Posted in: Technology

Paid Posts: Why they’re not that bad, but why you shouldn’t do them

kmart

A lifetime ago, well a blog writing gig ago I gained a reputation as the guy who hates Izea/ PayPerPost. Nothing will change that reputation, but I have said repeatedly over the years that I don’t hate the idea, and that I’m all for new ways of monetizing blogs, even if I don’t use them myself.

It was policy in my previous role to pay out on PayPerPost because they were an easy target and any post always resulted in traffic, lots of comments and a ton of links. They were an easy target: Ted Murphy started the service on the wrong foot, not requiring disclosure and requesting positive reviews for payment. He’s since mended his ways, and I commend him for it. I found with some irony that my previous employer mended his relationship with Murphy by blaming me for the negative spin, given it was him who often ordered the posts, but that’s a tale for another day.

PayPerPost/ Izea is in the news today for a deal that saw prominent bloggers recieve $500 to buy goods at K-Mart with a request to write about the experience. Steve Hodson has some details in his previous post here. Along with Chris Brogan, Loren Feldman (1938media) and Jeremy Schoemaker (Shoemoney) also participated and have also been targeted by those who oppose the deal. Here’s my take on why it’s not that bad, but why you shouldn’t do it.

Formalizing existing relationships

There is a strong level of hypocrisy with some sites who decry the the use of services such as Izea, and yet often receive and keep goods for review.

I have always believed that Izea/ PayPerPost simply formalized a relationship that has always existed in old and new media.

Some sites and news outlets have a policy of returning all goods sent for review, but for everyone that does, there are more again that don’t. Then there’s the conference and events circuit where goods are often handed over to media attendees for the hope of a positive review. I didn’t get a chance at Macworld this year to go get my freebies, but I’ve still got a folder with at least a dozen offers of free product. Most events offer freebies from T-Shirts to actual products; for example I own a Zune because I received one at Microsoft Mix (for the record I wrote a negative review). There’s nothing wrong with media getting freebies and if you’re at the top of your game, it’s cream on the cake.

But why is this practice so much different than some of the offers from Izea?

Izea and similar services simply bring these relationships to more bloggers, and help pay the bills. Presuming no positive coverage is demanded (which it once was) there is to me very little difference between this style of promotion and media relationships that have always existed.

Why you shouldn’t do it

If you’re a small blogger who doesn’t care that much about credibility and Google ranking, go for it, but for others my recommendation is you should proceed with caution, and if in doubt, stay well away.

We don’t run paid posts at The Inquisitr, nor will we.

There’s two issues. Credibility and Google.

Chris Brogan may protest that the criticism of his participation in the K-Mart promotion is unjust (he argues it very well, and certainly I don’t feel worse of him for it) but the mere fact he has to post a defense of his decision actually goes to prove that at least in the eyes of some, he has lost some credibility.

No amount of disclosures or justification will change the perception of some that by writing a paid post (or similar such as the K-Mart promotion) makes you a sell out, and tarnishes your credibility with at least some of your readers.

I wouldn’t do a paid post anyway because I try to maintain that Chinese Wall between editorial and advertising, but this becomes doubly the case in terms of credibility: I’m not interested in testing my standing and credibility for $500 to spend at K-Mart or anywhere else for that matter. It has a far higher price than that :-)

Second is the Google angle. Google cracked down on Izea/ PayPerPost bloggers last year, stripping their results out of search and giving most bloggers in the program a 0 page rank.

Whether you agree or disagree with Google’s decision is irrelevant: if Google says its not cool with paid posts, I’m not going to do paid posts, and I’d recommend for many reading this that you should be very careful as well. What’s more important? a quick buck or your blog in Google and the traffic that may provide you.

Conclusion

I don’t condemn any bloggers who participate in these programs, and I’d encourage you to not do so as well. As I’ve documented here at The Inquisitr many times before, making good money from blogging even in 2008 is difficult to very hard. I fully understand why some people would participate in these programs, and I sincerely hope that they are making some good money from them.

However, participation in these programs comes with risks that may damage your ability to grow in the future. You need to consider a long term picture for your blog, and while the money may be good now, it could cost you more in the future.

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Comments

7 Responses to “Paid Posts: Why they’re not that bad, but why you shouldn’t do them”

  1. Chris Brogan

    Duncan –

    Very fair, and I found the earlier part of the post *very* refreshing. A confession: your opinions from those posts years ago made me a Ted Murphy hater without me even looking at what he was doing, nor ever talking to the man.

    A few years later, I run into him at an event. I talk with him. My immediate feeling: not the Devil. This made me revisit everything he's doing. Then, he asked me to join his advisory board. Yes, I said. Absolutely. Why? Because if someone's out there trying to figure out new ways to advertise that aren't the old fashioned way, I want to tinker with that, too.

    My only mistake was that I might have warmed people up to the idea that I was going to experiment with this type of posting. I regret nothing else about the experience. I disclosed. I made it “advertorial” in nature.

    To your point about the wall between editorial and advertising, EVERY major magazine uses in-context advertising now. As a publisher, I have to be the journalist and the business leg. The line is still there .I disclose paid relationships, probably more so than others that you and I both know. I won't cross that line.

    So, that's my stance on that.

    I'm grateful for your attention to this, and REALLY happy that thinkers like you are voicing your opinion. It matters to me.

  2. Duncan Riley

    Ted,
    you and I will disagree on the meaning of credibility then. The mere fact Chris had to defend himself proves that in the eyes of some, it damaged his credibility. Whether this is fair or not (and for the record as I've stated I feel no differently about Chris personally) is a moot point when it's a fact. Traffic doesn't equal credibility in my book…although we'd both agree it does help pay the bills ;-)

    I wasn't aware of Cutt's comments, but good for you having read them. I'd still say to anyone though caution, because as we all know the god like hand of Google can be fickle, but certainly I'd say to people that the risk is somewhat less than it was before based on this.

  3. Duncan Riley

    Thx Chris.

    Ted isn't the devil, although he makes good copy ;-) I was honestly deeply opposed to PPP in its original incarnation, so I can't blame Arrington for all the posts, even if I was directed on them (prior to TC you'll find I wrote at least one,maybe two fence sitting posts on the subject because I could see both sides). The program today is a whole lot better, and it's a credit to Ted that he not only listened, but acted on what people were saying.

    I agree with you totally in the exploration side, which is why I've never been 100% against these programs, new media offers new ways of doing business, and you can't learn if you don't experiment.

    Only thing I'd add: I would have made a bigger point out of you running the K-Mart thing as an experiment: my takeaway is that as a social media advisor you can't advise if you haven't tried, and while that point was in your post in a round about way, to me it's the one argument I'd be emphasizing, because it makes the most sense.

    I agree in terms of the issues with a wall between editorial and advertising. Totally. But I still try. When we were running direct ads (we should be again soon…long story) I would never write about our advertisers outside of a thankyou post, and our writing team was always aware of the church and state split. It is hard, but I do believe as an ideal it is something we should endeavor for best practice on; how you define that in the context of blogging though is something you, I and a whole lot of people will be considering in the coming years.

  4. Tamar Weinberg

    Like Ted said, Google won't penalize you if you nofollow your links. The idea behind the last bout of penalties was really because you were passing link juice to people who were paying you. It's not the case anymore.

  5. Life is Colourful

    Even I am convinced with a fact that paid reviews are good way to develop content and especially content that interests your visitors (if it's inline with Google's TOC).

    I left looking at PPP long ago though.