On PayPerPost

So I signed up for PayPerPost is Toni’s foray into the seedy side of paid blogging. Includes some interesting comments, including an ultra-defensive thread from one of their investors. I also came across a ton of creepy videos on Youtube, a lovefest for PayPerPost and apparently those are $10 a pop. There is a firm that does something similar in real life, Buzz agents or something, but they’re actually fairly respectable simply because they require one thing: the agents to say that they’re being paid. End of story. I have no problem with bloggers making money, but that info out there and let people make up their own mind.

Another way to think about it: If PayPerPost was PayPerComment instead, and they paid people to leave comments shilling various products or services, what would you call it? What if they paid people to email their friends about something without disclosure? Would someone start an anti-PayPerPost Akismet, or a Firefox extension to detect and highlight people using them?

28 thoughts on “On PayPerPost

  1. Matt,

    Marketing is marketing… were you somehow under the illusion that any ad you have ever experienced in your life was somehow truthful? If there is a medium in which to reach people, marketers will find a way to manipulate it so they can manipulate the masses. I believe payperpost is more about manipulating search engines then actually making people think something about a product or service or at least that is how I would use it.

  2. You might be thinking of BzzAgent, who doesn’t pay their agents (I am one) but gives them trial cellphone service, free candy bars, and book previews. There’s no pressure to blog/write/talk about the products, and they encourage agents to always be forthcoming about their status as such.

    The idea (which totally makes sense) is that if people try quality products, they’ll tell their friends about them. I don’t know how well it’s working, but I think it’s a pretty honest business.

  3. Hey Matt,

    This is the ‘ultra-defensive’ PPP investor you referenced, I like ‘passionate’ better. I suggested that Toni adopt a disclosure policy of his own. I’d suggest the same for you. I’m working on one myself. It’s kinda ironic a PPP investor is suggesting a transparent disclosure policy (and always viewable link) and folks don’t know how to react?!?

    Bloggers need best practice guidance on disclosure policies but most of the ethics champions keep their policies to themselves (or fluid so they aren’t accountable). Even Jarvis who has a great list of disclosed affiliations, neglects to detail how he would disclose relevant conflicts (in-line, sidebar, About?). Take the challenge — create a DP so your audience can always find it. If money is never involved commit to that, but also mention how you’ll disclose when talking about companies competing with Automattic to monetize blogging. Then, advocate DPs across the WP community so we can have lasting progress on the topic. If it makes you feel any better, make believe I didn’t suggest it.

    All the talk is wasted without action — although it is entertaining. 😉

  4. I am a blogger who had her blog “blacklisted” by someone upset over the ethics of disclosure-in fact an entire blogroll of PPP posters were outed, so to speak. I have no problem disclosing the fact I am paid for certain posts- I use a category “Paid Posts”, which I believe is all a reader needs to know. If I read a blog with a graphic, or, text ad, I don’t know if the company behind the ad is legit or not, but at least with PPP I can choose those opportunities I feel are relevant to my readers and those I deem on the up and up. I’m certainly not going to disclose how much I am being paid for a particular post-those using Adsense or other click-through ads don’t disclose this, why should I? Marketing is marketing and there will always be a debate on ethics and who is “cluttering” the blogosphere.

  5. When it comes down to the bottom line, marketing is life. Everything we see, do, hear, am, and live for, is marketing. The world is marketing. I don’t see PayPerPost as a bad thing, just another avenue for marketers (and myself.) Since the early blogging days, this had to come out at some point or another.

  6. I think that it is fine to use pay per post, as long as you are completely open about it. And even if you do pay for post and don’t give notice, thats your right. However, its also my right to call you a shill and never read your blog again. Its a free country.

  7. Although this is a tricky question for all involved, it is a good one to debate. The pay-per-post or pay-per-coverage is definitely an awkward field. A “I just got paid to write this piece” disclosure at the beginning or end of a post just makes the whole piece wierd. I might suggest making overtly clear (i.e. sponsors section on the page) that you do work in some way or are affiliated with the company you are writing about. I don’t think to many people are going to fault you for writing positively about a sponsor or advertiser if what you are writing is insightful, truthful and weighted (i.e. not a product shill), or maybe they will (in which case you may as well forget about making money through blogging and go find something else to do because you are being measured with a tougher yardstick than any other media – and they have capital more than you do).

