PayPerPost, a new service that helps advertisers pay bloggers for writing about their products, launched a few days ago to a predictable cacophony of protest.
"Get Paid to Blog", reads the blurb on the latest blog advertising network's front page. "Advertisers are willing to pay you to post on topics - search through a list of topics, make a blog posting, get your content approved, and get paid. It’s that simple.”
And PayPerPost tells its affiliated advertisers: "You provide the topic, our network of bloggers create the stories and post them on their individual blogs." Bloggers can earn $5 to $10 per post, writing about anything from loan sharks to bubble wrap.
This week's Business Week reckons PayPerPost is "polluting the blogosphere", while CNet says "this is a bad, bad, bad thing": "It's hard enough for bloggers and professional journalists to maintain their integrity as it is. PayPerPost casts a pall of doubt over everybody."
Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch and Darren Rowse, who claims to make a six-figure salary from blogging, are amongst the rest of the naysayers, who criticise the fact that making disclosure on the payola is optional while all posts are screened by an editor before cash is handed over. PayPerPost has even apparently offered inducements to bloggers to write reports countering the ensuing negativity.
Now lets be honest, you can see the logic in this idea. I'm as much a blog purist as the next man, but several times we've seen companies wade into the blogosphere with poor or offensive strategies that get nobody nowhere. Would you rather another such calamity a la Cillit Bang or L'Oreal?
Celebrated blog marketer Hugh Macleod won admirers for his strategy of giving 100 bottles of Stormhoek wine to bloggers for review (good or bad), and ended up doubling sales in 12 months. I don't know about you but, where I'm from, free wine is considered inducement.
Maybe there's something more honest about companies having to pay us for our views?
Without disclosure, this latest move blurs the line between advertising and editorial. Newspapers and magazines in the UK are allowed to carry advertorials placed by marketers and presented in the house layout style - but there are strict guidelines requiring publications to flag the features as paid content.
My advice to interested bloggers? Treat it like a review - do the writing, give your usual honest spin, place a prominent disclosure, take the money and run; then resume normal service.