Several years ago I became aware that Forbes.com included a lot of content which has nothing to do with journalism, submitted by consultants, entrepreneurs and business owners. Forbes disclaims it with "Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own." When the Huffington Post launched, they made a big deal about recruiting people to write, and it was pretty well known that material would be lightly edited and unpaid. These writers are labeled Contributors, but Huffington Post doesn't point out the material may be biased.
We don't have to think hard to realize that these Contributors are getting paid by someone, often themselves (when promoting their own business or consulting practice), but probably sometimes by a client.
Now evidence is growing that more online publications are more susceptible to using biased articles to build traffic. (What a surprise.)
The best remedy is to pay attention to your news sources and remember where you find the most consistently reliable information. And give your favorite journalists lots of likes and retweets.
The Outline: How Brands Secretly Buy Their Way Into Forbes, Fast Company, And Huffpost Stories, 2017-Dec-5 by Jon Christian
The Fast Company writer also defended the practice by arguing that it’s enabled by editors who are hungry for cheap or unpaid blog content. Many high-volume sites, including the Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Forbes, maintain networks of unpaid contributors who publish large amounts of material. Forbes, for instance, marks articles by contributors with a small disclaimer, but the Columbia Journalism Review has pointed out that those dubiously sourced articles are often cited as though they were normal stories written by Forbes staff. In reality, the editorial process that leads to those articles being published is opaque — a Forbes spokesperson declined to answer questions about how many contributors the site has, whether they’re ever paid, or whether an editor reviews their work before publication. One former Forbes contributor, Josh Steimle, has even offered a “masterclass” on how to get published on the site, an accomplishment he described as “rewarding for both my personal brand and my digital marketing agency.”
For writers willing to accept payments in exchange for coverage, that’s an opportunity.
“They're getting tons of free content from guys like us,” said the Fast Company writer of his editors, though he declined to say whether he was paid by Fast Company for his work or if he’d ever explicitly discussed the arrangement with any of his editors. “I would be shocked to find out that this was any sort of secret.”...
But Forbes seems to be a prime target for offers like Satyam’s, perhaps because of the high volume of stories it runs by members of its “contributor network.” The site publishes dozens of stories per day, many of them by contributors who, like Chong, are themselves publicists. A program called CommunityVoice, described in an editors’ note on certain articles, invites “senior-level technology executives” to pay an annual fee in exchange for being allowed to publish to the site.