Blog integrity is important

If you don’t disclose you’re being paid to blog, you’re gonna create a mess, like Edelman and Walmart did. That’s why I don’t like PayPerPost (which sponsored part of the conference yesterday). I don’t mind PayPerPost on the face of it. As long as you disclose you’re being paid, your integrity is intact. The problem is that PayPerPost doesn’t ask its bloggers to disclose the fact that they are getting paid to blog (I talked yesterday with one blogger who is using PayPerPost and says he doesn’t always disclose that fact).

That said, bloggers are selling out too cheap. What PayPerPost is really about is getting better search engine ranking. SEO firms used to charge thousands of dollars to do what bloggers are now doing for $5 to $20 per post. I think PayPerPost is brilliant, actually, as long as Google/Yahoo/Microsoft don’t change their rankings to punish PayPerPost advertisers.

If I were running a search engine I’d actually come out and say “we’re gonna remove any advertiser on PayPerPost from our listings.” Why? Cause any engine that doesn’t allow organized buying into the organic search results that way is going to get good feelings from me. Companies should be forced to buy advertising if they don’t want to do the hard work of actually earning a link and/or coverage.

The nice thing is that when the corrosive effect of money comes into the blogosphere and isn’t disclosed it’ll earn a direct blowback just like is on TechMeme today.

110 thoughts on “Blog integrity is important

  1. Scoble the hyprocrit.

    you were getting paid to blog by MSFT.
    Check by microsoft :
    “Oh yeah, Microsoft product A is going to be better than Competitor, just wait til Product A comes out!”

    Check by podtech :
    “oh, Microsoft lost its way, Google Product A is better”

  2. You know, with efficient market theories and such, it can be argued that the market will just figure it out and adjust. I get email occasionally from people wanting me to blog about something or digg it. Knowing that people have loads of motivations for plugging something keeps me on my toes. Motivations might include kissing up, being loyal to a friend in business or just getting paid to create buzz.

  3. You know, with efficient market theories and such, it can be argued that the market will just figure it out and adjust. I get email occasionally from people wanting me to blog about something or digg it. Knowing that people have loads of motivations for plugging something keeps me on my toes. Motivations might include kissing up, being loyal to a friend in business or just getting paid to create buzz.

  4. fat chance rubel will write anything public about this. if you hadn’t noticed, he historically never does in these situations. he’s the same old PR just talking the new talk without putting one foot in front of the other. his reputation is toast.

  5. fat chance rubel will write anything public about this. if you hadn’t noticed, he historically never does in these situations. he’s the same old PR just talking the new talk without putting one foot in front of the other. his reputation is toast.

  6. What I don’t get with PPP is that you can’t choose which blogs write about you and since a good percentage of blogs get very close to 0 readers per day it’s a bit of a strange set up. You could have 100 bloggers write about your product and still not get any real coverage – however well the article was written.
    I don’t mind the concept of pay per post as long as you have no editorial say in the post – so if I pay a blogger to write about my product and they say “it sucks” then that’s tough on me (I should have made a better product) – that’s how it should be.

  7. What I don’t get with PPP is that you can’t choose which blogs write about you and since a good percentage of blogs get very close to 0 readers per day it’s a bit of a strange set up. You could have 100 bloggers write about your product and still not get any real coverage – however well the article was written.
    I don’t mind the concept of pay per post as long as you have no editorial say in the post – so if I pay a blogger to write about my product and they say “it sucks” then that’s tough on me (I should have made a better product) – that’s how it should be.

  8. Technically, how would a search engine go about knowing who is advertising with PayPerPost? Going from the formatting and elements of the links would invite people to set up fake blogs to sabotage their competition and wouldn’t work in all cases. Crawling and screenscraping the PayPerPost site would require an account and acceptance of the site’s Terms of Service (eBay, among others, has shown that those are enforceable in court). Just going into the site under an account and looking would still run into the ToS issue, but would also be increasingly tedious as the number of advertisers increase (Indian outsourcing, perhaps?). I could see PPP’s attorneys using tortious interference and trespassing of chattals theories in addition to a contractual ToS approach. If I ran a search engine of some sort, I’d wait and let Google deal with it first, since they can afford the legal fees.

