I’ve argued it time and time again, on both sides of the story. I have journalists connections and was an affiliate for Tech Crunch backlinks and other top news sites. I’ve also considered buying such links myself and have earned dofollow links in the DA (domain authority) 80-90 range.
I’ve come to the conclusion that contextual links will help, based on the moderation of the blog. Two sites of similar domain authority may hold completely different power. In fact, a site with very tight moderation and a DA of 30 can easily hold more link value than a DA 60 blog with multiple lightly moderated writers.
Will a Venture Beat link put you on page one of Google? Nope. As with anything in SEO, it comes down to the big picture. If you have a 3 year old site with 50 refferring domains and get a VentureBeat link, it will show more value than a new site.
Many times, the value of paying $1500 for a Forbes link is in the branding. You can now put that fat banner on your site that says “AS SEEN ON FORBES” and wow all of your visitors.
I talked with a regular writer at Entrepreneur (who became a writer from an introduction, if you’re wondering). He said even though his staff posts multiple times per week, and his business is very established, he can’t recall ever getting a lead from there. It’s all a branding play. The traffic and the SEO value are not the main benefit from these links. For the price of a $1500 link, you could get lots more useful content in many forms, or if you’re into black hat SEO, you could build an awesome blog network that would skyrocket your rankings.
The point is, in many cases, there are better way to do what you’re trying to. That’s not say these links are bad for everyone, but when you’re talking 4 figures for a single link, you really have to know what you’re doing. It won’t pivot your SERPs.