Mike gets all medieval on PayPerPost

In case you hadn’t heard already, the blog-vertising startup called PayPerPost is “officially absurd” — according to Mike Arrington at TechCrunch anyway. In a recent post, he describes how the company (which compensates bloggers who write about PayPerPost clients), has set up a site called DisclosurePolicy.org, and is encouraging bloggers to adopt a disclosure policy for their blogs by either choosing one from the site or crafting their own.

The idea is to disclose as openly as possible the conflicts of interest or compensation that one might receive for blogging, whether it’s free products or ads or whatever. One of the knocks against PayPerPost has been that it doesn’t require bloggers to disclose that they are being paid, something I have been critical of in the past (although not quite as critical as Jason Calacanis, who calls it “stupid and evil”). Other startups doing similar things, such as ReviewMe, do require that bloggers disclose their compensation.

payperpost

In his post, Mike argues that the setting up of DisclosurePolicy.org is effectively a distraction tactic, a way of throwing a bone to critics while still maintaining PayPerPost’s evil agenda. He also says that DisclosurePolicy deliberately blurs the line between the kind of paid blogging PayPerPost engages in and other, more subtle forms of compensation such as free products, personal relationships with blogging subjects, etc. (something that many critics have accused Mike himself of not disclosing properly).

For what it’s worth, I think Mike is letting his hatred of PayPerPost get the better of him. I actually think something like the DisclosurePolicy website is a pretty good idea, regardless of whether there’s a bit of PR prestidigitation (i.e., sleight of hand) going on. As Dave Taylor points out, one of the difficulties with blogging is that there aren’t really any rules. Things like DisclosurePolicy and the Blog Honor code could theoretically help make things a little more “transparent,” to use an overused term.

TDavid points out that all of Mike’s bluster, ironically, is really just free advertising for PayPerPost — and includes a video commentary from Loren of 1938 Media on Jason Calacanis which I think is hilarious. Drumsnwhistles is similarly unimpressed with Mike, and Minic has more on the issue over at The Blogging Times.

27 thoughts on “Mike gets all medieval on PayPerPost

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  5. Thanks, Anuvinder — it’s funny you should mention that. I’ve often thought of myself as Paul Newman-esque 🙂

  6. I actually like the idea of such a code, though I dearly wish it hadn’t come from payperpost. It’s really an issue the W3C or another such body should take up. Someone who might actually act on infringements.

    (I thought we’d seen the last of autoplay music on websites some time ago, Mathew. What’s next, animated gifs?)

  7. Ah — I wondered who would be the first to notice my new widget 🙂 You win the prize, Ian. And the prize is that I plan to remove said widget. I wish there was a way to stop it from auto-playing when the page loads, but for the life of me I can’t find one. I guess I’ll leave the mp3 widget game to Fred Wilson.

  8. Thank you for your measured approach to the topic. I know I was harsh, but Arrington’s condemnation of an honest effort to start a conversation around the issue of disclosure and transparency seems to contradict what so many (including him) said just 2 weeks ago during the original round of PPP-hating. This particular post of his seems to send the message that the only good PPP is a dead PPP.

    I’d like to think there’s some measure of reasonable thought out there on the Internet, and your post tells me there is.

    DnW

    DnW

  9. I like how you’re looking at this, you’re not just dismissing it because you’ve been critical of PPP in the past. I’m a blogger at PPP that’s welcomed the DisclosurePolicy as I don’t feel I want to keep my non-regular readers in the dark. Maybe someone else should host the DisclosrePolicy or there should be some other form of standards but at least PPP is taking initiative and letting people know they’re not just “shills”. I have mentionned PPP many many times so the regulars of my blog know I’ve had some posts sponsored but I don’t write up things that I wouldn’t use or recommend to others so I have no problem no disclosing which post is sponsored or not.

    Btw I’m from Montreal and wished I got to read the Globe and Mail more frequently, by far one of the better newspapers in Canada.

    -Steve

  10. Thanks, Steve — and not just for the compliments about the Globe. I guess the bottom line is that I think any progress towards more disclosure from blogs, including TechCrunch, is a positive thing, regardless of who starts the ball rolling.

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  13. I am wondering why the uproar over PPP? Isn’t the blogosphere supposed to be relatively rules free? I haven’t seen any negative repercussions with using PPP across my three blogs, but if I did I am not sure I would change my policy.

  14. No, I haven’t until today. I mentioned on two of my blogs today about PPP, with one of them explaining to my readers what I have been doing. Mind you, this is after 37 adverts were placed by me across three blogs.

    I did 2 or 3 blatant posts and then decide that these weren’t for me. Since then I have concentrated on positive or neutral postings, but I always visit these sites first before deciding whether to proceed. Then, I take information gleaned from the sites and craft my post accordingly.

  15. But don’t you feel that readers should be told right in the post that you’re being compensated for that there’s an advertising relationship? Don’t you think you’re misleading your readers?

  16. No, I don’t feel that I must tell them that I am being compensated. Usually I write from the point of view that “here is a site worth exploring” or here is a “product you may want.” If I don’t use the product, I don’t pretend that I am. As far as misleading anyone, I don’t believe that I have.

  17. I really think that disclosure is vital if you’re using, or thinking about using PPP. However a quick line at the start or end of the post “this post was sponsored by XXX” would be enough (iin my eyes).

    The thing about PPP is that it doesn’t sell reviews, it sells links. The reviews (positive, negative or neutral) are a (sometimes) beneficial side effect.

    Ed

    Ed

  18. That’s a good point, Ed. It’s all about the links — and I think that’s why what Matt is doing is inherently misleading, regardless of whether the post is positive or not.

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