    Banning of the sites seem pretty draconian anyway. Just treat such links as nofollow links.

  9. Technically, how would a search engine go about knowing who is advertising with PayPerPost? Going from the formatting and elements of the links would invite people to set up fake blogs to sabotage their competition and wouldn’t work in all cases. Crawling and screenscraping the PayPerPost site would require an account and acceptance of the site’s Terms of Service (eBay, among others, has shown that those are enforceable in court). Just going into the site under an account and looking would still run into the ToS issue, but would also be increasingly tedious as the number of advertisers increase (Indian outsourcing, perhaps?). I could see PPP’s attorneys using tortious interference and trespassing of chattals theories in addition to a contractual ToS approach. If I ran a search engine of some sort, I’d wait and let Google deal with it first, since they can afford the legal fees.

    Banning of the sites seem pretty draconian anyway. Just treat such links as nofollow links.

  10. Being paid or not, I’m tired of bloggers not disclosing their backgrounds to achieve ulterior motives. Mind you, I do realize it’s a risk to disclose certain things, but if you want to ‘play with the big boys’ that’s a risk you have to take.

    I think bloggers have a lot more integrity if they disclose as much as they can. Somehow it boggles me to know that as much as all of us on here yell about the importance of transparency, that there are still cases like this out there.

  11. Being paid or not, I’m tired of bloggers not disclosing their backgrounds to achieve ulterior motives. Mind you, I do realize it’s a risk to disclose certain things, but if you want to ‘play with the big boys’ that’s a risk you have to take.

    I think bloggers have a lot more integrity if they disclose as much as they can. Somehow it boggles me to know that as much as all of us on here yell about the importance of transparency, that there are still cases like this out there.

  12. P.S: Walmart IS a mess! Thats why it is presently the 2nd richest company in the world, after Microsoft, and just before Google!

  13. P.S: Walmart IS a mess! Thats why it is presently the 2nd richest company in the world, after Microsoft, and just before Google!

  14. Ah, we get into a sticky area with this one. If you were in charge of a search engine and would ban anyone listed on PPP, then that’s cool, I think I’ll go ahead and drop $50 to have podtech.com have a promotional campaign. Now you’re gone and can no longer compete, and the search engine won’t tell you WHY it banned you (Google sure doesn’t). I won’t tell you I did it either.

    That’s just one problem.

    The second is that there’s a long, slow slide from having AdSense adverts or a legit paid banner campaign (see TechCrunch, for example) to having $2 paid linkage from a service like Adzaar, to Pay Per Post. What’s okay and what isn’t? Who determines what disclosure is anyway?

    Your post goes far beyond just disclosure, and says that every advertising network is gaming the search engines, whether explicitly and overtly (text-link-ads) or oh, so subtly (a multi-site banner campaign run by a major PR agency). So are they all wrong? Do they all, always, explicitly, need to say “ADVERTISEMENT” in big letters?

    Do you read Time magazine? They have advertorials that they carefully design to look as much like editorial pages – even down to hiring the same writers – as the rest of the publication. Sure they say “ADVERTISEMENT” but it’s usually in 8 point, grey type against a white background.

    I suggest it’s not anywhere near as simple or cut-and-dry as you suggest.

  15. Ah, we get into a sticky area with this one. If you were in charge of a search engine and would ban anyone listed on PPP, then that’s cool, I think I’ll go ahead and drop $50 to have podtech.com have a promotional campaign. Now you’re gone and can no longer compete, and the search engine won’t tell you WHY it banned you (Google sure doesn’t). I won’t tell you I did it either.

    That’s just one problem.

    The second is that there’s a long, slow slide from having AdSense adverts or a legit paid banner campaign (see TechCrunch, for example) to having $2 paid linkage from a service like Adzaar, to Pay Per Post. What’s okay and what isn’t? Who determines what disclosure is anyway?

