Positive News Coverage in China Is Going to Cost You

If I wanted to make serious money, it looks like I picked the wrong country to practice journalism.

Today’s New York Times has a story about paid news coverage in China, explaining that reporters are considered something akin to government officials because most outlets are government-owned – and often bribed as such.

Although it is illegal, the practice does take place, the Times says. This is hardly surprising for lifestyle magazines, where even in the U.S., news stories commonly walk the line between fluffy feature and out-and-out advertising. But what is interesting are the rates for national news coverage: as high as $10,000 to $20,000 per page in top publications or thousands per minute for broadcasts.

O&M’s Beijing office said they discourage the practice, but another source was open about the “access” the firm has. And in another case, Ruder Finn China said they don’t pay for coverage for client Moët Hennessey, but did discuss a junket for nine reporters it organized. Only Reuters paid its own way.

And while the Times itself says this is nothing new, and goes back to paying for stories about the Titanic,  it is troubling.