July 24, 2009

In search of dreams: Company paying for blogging

An early version of this post was published July 24, then chewed up in a redesign. I republished Aug. 3, prompted by a Fast Company blog post on the same subject.

Knock me over with a feather because this is one job I would not have expected G.D. Gearino to take on: Blogging for pay.

He's in Stephenville, Texas, to "determine how people maintain their dreams for the future in tough times."

The trip, new living quarters and blogging at Stephenville Dreams is being paid for by Carpenter Co.
That's its sleep better site, where you learn the company "has been providing the ultimate in comfort products for over 60 years.... including bedding, carpet cushioning, furniture, bed pillows and mattress pads."

The former Flint Journal reporter says it is an experiment, a test of privately funded journalism.
"It’s rare for a corporation that’s not in the news business to finance a long-term reporting project."
His orders are:
1) Travel to Stephenville (Texas);
(2) find interesting things to write about; and
(3) then write about them.
The gig was arranged through a pr firm, the connection an old buddy Joe Slay. Joe worked with Jon Newman, who gives some background on the campaign in in "the 4th PR idea... OK, maybe 3 1/2")

Says Jon, right after recognizing that all journalists can not blog:
"We’re hoping to follow the NPR model of journalism in which foundations underwrite good journalism. The difference here is that the blog is “underwritten” by a company and its topic is loosely connected to the company’s brand and products."
They tapped "G.D. Gearino, a longtime (30 years) print journalist/columnist and author who has also authored his own blog for more than two years."
"Gearino will spending several weeks in Stephenville, telling the story of the town, its people and their dreams. It is the type of long-form journalism that reporters would kill for but that the current economics of journalism frankly find it hard to support."
Gearino tell us:
"Not only is Carpenter Co., the financier behind this project, not dictating the content of the site, I haven’t yet even met anyone from the company."
There's Twitter stream under Dream_bigger as well as posts already up.

You can read more about Joe and G.D. in the first post. and how an email that should have had a subject line "Fabulous gig awaits willing writer” hooked G.D.

Eavesdrop on his first impressions of the town. Plus since we are late to the game, here is a link to the reason why this town was picked.

Gearino, who wrote "What the Deaf-Mute Heard,” Counting Coup,” "Blue Hole", and "Wrong Guy,"has had a way with words from way back when so the storytelling is mighty fine.

The more that I thought about this "rent a reporter" idea the more comfortable it becomes. The money comes quicker then those who write and wait for the Google ad dollars to flow or books to sell.

What matters is that good writing and interesting stories that probably would remain untold get out there on the medium that people are using. The financing is fairly clear on the site.

Why would a business hire a reporter and stay out of the way? Gearino answers it this way:
"To me, it's like commissioning a famous artist to do a mural at your corporate headquarters. You want the attention that comes with that kind of investment, but you have to be smart enough to get out of the way. If you're gonna hover over the famous artist and tell him how to do his job, why hire him in the first place?"
Or ask yourself this question:
Is an artist's integrity compromised by accepting a commission?
Let's see how this model turns out.


Post a Comment