens PLM Software invited me to their analyst event (taking place this week), they would not cover my air fare. They expected lil' ol' me to (a) provide marketing for them through my coverage and (b) subsidize their marketing costs, for a company whose parent makes close to $100 billion a year. For me, it does not compute.
Hence the agony:
- If I can't afford the travel costs, then I cannot cover the media event.
- If the CAD vendor pays my way, then I could be seen as being bought, and that my coverage of the event could be read as slanted too positively.
- If I pay the travel costs, then I am subsidizing a very wealthy corporation.
So, Autodesk's external pr firm last week invited me to Autodesk University. They would pay the AU fee and the hotel, but not the air fare (as they have in previous years for media from outside the USA). I explained: I can't afford to subsidize Autodesk marketing. Their response: "Unfortunately, due to certain restrictions we are not able to offer airfare this year." They can't afford to, I can't afford to, and so there will be no AU coverage from WorldCAD Access or upFront.eZine.