    Your post goes far beyond just disclosure, and says that every advertising network is gaming the search engines, whether explicitly and overtly (text-link-ads) or oh, so subtly (a multi-site banner campaign run by a major PR agency). So are they all wrong? Do they all, always, explicitly, need to say “ADVERTISEMENT” in big letters?

    Do you read Time magazine? They have advertorials that they carefully design to look as much like editorial pages – even down to hiring the same writers – as the rest of the publication. Sure they say “ADVERTISEMENT” but it’s usually in 8 point, grey type against a white background.

    I suggest it’s not anywhere near as simple or cut-and-dry as you suggest.

  16. Robert: First, check my siglink for context. I’m curious whether you would include more lucrative, pervasive and subtle forms of compensation for exposure/links in your SE advice — such as exlusive press releases, free passes, free panels, free product, party invites; all worth thousands and given with a combined goal of coverage and links?

    Elite bloggers have developed a host of payback mechanisms that just aren’t available to the mainstream bloggers across the world. Are you asking the SEs to make sure only their elite buddies have the opportunity to benefit from their blogging efforts/influence?

  17. Robert: First, check my siglink for context. I’m curious whether you would include more lucrative, pervasive and subtle forms of compensation for exposure/links in your SE advice — such as exlusive press releases, free passes, free panels, free product, party invites; all worth thousands and given with a combined goal of coverage and links?

    Elite bloggers have developed a host of payback mechanisms that just aren’t available to the mainstream bloggers across the world. Are you asking the SEs to make sure only their elite buddies have the opportunity to benefit from their blogging efforts/influence?

  18. I agree rob.

    Something stinks in Denmark.

    Funny thing about Steve “VP at Edelman” Rubel — he’s also been caught in the dark before. After all, in March of this year there was a bit of a hubaloo with the NYT breaking the Wal-Mart / Edelman union, to which Mr. Rubel was caught flat footed.

    Some of you might think I was lying low or that I didn’t care about the story. That’s not the case it all. Yesterday I did not have a moment to craft a thoughtful post with the quality that you have come to expect from me. Was this wrong? Perhaps. I felt that this situation, perhaps more than any other in the two years I have been writing blog, required deeper reflection. I recognize that I need to speak out on this story. I also understand that no matter which direction I fall on this story, there is a sword waiting to catch me. Already some are calling me a hatchet man for the company. This comes with the territory of my new gig and I embrace it.
    http://www.micropersuasion.com/2006/03/silence_happens.html

    Well … perhaps he’s *reflecting* to create a more suitable response.

    And if that’s so — fantastic.
    I can’t wait to see how a blogging evangelist explain away Edelman’s (apparent) efforts to manipulate a blog (creating a flog?).

    Cheers
    t @ dji

  19. I agree rob.

    Something stinks in Denmark.

    Funny thing about Steve “VP at Edelman” Rubel — he’s also been caught in the dark before. After all, in March of this year there was a bit of a hubaloo with the NYT breaking the Wal-Mart / Edelman union, to which Mr. Rubel was caught flat footed.

    Some of you might think I was lying low or that I didn’t care about the story. That’s not the case it all. Yesterday I did not have a moment to craft a thoughtful post with the quality that you have come to expect from me. Was this wrong? Perhaps. I felt that this situation, perhaps more than any other in the two years I have been writing blog, required deeper reflection. I recognize that I need to speak out on this story. I also understand that no matter which direction I fall on this story, there is a sword waiting to catch me. Already some are calling me a hatchet man for the company. This comes with the territory of my new gig and I embrace it.
    http://www.micropersuasion.com/2006/03/silence_happens.html

    Well … perhaps he’s *reflecting* to create a more suitable response.

    And if that’s so — fantastic.
    I can’t wait to see how a blogging evangelist explain away Edelman’s (apparent) efforts to manipulate a blog (creating a flog?).

