June 23, 2007
@ 03:32 PM

THEN: The PayPerPost Virus Spreads

Two new services that are similar to the controversial PayPerPost have announced their launch in the last few days: ReviewMe and CreamAid. PayPerPost, a marketplace for advertisers to pay bloggers to write about products (with our without disclosure), recently gained additional attention when they announced a $3 million round of venture financing.

The PayPerPost model brings up memories of payola in the music industry, something the FCC and state attorney generals are still trying to eliminate or control. Given the distributed and unlicensed nature of the blogosphere, controlling payoffs to bloggers will be exponentially more difficult.

Our position on these pay-to-shill services is clear: they are a natural result of the growth in size and influence of the blogosphere, but they undermine the credibility of the entire ecosystem and mislead readers.

NOW: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

The title, which is a quote from the movie casablanca, is what came to mind tonight when I read the complete train wreck occuring on TechMeme over advertisements that contain a written message from the publisher. The whole thing was started by Valleywag of course.

The ads in question are a staple of FM Publishing - a standard ad unit contains a quote by the publisher saying something about something. It isn’t a direct endorsement. Rather, it’s usually an answer to some lame slogan created by the adveriser. It makes the ad more personal and has a higher click through rate, or so we’ve been told. In the case of the Microsoft ad, we were quoted how we had become “people ready,” whatever that means. See our answer and some of the others here (I think it will be hard to find this text controversial, or anything other then extremely boring). We do these all the time…generally FM suggests some language and we approve or tweak it to make it less lame. The ads go up, we get paid. This has been going on for months and months - at least since the summer of 2006. It’s nothing new. It’s text in an ad box. I think people are pretty aware of what that means…which is nothing.

Any questions?


Saturday, June 23, 2007 5:02:54 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

Uh oh, Dare. You just opened up a whole can of worms.
Saturday, June 23, 2007 5:15:52 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I believe you're implying that Arrington is a hypocrite for "flip-flopping" on the issue, but I have to disagree. There's a difference between text from the publisher in a space that is intended to be advertisement space and text from the publisher that is intended to be their site's content.

As long as the space was designated ad space then his comparison to FM advertisements is valid and not the same as PayPerPost or similar services.
Saturday, June 23, 2007 11:10:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

On the other hand, as Ben pointed out above, there's a _distinct_ difference between some text in a dedicated ad (ad space) and a post in the blog.

So, good for pointing out that Arrington (suprise!) believes in advertising. And even making advertising more effective, more personal, and better.

But it's not an apples to apples comparison, by any means.
Michael Griffiths
Sunday, June 24, 2007 11:26:13 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Ben, Michael,

I was under the impression that Mr A was being paid for using a particular set of words within the text of his blog posts. That is being paid for posting. Correct me if I am wrong, but the 'controversy' isn't just about advertising, it is about a sponsor being able to pay a blogger for what he writes *without* disclosure.

How can bloggers claim to be credible when you have no idea whether what they are writing is paid for by a commercial company?
Sunday, June 24, 2007 7:32:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Dare: I have to agree with Ben. There is a distinction between advertising content and editorial content. PayPerPost blurs that line by making advertising content look like editorial content.

Ross: Michael and the other FM bloggers were not paid to use "people ready" in their blog posts. They were invited to use the phrase in advertising copy. They could have turned down the invitation. When ads were created based on this text, they were run on his and others' sites---which the bloggers get paid for, no different that any other CPM (cost per impression) ad unit. This is how Arrington and others make a living off their blogs.

FM bloggers always have the option of turning down advertising. Every single ad unit that runs on an FM blog's site has to be approved by the blogger.

My favorite example of an author "riffing" on one of these conversational marketing requests is Phil Torrone (of Makezine fame) in response to Cisco's Human Network campaign: http://humannetwork.federatedmedia.net/#x5

Disclaimer: I work for Federated Media
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