Reading one of my favourite PR blogs today, the author talks about why she thinks Sponsored Comments suck.  I agree with her.  Completely.

I'm sure I've covered earned media before - where your story is good enough and attractive to the right audience, to be covered in mainstream media by a journalist - that you don't have to pay for.

So I'm sure you'll know about pay to play - where a journalist or similar will still work with you on a story, but it is largely advertorial and you'll end up paying for the placement for that.  Sometimes it's called a "Sponsored Feature" but there's loads of different marketing terms for them, so we lump them all together and call it Pay to Play.

But have you heard of sponsored comments?  Yep.  I know what you're thinking.  Why would you pay to comment when it's generally free?  Why would you?  Well, the US and the UK and to some extent parts of the rest of the world are about five years ahead of us when it comes to PR and content and storytelling.  While we are still telling our clients to not read the comments - some big media overseas have already shut those suckers down.  They claim the comments forums are too big and difficult and costly to manage.
You can still comment, but in some cases now, it'll cost you.  Pay to Play.

Here, in little old New Zealand - I imagine it's a job to manage comments, but certainly not an impossibly difficult one.  Over anywhere else where the population of opinionated contributors, spammers and the like is considerably larger than ours - it seems to make good business sense to axe free commentary and push the ones who are serious about voicing their ideas behind a pay gate.  Does that take away free speech?  Shouldn't think so, given that most stories are shared on other platforms with open commentary. 

Still, thinking about the effectiveness of this, to me it's a terrible idea. People will soon cotton on to the types of paid comments published. These comments won't be ones written with amusing yet terrible language. They'll be well-formed, thought out and written by a publicist or communications manager. It'll turn to a form of weak advertising with few eyeballs and low engagement and unless the ads are super-bowl cool, it'll be yet another liability-filled ad space. Maybe. Someone, change my mind.