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