Anyone who has been following the debate in the blogosphere over “blog payola” — under-the-table compensation for a positive review of something — knows the name PayPerPost.com. The company emerged earlier this year and was instantly vilified for paying bloggers to write about clients, but not requiring them to disclose that compensation. Pete Cashmore of Mashable said that PayPerPost was unethical, and Shel Israel called founder Ted Murphy “the devil.”
Now, the company has decided to change its approach, and — according to a press release Mike Arrington has reproduced on TechCrunch — will require bloggers who take part in the program to disclose that they are being compensated. As Mike notes, it isn’t a perfect solution, since bloggers can choose to have a site-wide disclosure policy rather than disclosing which specific posts are paid for, but it is a whole lot better than nothing (Scott Karp doesn’t think it goes far enough).
It’s not clear whether this change has come about because PayPerPost decided its initial policy was wrong, or because it wasn’t getting enough uptake among bloggers or advertisers, or because of the recent FTC ruling on word-of-mouth marketing and the requirement to disclose, which I wrote about here. It’s possible that it was a combination of all the above.
In any case, I think the move is a good one, and would like to believe that PayPerPost finally saw the error of its ways (although I would much rather that each post involving compensation was disclosed as such). Allowing bloggers to write positively about clients without disclosure amounts to deception, and that isn’t a proper basis for any kind of relationship, financial or otherwise.