Local Eco-Conference Swaps Press Passes for Ad Placement

Being forced to trade adspace for media coverage of an event is not the current journalistic norm. Sadly, it may become commonplace in the future.
In the impending newspaperless world dreaded by journalists, and glowingly touted by futurists, we'll all be glorified ad-salespeople, burnishing our individual "brands", diversifying into, who knows, NASCAR-style product placement?

Publicist Maria Ferreiro seems to be hip to U.S. reporters' recession-induced desperation. She responded Thursday to an SF Weekly request to cover the city's Renewable Energy Finance Forum -- West with an e-mail that said:

"We swap advertising space for press passes. (The event has already more than 20 media partners aboard). What pre-event exposure would you be able to do for us? -- Banners in your daily newsletter, full page adverts in your publication... I look forward to hearing back from you..."

In mainstream American journalism, reporters are pretty much never asked to be go-betweens for ad placement. The perils of such an arrangement are clear: U.S. journalists' jobs revolve around calling a spade a spade, a task that could be compromised by business relationships with sources. So newspapers generally go to great lengths to build firewalls between the duties of their advertising sales force and the work of their reporters.

Renewable energy, like everything with an eco-sensitive tag, is under constant threat of greenwashing. Even PG&E improbably touts itself as a green energy firm. It's theoretically possible that Renewable Energy Finance Forum -- West might showcase speakers, companies, or business schemes that warrant critical scrutiny.

I asked Ferreiro further about her proposed business deal with me, and she told me she already had a growing list of "media partners."

"Would you be able to set up a similar barter agreement with us for REFF West?" she asked.

I can't -- I don't work in ad sales.

But Ferreiro subsequently sent a list of publications she said were willing to play her game. They include:

* Fortnightly magazine
* Spark
* Renewable Energy World (Pennwell)
* Sun and Wind Energy
* North American Clean Energy
* enerG Magazine
* Recharge
* Argus
* Climate Solutions
* New Energy Finance
* SNL Energy
* Sustainable Industries
* Spark SPREAD
* Energy Central / EnergyBiz (Energy Central Daily, Energy
Central Pro, Energy Central Weekly and Energy Pulse Weekly)
* Techvision21

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