    It’s tough to do either way and I commend every effort to generate some revenue for bloggers, the fact is that blogs as a revenue-generating Ad/PR media are a very slow ramp and require significant investment. The independent bloggers that put their credibility on the line by being paid to make specific posts instead of finding other ways to be paid for delivering messages to their audience (e.g. let us know if you come up for a good answer to what goes in between these parentheses, other than direct advertising or site sponsorship), hopefully will make it out unscathed and with their viewership intact. I agree with Matt, though, in that their chance to do so would be greatly improved by being overt in some way without being totally disinteresting (see suggestion above).

  8. Good points Matt, Greg, John and Beth. Again though I find myself trying to differentiate the principles of marketing from smarmy sales people and various shills in the market who are less than forthcoming about the financial interests in promoting something. Real marketing is about matching the value of a product or service with the people who will benefit from it or enjoy it most – not about deceiving people into buying something. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there are bad marketers out there who use the marketing tool kit for no good, but I just dont think we can stereotype all members of a profession in such a way – it would be like saying that all programmers are geeks who drink Jolt soda and have no social skills – its simply not true.

    Codifying disclosure practices (or surfacing and promoting the best) is one of the primary keys I see here – its good to see more people identifying systems that people use – please do tag them ‘blogger+ethics’ so we can collect more when you see them. Perhaps even for cases like the ones mentioned above, they could be taked ‘blogger+ethics:practices’ instead.

    I also think it is ok for people to get paid to write something as long as it is clear that their opinion may have been colored by that payment and the payment is disclosed. Both Greg and Maxpower hit that one right on the head. I was greatly troubled by some of the ‘posties’ out there who don’t see anything wrong with getting blogola (blogger payola) – thankfully most of the rest of us do understand that is a real problem of deception and all trust is thrown out. Lots more thinking going on around this subject – very much looking forward to identifying some of the better solutions and helping to propagate them…

  9. “When it comes down to the bottom line, marketing is life. Everything we see, do, hear, am, and live for, is marketing.”

    Let’s not just accept this as gospel truth, Ok?

  10. In some ways there is little difference between monetizing with PPP and monetizing with Adsense if you get technical about it. Adsense pay more if you write about certain subjects.

    Blogs are more popular if you write about certain subjects

    If you combine the two, you suddenly have an income far in excess of what most PPP offers will make you. PP is just a oneoff payment, whereas other monetization will bring income for years to come based upon your content.

    If it were purely a financial matter, you would have to pay high end bloggers 100x the current offer for it to be a worthwhile longterm business strategy.

    Email marketers think in terms of customer value on their mailing lists. A figure often quoted is $1 per subscriber per month.

    If you have a blog with 10K subscribers, plus many more casual readers, you really should be making $10K+ per month from your blog (depending on niche), which is $330 per day.

    $10 from PPP is not going to be worthwhile. Thus the market for PPP is very much at the lower end of the earning scale. They either have to pay an aweful lot more, or it happens to turn out that the topic fits the blog. $10 shouldn’t sway the opinion of a review that is going to still be there is 10 years time.

  11. I too am a member of Pay Per Post, but I’ve yet to add a blog to be approved. Frankly, if you choose your blog posts wisely, no one needs to know that you’re posting a blog for money. You could simply be excited about something you recently tried or purchased and want to tell everyone about it. I see no need to disclose what I make through my website. Business sites do not disclose what they make from ads that are served on their pages, so why should I tell what I get paid for doing a blog post??

    All one really needs to do is either use a category such as “Paid Posts” or “Posted for Cash”….. let the reader decide if they would like to see what you have to say. You never know. Some people’s arguments for why you should use a product/service could be quite entertaining.

  12. One other thing people could keep in mind : getting paid one or two dollars for a post is… cheap. On the long run (6-12 months), putting Adsense on any targeted post (and PPP are targetted posts) will earn you much more than this.

  13. Jim, sometimes I see people put “affiliate link” in parentheses after the link, which I like. That said, if someone is writing about a product anyway I don’t see it as a huge deal, versus using an affiliate link than if the purpose was just to drive people to that link or if, like with PPP, they were paid to blog about something and not say they were paid.

  14. This is the best discussion of this issue I’ve found. I, too, have looked into PPP and just didn’t think it would be worth the trouble. I was also concerned about tarnishing my credibility as a blogger. For some niche blogs, it might be a way of generating some income if the blog is still fairly new. I definitely think it would be most appropriate to disclose it, though.

