Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Or perhaps I am outrageous - an opposing view on disclosure and pay per post

Yesterday I posted an item entitled "Payola, pay per post, or the 1984 commercial? An inconsistency of moral outrage re product placement business practices." Toward the end of the post, I stated:

AS LONG AS THERE IS DISCLOSURE, there is no difference between a pay-per-post item in a blog, a sponsored song on a website, a freebie at a trade show, a special report in a news program, or any other variant of a "product placement" business model.

However, I recognize that my view is a minority view, and I wanted to explore the other side. Unfortunately, I missed the first few years of the conversation, so at this point much of the online conversion about pay per post is along the lines of "Pay per post is bad. I believe it. It's good enough for me."

You'll recall that I cited Stowe Boyd's post on a pay per post poll - the post is entitled "Poll: Pay For Post Concept Is Radioactive." I've been conversing with him in the comments, and specifically asked him:

What do you see as the difference between pay per post and tradeshow sponsorships? Is it a difference of expectation (i.e. people expect trade show giveaways to be sponsored, but expect blog posts to be non-sponsored)?

Boyd was gracious enough to provide a lengthy reply. I encourage you to read his entire reply, but here's a piece of it:

There is a well-known and understood relationship between vendors sponsoring tradeshows. No attendees are confused by an IBM logo on a tradeshow bag. They don't interpret that logo as the tradeshow's endorsement of IBM's products and services.

However, the model of blogging has been quite different. In general, blog posts are written based on the interests of the blogger and buzzworthiness of the topics. There has been a convenient cultural firebreak between the blogger's agenda and the payola of vendors. And because of that historical firebreak there is an expectation by readers that the opinions offered by bloggers have not been influenced by payola.

So, it causes confusion in the community to start accepting money to fill the 'news hole' with sponsored posts. And I maintain that it does so even when bloggers state explicitly that they are being paid.

Again, this is just part of his reply; the entire reply is here.

I'll probably explore this issue in the future, and I certainly welcome your comments, from any position, on this topic.

P.S. For another perspective on this, here's part of what TechCrunch had to say back in February about a disclosed pay per post practice being used by Google in Japan:

[T]he Japanese blogosphere...is filled with reports about Google hiring Cyberbuzz, a Tokyo-based Internet marketing company to promote the keyword feature (its widget version) with a pay-per-post campaign. And in fact, the search string “Google Hot Keywords Ranking+Blog Widget+CyberBuzz” in Japanese in Google’s own Blog Search leads to a few dozen results, indicating the reports aren’t made up of thin air....All postings end with a disclosure that says: “I am taking part in the Cyberbuzz campaign”.

It’s interesting to see that Google, a company that not too long ago radically took action against PayPerPost bloggers in the US, today thinks the concept is suitable as long as it helps them advance in Japan (even though in Japan, pay-per-post isn’t regarded nearly as obnoxious as in the US).
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