Monday, 20 June 2016

App for Paid Coverage

A screen grab showing the various jobs on offer
There's car hailing apps in China like Uber and Didi Chuxing that help you get to where you want to go, but what if you want a reporter to write a flattering story about your company, perhaps because your boss wants to inflate his ego, or a way to boost your stock price?

Then it's time to get onto the app Zhao Jizhe (找记者) -- "Find a Journalist" in Chinese.

Much like those car-hailing apps, Zhao Jizhe offers services to companies who are willing to pay a range of prices for media coverage. For as little as 1,000 yuan (around US$150), you can get a decent write-up in one publication. But shell out 8,000 yuan, and the article will be written by a senior writer and guaranteed coverage in 25 publications, including four well-known ones.

First companies post their demands and deadline, and then the journalists who fit the bill will bid for the job, touting which publications they can place the article in. Then the company picks the best person for the job and then arranges payment through the app.

This is very similar to the old school way of doing journalism in China -- with red envelopes.

At press conferences, companies would hand out hongbao in the hopes they'd get good reports from journalists.

Hardly anyone refused these red envelopes because hey -- it's cash! And companies would claim it was "transportation money" for the reporters to get to and from the press conference or event. The amount could range from a few hundred yuan to several thousand, depending on the firm. The higher paying companies were usually car or oil industry related...

This would seriously affect not only the quality of journalism, but also the readers' perception of the companies they were reading about. Perhaps paid journalism is how some stock prices went up? Someone should do a study on that.

In any event Zhao Jizhe is very much on the same lines, though the high-tech version.

Unfortunately journalists in China are paid so little, that the money is very tempting. We all need to make a living, right?

But then again who believes what's written in state media anyway?

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