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.
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.