Editorial: The Trap Of Access Journalism

This editorial is probably going to upset a large number of people, but I’m fine with that. If I didn’t feel comfortable with upsetting some people, I would not have written it at all. However, facts are facts and the truth often hurts.

The majority of my work has been due to something called “access journalism.” I had no idea what this was until my site partner Central Scrutinizer explained it. Basically, access journalism is the process of allowing people to get close to celebrities, musicians, hot new products or anything else that the public has not had access to yet in exchange for written, audio or video promotion. You’ve obviously seen it more than once while browsing YouTube for the latest video game or album reviews. It’s very much like an infomercial, or a roundabout commercial for a product. Many reviews are like this.

So what’s my problem? Well, those who perform work for a company where they are promoting the company’s product are normally paid for their services. Instead, we have other forms of payment which require the fans of the promoter to pay out of pocket the money that the company really should have been paying the promoter from the beginning. Confused? I’ll break it down.

It is no secret that actors and actresses looking for work will do commercials to advertise products. While these jobs did not exactly paid handsomely, they kept the lights on while they looked for a new gig in the industry. They may advertise toothpaste, deodorant or toilet paper in order to make a little extra money between films. This is still being done today, and I can assure you that they’re not just getting the product in return. For those in the field of access journalism however, that’s all they’re getting. Once companies found that in our age of massively hyped media, all they would have to do is find a couple of people willing to promote their products for free instead of having to pay actors and celebrities to do it; the plan took off without a hitch. Before you know it, regular people were being paid in the form of products to advertise products. Sometimes these would come in the form of a physical item, like a boxed video game or album and other times they would come in the form of a digital download or a stream.

I’ll admit that when I was younger a digital download seemed pretty cool for an album that wasn’t going to be released for at least a few months. However, with the changing of technology, there was very little that a digital download offered when the thing would be on Spotify just a few weeks later. What was I really getting that someone else wasn’t? Not to mention the pirates who had already had the thing in high quality, where half the internet had already given it a listen and made their comments directly on social media without a care in the world. I see it all the time in comment threads from big name music rags.

While advance screenings, listens and review copies can be an awesome thing, let’s keep in mind that the people who do this work are not being paid by the people who should be paying them – the companies themselves. Instead, when a popular YouTuber is covering an item that he received from a company, he’s begging on his channel for people to support him with their own money like he’s some kind of bum. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “if you like this content, be sure to like, subscribe and bang the bell; you’ll also find donation options below.” While this is all very well and good, it is asking that the people who view the content pay for the review and not the people who provided the product being covered. You’re honestly telling me that these million and billion dollar companies can’t pay a couple hundred reviewers to promote their products?

Furthermore, if they did start paying, they would be more selective in who got to review the product. Most notably, those who are good at it. I’ve complained a few times already that some of the blogs which covered my band’s last recording merely copied the press release and called it a day. I was a bit upset over that, because I was of course expecting an honest opinion on the piece, rather than just reading a partially regurgitated press release with a few bells and whistles. That a review does not make and if I were a company, I would not want that person covering my product.

When I was in my early twenties, I was quite naive to the whole thing and honestly just covering my favorite bands with the added option of an interview was enough. However, because of this foolish and improperly allocated passion, my life went nowhere. I still worked a menial nine to five and I carried that into a much more taxing position that I do not consider a form of success for anyone. No one should be at my age and working in the positions that I have been in over these past ten years. My days of a cheery twenty-something are over, the grey hairs are coming in and my metabolism is even starting to slow a bit. I’m getting older and I just do have the time or patience for work like this, which comes without payment. There’s an old adage, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free” and that’s the case here.

Granted, many YouTubers are in a much better place than I was over a decade ago. Several people made YouTube fame and were paid rather well for their services, yet even that is now being whittled down. I follow YouTuber ItsAGundam quite a bit and he always talks about how the place is becoming a bit of a deterrent against free speech. So even their line of revenue is drying up. Obviously Patreon has also committed free speech violations, which leaves SubscribeStar and practically nothing else. Even trying an OnlyFans where I was literally just going to play hentai games does not work, because they have a lot of content in them that goes against the ridiculous number of topics and keywords (which most people are not aware of) that are against the rules of the site. Even showing a game where a jail cell is featured is a bannable offense. In any case, none of this would have ever been a problem if companies just started paying the skilled and talented workers that they have hired to take time out of their lives to try, review and promote a product through various websites and social media arms.

This all might sound quite terrible and some of the people I’ve worked with over the past number of years might think I’m ungrateful, but this piece is only aimed at some of the larger corporations I’ve worked with who hire big name acts and don’t want to pay people to cover them.

This is not aimed at smaller companies who do not have the kind of overhead to pay as many people as could the larger ones. It is also not geared towards small teams of developers, movie crews, authors or independent artists. In fact, I enjoy promoting independent acts that would not normally get signed or have refused to be signed to major labels. The same goes for independent game studios or the like.

Even so, there is really not much that can justify this site without getting any kind of funds towards running it. As it stands, I have hosting costs, ownership costs and even costs to run the online software used to build and update the site. It also needs a bit of a modern overhaul, which I completely lack the funds to do right now. So if I can’t get any kind of funding soon, then it just doesn’t seem financially feasible to keep the site going. It is much cheaper to create content on alt-tech platforms where I have a growing audience.

The bottom line is that while I may have enjoyed it and do not necessarily regret my experiences, I was roped into access journalism and became completely blinded by it. I didn’t realize that studying things like law and psychology would have been far more beneficial to me in my younger years and I really should have spent less time doing those things. I should have focused more on professions that actually pay. Some people lead successful lives, while other people lead lives that could serve as a warning to others. I definitely feel that this is what the greater part of my existence has been and I’m trying to prevent people from making the same mistakes. If I should ever make it out of this hole, then so be it – but I’m definitely more interested in helping other people not end up in the same predicament. I’m a bit on the autism spectrum and I suppose I had gotten carried away by the promises of access journalism, when what really mattered more than anything at the end of the day was being compensated for my hard work and making something more out of myself than what I am today.

Do not allow yourself to be sucked into the hole of access journalism. It’s a great side project, but because corporations refuse to pay the people who promote their products a decent wage, it is definitely not something that you can make a career out of – unless, perhaps, it comes out of the pockets of your fans. To me, there’s just something wrong with that, especially when these major corporations have far more money than the average Joe’s who end up flitting the bill at the end of the day. You start out doing it for the love of the music, the games, the movies, whatever – but then by the time you’ve aged a bit, you realize that love doesn’t exactly pay your bills.

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