Washington Post: Politico's Pay for Playbook

Washington Post: Politico's Pay for Playbook

Politico and one of its star reporters, Mike Allen, now find themselves at the wrong end of a thorough evisceration courtesy of Washington Post media reporter Erik Wemple. Allen and Politico appear to have been caught red-handed in what might be described as pay-for-play or “native advertising”–the dark art of “special interests that pay for slots in the [Politico] newsletter get[ting] adoring coverage elsewhere in the playing field of ‘Playbook.'”

By “Playbook,” Wemple means the Politico Playbook, the email newsletter Allen publishes 365 days a year, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Politico’s goal with the influential and widely read Playbook is to try to set that day’s media narrative. Because Politico is a left-wing outlet that disguises itself as objective, that goal alone is sinister enough. But Wemple has uncovered something else Politico has in common with Obama–an unholy streak of corporatism:

As previously reported, advertisers pay a good $35,000 for a weekly run in “Playbook,” a price tag that has inflated nicely for Politico in recent years.

It’s a hefty price for exposure on an e-mail — a very, very friendly e-mail. Earlier this year, for example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ran a series of messages in “Playbook,” two of which are displayed at the top of this post. Yet the chamber has also received plenty of positive coverage free of charge[.] …

Another big name that’s gotten a healthy dose of earned media from Playbook is BP, a company that has faced quite a challenge in image-conscious Washington, thanks to the 2010 oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by the company. In recent months, BP has blanketed “Playbook” with ads hyping the company’s status as “America’s largest energy investor.” The free BP mentions authored by Allen tell a similar story.

Last June, for instance, Allen found newsworthy an AP story about a BP campaign to challenge settlement claims stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The item quoted from a full-page ad that the company had placed in newspapers, and that the AP story had cited. It also included a link to the ad.

Companies love it when their ads get passed around.

And the list goes on and on. Most damning is when Wemple asks you to distinguish between paid advertising and Allen’s “reporting.”

Politico has done a brilliant job of expanding its influence within the elite DC media/political/lobbyist bubble. The outlet is a vigorous defender of big government and those who protect and widen the influence of big government. This of course includes big business, which has always benefitted from government largesse.

But that is just dishonesty and bias, something practiced throughout the mainstream media at which Politico just happens to be one of the best.

Something else Politico is apparently good at is accepting big bucks to disguise public relations work as reporting.


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