When Guest Posting, The One Big Media Pitfall Bloggers Need To Know Thumbnail

After more than 10 years of writing on Financial Samurai, I’ve been lucky to get a lot of opportunities to contribute to big media stories. My first opportunity came in 2010 with the LA Times and it has gradually continued from there.

Some stories will feature a FS quote while other stories will do a FS feature. Sometimes, I’ve been asked to write a guest post as well. If the media outlet is a reputable one, I usually oblige and so should you, even if you aren’t getting paid.

Despite the benefits of getting featured in big media, there is a pitfall as well. Let me share with you what they are when it comes to guest posting on big media sites.

Pitfalls For Guest Posting On Big Media Sites

Time. It will likely take you 2X – 4X longer to get a final draft approved and published due to the number revisions the editor will ask of you. It is almost never the case where your first draft, even if it’s edited, will be the final draft. One of my latest guest posts took one month and four revisions and requests for explanation and answers. It was a freaking marathon compared to how quickly I write, edit, and publish my posts.

No editorial control. This is absolutely the biggest one for me and it should be for you if you value your work. When you have no editorial control, this is what happens.

  • Big media determines the title. Big media strategy is to often publish clickbait titles because they are on a more short-term, newsy cycle. The more dramatic the title, the better for them. You can make title suggestions, but you won’t have the final say. If the title is terrible, you will then be accused of creating the clickbait title even though you have no control of the title. Most readers do not know the guest writer has no control of the title. And some of the most angry people who don’t know this will be bloggers who want to have the same big media opportunity, but don’t.
  • Big media will ruthlessly edit down your work. I wrote a 1,200 word article for one site and then they came back and asked me to explain about six different things. I wrote back another 600 words. Then they came back and asked four more things. I wrote back another 200 words. When the article was finally published, it was around 1,100 words. What a waste of time since so much of what they asked didn’t make it into the final version.
  • Big media will change your words. For drama and to elicit more of a reader response, the editors at big media sites will change key words and sentences. For example, one editor added the word “had to” when describing something I spent money on, instead of leaving the sentence “I spent money on” to make it seem like I had the inability to cut out this item. As a result, it made it seem like I was spoiled, clueless, or weak.
  • Timing. Another downside is that giving it can take so long to get your final piece published, the world may have changed by then. For example, I submitted a guest post during the height of the pandemic crisis in mid-March 2020, and due to so many back and forths, the final post wasn’t published until 45 days later. During that time, the stock market had rebounded by 30% and the government rolled out record stimulus packages. Therefore, there was a mismatch with what was being read and what was going on.

Own And Protect Your Voice

Guest posting on big media sites is a great way to build traffic, broaden your reach, grow your brand, and gain more organic back links to your site. However, the biggest downside is that you don’t have full control over your voice.

It is highly unlikely that readers of your highly edited guest post will realize that you don’t have control over the title and have had many words cut and/or altered compared to your initial version.

Therefore, you need to be diligent in making sure the big media site respects your message and follow up with corrections if there are issues.

For example, I wrote in one guest post that I hired a night doula to help sleep train our baby daughter, provide guidance and comfort for my wife and I, and allow us to sleep a little better during the fourth trimester. We had gone through the endless nights for our son and decided to spend more money this time on support. A night doula comes usually 3-6 nights a week for 8-10 hours a night and charges an hourly rate.

Because the editor didn’t know what a night doula was, she wrote that I had hired a birthing doula instead, and even explained what a birthing doula was in the article. As a result, it made it seem like I had spent $25,000 on a one-time birthing doula, when in reality, I had spent $25,000 over 4 months on a night doula. Still not cheap, but a big difference. That small, but important difference, caused many readers to get upset.

After a day of the article being the #1 most-read article on the big media’s site and being syndicated on other big media sites, the correction was finally made. By then, however, the damage was done. Anyway, all good. Just pointing out an example where things can get lost in translation.

Despite the pitfalls of guest posting on big media sites, be thankful you have the opportunity. I’m thankful for the editor for continuing to give me the opportunity to share my thoughts on their platform. Once you’re able to guest post on one big media site, you will naturally gain more credibility and even more big media sites will request your insights.

Just be diligent on following up on inaccuracies. The last thing you want is for your reputation to be hurt due to “fake news.” Thankfully, if there are inaccuracies that won’t be fixed, you can always publish a follow up post on your own site explaining more in detail what is really going on in real time.

Finally, if you can, see if you can get compensated for your work. Even if it’s just a couple hundred dollars, why not? You’re helping the big media site gain traffic as well. Your time is valuable. Good luck!

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