Why Not Pay for Bad Press?

By Matt Van Hoven 

In the aftermath of the Gawker poopiness it now seems pertinent to look at what can be learned. When BloodCopy became a “part” of the editorial body (despite being an advertisement for HBO’s True Blood), it sort of prevented the edit staff from disemboweling the campaign as they might normally &#151 don’t bite the hand that feeds etc etc and so on. But the real questions are, why not let the edit staff run rampant and what would happen if they did?

The coverage of this story has been breathless and except for whatever Gawker Media was paid, free. Much of what we’ve seen, short of Nieman Lab’s fellatio piece, Adweek’s focus on the “campaign” aspect and ClickZ calling it a case study for PR (which kind of misses the point)it’s all been negative-ish &#151 or what we’ll call bad press. Generally, bad press is always free and stems from an attempt at good press. So, why don’t we all just stop trying to do this thing right and go for bad? I think there’s a case to be made.


Especially these days when a) banners are overly abundant b) no one gives a shit about good ads anyway and c) bad press is mostly free &#151 all you have to do is plant the seed.

Maybe that was Gawker’s genius plan all along &#151 but I doubt it, unless they intended the coverage to be mostly about them. And c’mon, Chris Batty isn’t that smart. It doesn’t take a genius to say, “let’s sell the one thing we have that no one else will sell, our editorial space.” That’s the golden goose, but the problem is that once it’s sold, it’s gone. It’s like having sex with your drop dead gorgeous cousin &#151 wrong.

And there’s nothing funny about fucking your uncle’s daughter. Cue Batty: “If we’re around in three or four years,” he told Nieman Labs, “the majority of our advertising revenue will be in sponsored posts like this we’ll still be pumping Pam.” We made that pumping part up, obviously &#151 but for the purposes of our simile, it was a necessary modification. Don’t sue me.

That’s not the future of advertising, at least as it pertains to publications that want to matter. And though I might eat my words on this, I’d rather be wrong today than admit it’s OK.

So what can be done? How about we start offering bad press as a sales space. The agreement would be something like this: Brand X pays for and designs a really crappy banner and Gawker posts it. Then one of the eds goes to town on it, merely for being crappy or whatever. It’s not guaranteed to get attention from Gawker’s writers &#151 and by that I mean there’s no obligation that it be written about &#151 but someone somewhere is bound to say something about it. Blood Copy is a decent case study.

I’m not sure bad press can be harnessed but it just seems logical that if a company wants to advertise with a publication dedicated to revealing BS, they should be open to the same kind of ridicule that publication is known for. It happens every day, anyway, without their control so why not light the match intentionally. Hell, it’s worth a shot.

Fair is fair &#151 Gawker’s edit staff did make some remarks about the campaign. And though we’ve linked to each of these stories already, I’ll list them once more.

More: “Gawker’s Blood Copy Campaign is a Messy McPieface

&#151 iO9
&#151 Gawker
&#151 Lifehacker