Forbes is one of those authorities we all turn to when we’re looking for the best of the best. If someone tells you they’ve been featured in Forbes, they automatically get more authority in your mind.
But there are dozens of companies out there offering a pay-to-play deal with Forbes; pay us $X and we’ll get you featured. And if that’s legitimate, it means that basically all Forbes features are bullshit and nothing is real.
Do a quick Google search for, “Paying to be featured in Forbes” and the options will be endless. From $800 to thousands, companies promise to “get you published.” But like most things on the internet, the devil is in the details. For instance, on BadenBower, the first search result, fine print for one of their packages (the Forbes upgrade costs over $2000, by the way) explains, “The upgrade to Forbes refers to one news story only in Forbes Zone Magazine, not Forbes Monaco, Forbes India or Forbes.com. If you are interested in accessing other Forbes assets, please speak to our sales team and further charges will apply.”
But that’s just to get the story you want told published in (a) Forbes publication. What about being treated like royalty with your own Forbes spread?
The price is who you know.
The Outline conducted a study on pay-to-publish features that promote people in huge publications including Forbes, Business Insider, HuffPost and others, writing, “Interviews with more than two dozen marketers, journalists, and others familiar with similar pay-for-play offers revealed a dubious corner of online publishing in which publicists, ranging from individuals like Satyam to medium-sized ‘digital marketing firms’ that blur traditional lines between advertising and public relations, quietly pay off journalists to promote their clients in articles that make no mention of the financial arrangement.”
And a good (but unscrupulous) editor can make it seem natural. Outline adds, “… a contributor to Fast Company and other outlets who asked not to be identified by name described how he had inserted references to a well-known startup that offers email marketing software into multiple online articles, in Fast Company and elsewhere, on behalf of a marketing agency he declined to name. To make the references seem natural, he said, he often links to case studies and how-to guides published by the startup on its own site. Other times, he’ll just praise a certain aspect of the company’s business to support a point in an otherwise unrelated story.”
Fast Company for their part denies participating in pay-to-publish features, but it’s common knowledge among journos that greasing the right palms will get some praise in the big publications. You just have to be careful to cover your trail – one HuffPost writer who remained anonymous described the extraordinary steps he went through to hide the cash trail – and hope your editor pal keeps your secret.
After all, “I paid to be hyped up in Forbes” doesn’t have the same ring as “Forbes spontaneously chose me for a feature because I’m that badass.”