  15. Affiliate links vs. sponsored posts: Let’s see, affilate bloggers have direct incentive to encourage people to click/buy via affiliate links (they don’t get paid otherwise). Sponsored post bloggers choose topics of interest from PayPerPost (instead of a plethora of other places people use to find something to write about), they blog about them and get paid for doing so, BUT they have no incentive to encourage people to click/buy via the link. Which of those two models would generate more disingenuous content?

    Affiliate link incentives are clearly worse than sponsored posts, but if the elites admitted that there would be less controversy, less traffic for their blogs and less ad revenue from that traffic. Hey come to think of it, that sounds like topic-choosing driven by earning potential 😉

  16. VC Dan, you are taking a very narrow look at it and maybe don’t understand affiliate and niche marketing.

    I have seen a lot of high profile bloggers for instance have a “currently reading” Amazon link for Harry Potter. It has nothing to do with their blog, it is just a numbers game. I am sure they haven’t been reading it for as long as the link has been on their blog.

    A niche marketer researches a niche based on demand, and ability to compete and get traffic, quite often has used or in the case of ebooks read the products.

    My favorite niches are creating sites about things that affect my offline life. As an example my wife has just been diagnosed with diabetes. There is a high chance I am going to be making a few related niche sites, as I have to do the research anyway.

    The reason most niche marketers don’t put (aff) or similar after a link isn’t because they want to hide the fact it is an affiliate link from honest people and they are making money from it.

    It actually works the opposite way, that after reading a review of a product, rather than clicking a link lots of people type the name of a product into a search engine, go to the main site for the product, and buy it directly for the same price, or in the case of a fellow affiliate, would try to join the affiliate program and buy through his/her own link, or that of a friend.
    The term is commission stealing – the affiliate has found targetted traffic, written a high quality review focusing on benefits (often better than the sales letter/page), and then gets ripped off.

    It is similar to you going to your local expert hardware store, getting loads of good expert advise, and then heading off to Walmark or similar to buy the product for $0.50 cheaper.

    Including (aff) after links just encourages this to happen even more.

    As to the type of content surrounding an affiliate link, or the quality/type of the “review” it depends on the credibility of the author and the target market.

    In internet marketing circles things have very much turned on their head. Typical these days are statements like “If you buy from my link, you get all these bonuses”. Sometimes the bonuses have much more real value than the product. Sometimes the bonuses are closely linked to the product, such additional instructional videos on the same topic, or about using the product.

    I agree that some methods of affiliate marketing are distasteful, e.g. email spam, but you shouldn’t automatically paint it with the same brush.

  17. i use PPP and its an income for me. thats the only reason i use it. i use it to pay for my sons food and thats really about it. and i dont really relate to a lot of topics so its not a frequent thing for me to use. but it is a good idea if you use it right.

  18. One key issue here is the divide in the blogosphere between people who blog for the love of it and those that are investing more than sweat equity into a venture. When criticizing people’s attempt to monetize the attention of the blog audience, I think people could be a little more sympathetic to those who have risked cold hard-earned cash at what is essentially a lab experiment. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with the premises of the experiment in any way, in fact the beauty of this lab environment is the instant feedback mechanism, however one might put themselves more often in the shoes of the research crusaders.

    Whether PPP is one trial that works or not, the continued experimentation might bring us closer to some answers.

    That said, those that enter this minefield of open public discourse would probably be wiser to tread lightly, listen closely and keep eyes open wide, avoid heavy baggage in terms of pre-conceived notions and sweeping generalizations, get ready to tread carefully and slowly, and hopefully not lose more than just your stereotypes on what marketing is and isn’t.

  19. PayPerPost and WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) and all compensated opinion blogging/commenting are wrong.

    Paid posts destroy the web of trust and credibility. PayPerPost and others have been known to not only promote items, but to attack things, like AdSense.

    Monetizing a blog with ads is very different from blog-whoring, which is saying what somebody wants you to say, because you get paid to do so.

    Peer to peer advising, where users trust other users to give real, uncoached, non-incentivized opinions on products they have tried, this trust system is polluted and destroyed by any form of paid opinions.

  20. I think there is a difference between asking people to promote a site/service/whatever and asking them to review it. I have less of a problem if people are writing posts because they were paid $4 to write an honest review of the services of a new company than if they are paid to say a company is great and wonderful and will solve world hunger and cure cancer.