Blogs, Splogs, Flogs?

October 15, 2006

So first “splogs” or blogs filled entirely with spam clutter up the web, and now it looks like we have to deal with “flogs” or blogs totally set up by corporate interests but made to look like some ordinary person(s) are writing it. Supposedly there was a pro-Wal-Mart blog called “Wal-Marting Across America” featuring a journey across America, stopping in different Wal-Mart parking lots nationwide. It was exposed that this blog was actually set up by a Wal-Mart PR firm.

Related to this issue is a new service called PayPerPost, a company that basically asks bloggers to sign up and write positive posts about products. If they like what you write they’ll pay you $5 to $20. However, the blogger doesn’t have to disclose this fact and since PayPerPost has to approve the post before the blogger is paid, the implication is that they’ll only pay you for positive reviews. Which is kind of silly, I mean, how credible would Ebert and Roeper be with thumbs that permanently pointed “up”?

Anyhow, the first Wal-Mart situation is kind of sadly funny because the original idea of the PR firm was to paint Wal-Mart in a positive light, but the end result as the word spreads that it was practically a put-on is going to be negative. So instead of enhancing Wal-Mart’s brand the PR firm is degrading it.

This negative effect could possibly happen to PayPerPost as well. Any blogger who signs onto this deal should be wary about personal integrity. It’s one thing to write positive reviews of stuff you really enjoy, but it’s another to put money first and become a shill for something you would never buy or use yourself. I guess we all have our price and lines we draw in the sand. But instead of some brand taking the brunt of the negative blowback, it could be your blog, your reputation, and your credibility as a blogger that takes a hit.

So be careful, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more “flogs” pop up in the future. Luckily, the internet population seems to have finely tuned BS detectors.

Comments

  1. VC Dan says:

    “they’ll only pay you for positive reviews?”

    You might want to research the service, maybe even try it out (that’d be a great post), before getting things wrong — publicly. PPP is a marketplace similar to eBay whereby consumer content creators and advertisers meet. Bloggers choose opportunities they like, that allow them to write as they like. Every bloggers relationship with their audience is different, ranging from purely personal chatty blogs to professionl journalist blogs.

    As an example of that open marketplace, you might have made $5-10 for the post above and a link to PayPerPost.com because of its PPP review nature (yes, there are opps for reviewing PPP). Same work, same voice, just some of your expenses are covered for doing your thing…getting paid for doing something you love.

  2. webomatica says:

    VC Dan, please note that I wrote: “The implication is that they’ll only pay you for positive reviews”. I’m not entirely shooting off the hip here; I admitted that I wasn’t completely sure.

    Second, your pitch in the second half of your comment, while meaning well, is part of my whole point of this post. I don’t know if you’re being genuine or have some vested interest in the success of PayPerPost.

    I’ll tell you what I’ll take you up on your suggestion to look into PayPerPost and write a future post that is more thorough. But if you don’t mind, I’m not terribly interested in being paid $5 to $10 bucks for doing so.

    Anyhow, do you have any responses to what Matt Scoble had to say about PayPerPost? He was way more negative than I was.

    Lastly, thanks for your comment. It’s good to discuss these things. Ultimately the market decides new business ideas and for better or worse the blogosphere is literally becoming part of that market.

  3. Jim Benson says:

    I too am skeptical, but will also take VC Dan’s offer / challenge. However, any post that I write will be clearly labeled as such. Which I think it pretty fair.

    Thanks for the heads up Webomatica!

  4. VC Dan says:

    Hey guys,

    If you check my siglink (the standard way to understand a commenter’s context/biases) you will see that I am both conflicted and informed, due to researching PayPerPost for months and investing in the company based upon my research results.

    Although it wasn’t intended as a challenge, I appreciate you being open to try the service so you can provide an experience-based review. In fact, that’s something I recommend for all ‘posties’ (PPP fanatics) — focus on what you know or can make informed opinions on, bring value to your audience, do quality posts, and get paid for doing the quality of selection/work you’d do anyway for your blog. The opportunities list also works well as an idea generator — bloggers already scour the net for blogging inspiration hourly — and only take the opportunities that you want.

    Personally, I recommend disclosing, but bloggers own their page and the relationship with their audience. You know best what your readers expect of you, but don’t think disclosure absolves you of honesty. Again, it all starts with choosing topics you find interesting and blogging the way you might otherwise.

    Check out the PPP boards for other best practices and LMK how it goes!

  5. VC Dan says:

    As for Robert Scoble’s post, I agree with much of what he says. However, I stop short of his advice which assumes the elites play by different rules than mainstream bloggers. If SEs want to chase people getting compensated for influence/links, they can start with the most lucrative and nuanced transactions already employed by the elites. If you search Scoble’s archives, you will find multiple instances of him even using ‘payperpost’ to describe a payback mention/link he authors. The reality is that most elites and mainstream bloggers provide a blended ROI (branding, endorsement, DM, links) to advertisers — and that’s a win-win-win for bloggers, advertisers and audiences.

    As for disclosure, I think we’re close, unless he believes a private company (PPP) has the duty to dictate how bloggers engage their audience. I’m a market-forces guy and a firm believer that bloggers own their blogs and their audience relationship. If you believe in markets then you have to accept there will be outliers that abuse any system. With that in mind PPP has implemented a rating system (similar to eBay buyer/seller feedback) that will encourage quality and discourage abuse over time. I can see in his comments giving a free pass to himself and Jason (everyone should just know that Jason works for AOL and consider that blanket disclosure), that he embraces blogger choice — but hasn’t come out and said so yet.

  6. webomatica says:

    Cool VC Dan, thanks for the additional information. You raise some interesting issues. And your blog is interesting too, I’m checking it out right now.

    I do believe in markets and accept the fact that there will always be money as a motivator for many people. I am currently working on an about page that will disclose some information about myself and hopefully indicate where I stand as far as what I blog about and why. My main purpose in running this blog is for personal enjoyment, not as a business. That may explain my initial annoyance at the pay-to-blog idea.

    But, and an important but, I realize I shouldn’t let my own bias discourage other people from doing what they want and possibly create a good business out of blogging. I accept a concept like PayForPost; I’m just not sure it’s for me… but I’m willing to check it out further so my eventual decision is more informed.

  7. VC Dan says:

    Awesome! I think covering being upfront about this stuff on your About page is a great idea — the elites could take a lesson from your leading by example. Of course, they may not want to share their policy of hiding multiple modes of indirect compensation/influence. Stay tuned ;-)

    BTW, I really like your layout!