    Cheers
    t @ dji

  20. Well, i was wondering when you’d weigh in on the entire thing Rob! :)

    Of course, let’s not forget Richard Edelman’s pointed pontificating about how important it is to disclose:

    http://www.edelman.com/speak_up/blog/archives/2006/03/a_word_to_the_w.html
    Bloggers can take care of themselves in this evolving world. They should be careful to disclose receipt of product samples, membership on advisory boards or any other financial consideration that might affect their impartiality.

    Another interesting point: Edelman is a member of the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association, and the goings on seem to violate its code of ethics. Wonder what the fall of from THAT will be.
    http://blog.basturea.com/archives/2006/10/13/edel-mart-womma-ethics-code/

    Cheers
    t @ dji

  21. Well, i was wondering when you’d weigh in on the entire thing Rob! :)

    Of course, let’s not forget Richard Edelman’s pointed pontificating about how important it is to disclose:

    http://www.edelman.com/speak_up/blog/archives/2006/03/a_word_to_the_w.html
    Bloggers can take care of themselves in this evolving world. They should be careful to disclose receipt of product samples, membership on advisory boards or any other financial consideration that might affect their impartiality.

    Another interesting point: Edelman is a member of the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association, and the goings on seem to violate its code of ethics. Wonder what the fall of from THAT will be.
    http://blog.basturea.com/archives/2006/10/13/edel-mart-womma-ethics-code/

    Cheers
    t @ dji

  22. Robert, thanks. Knowing what we don’t yet know is the key, agreed…?

    (I’ve got a little personal interest here now too, because I first linked to a story, but then started wondering whether I should have. Could go either way, but as you point out, more information from all parties would help.)

    jd

  23. Robert, thanks. Knowing what we don’t yet know is the key, agreed…?

    (I’ve got a little personal interest here now too, because I first linked to a story, but then started wondering whether I should have. Could go either way, but as you point out, more information from all parties would help.)

    jd

  24. John: good point, but Edelman knows that reputations are made and lost in blogstorms like this, so if the facts are wrong here, I’d certainly like to know about it. If they are, it’ll be even worse for the people who broke this story.

  25. John: good point, but Edelman knows that reputations are made and lost in blogstorms like this, so if the facts are wrong here, I’d certainly like to know about it. If they are, it’ll be even worse for the people who broke this story.

  26. I’ve been studying this more, since it hit TechMeme, and am having difficulty in two areas:

    (1) The original weblog actually did have disclosure, although it may not have been the type that BusinessWeek reporter Pallavi Gogoi preferred;

    (2) We don’t have disclosure on how each of these competing PR firms which promoted the story compete with Edelman. (I assume it’s in the public record somewhere, and some bloggers did mention that they had past differences with Edelman, but the financial motives aren’t clear on this side either.) (And btw, I don’t think I have any connections, social or financial, with any party on this one. ;-)

    … or maybe the point of your post is about PayPerPost rather than the guy at Edelman whose sister asked if it would be okay if they wrote a story for RV magazines about their camping vacation in WalMart parking lots, not sure… hmm, wouldn’t it be damaging if we all accepted the story as it was presented, just because it drew enough links to hit TechMeme…?

    jd

  27. I’ve been studying this more, since it hit TechMeme, and am having difficulty in two areas:

    (1) The original weblog actually did have disclosure, although it may not have been the type that BusinessWeek reporter Pallavi Gogoi preferred;

    (2) We don’t have disclosure on how each of these competing PR firms which promoted the story compete with Edelman. (I assume it’s in the public record somewhere, and some bloggers did mention that they had past differences with Edelman, but the financial motives aren’t clear on this side either.) (And btw, I don’t think I have any connections, social or financial, with any party on this one. ;-)

    … or maybe the point of your post is about PayPerPost rather than the guy at Edelman whose sister asked if it would be okay if they wrote a story for RV magazines about their camping vacation in WalMart parking lots, not sure… hmm, wouldn’t it be damaging if we all accepted the story as it was presented, just because it drew enough links to hit TechMeme…?

    jd

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