Should You Disclose When You’re Paying to be Interviewed?

As regular readers of this blog know, I occasionally get interviewed by news sources to discuss things I either know something about, am passionate about, or claim to know something about. To me, this is good humor, helps people add some depth to their stories, and occasionally lets me gain greater exposure for topics I care about for one reason or another.

Basically, if someone calls me up, says they’re working on a story, and asks me if I care to comment, I’ll do so if time permits.

But there is one thing I want to be very clear about: I have never paid someone to interview me. That’s correct. I didn’t pay METRO, or FOX9, CityPages, the Pioneer Press, or AM950 over the past month. They didn’t pay me either, but what I want to be particularly clear about is that I did not pay them.

The reason I bring this up is because I think people should make a point of mentioning if they HAVE paid for what may be perceived as news. (Update: The YPA has updated their post to disclose payment.) A specific example of this would be a recent story put out by the Yellow Pages Association regarding the YPA President, Neg Norton, being interviewed on a show called Sky Radio Business and Technology Report. Here is how the YPA explains the coverage Mr. Norton is receiving on behalf of the organization he represents:

YPA President Talks Small Business Advertising on SkyRadio

YPA President (and InsideYP blogger) Neg Norton can be heard all this month on the Sky Radio Business and Technology Report airing on 29,000 American Airlines flights across the country.

Other featured guests included Ed Pollock of the U.S. Department of Energy, Ginny Gomez of Peopleclick, Inc., and John Damgard of the Futures Industry Association among others.

The entire post is five paragraphs long. One thing that isn’t mentioned in the post is that the YPA is paying for the “news” coverage Neg Norton is receiving. They make it sound like it’s a news segment rather than an ad placement.

Here’s the deal: Sky Radio provides in-flight stations on airlines. Companies pay Sky Radio to have their executives interviewed and broadcast on in-flight channels. To me, this is something the YPA should clearly disclose. Sky Radio discloses this in the footer of their website, but companies and organizations who’ve paid to be guests on Sky Radio, like the YPA, don’t seem to bother pointing out that they’re essentially buying long-form audio ads in an executive profile format.

Think of it this way: If I published an interview with the Yellow Pages Association’s President, Neg Norton, on this blog where the YPA paid me to interview Mr. Norton, wouldn’t you expect me to tell you that I was paid to ask softball questions of Neg so he could regurgitate his talking points? Of course you would. So why shouldn’t businesses paying for this type of ego-stroking product placement on in-flight radio stations be held to the same standard?

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