Jim Skyped me about his recent post about the Pay-per-post model that is starting to be ratcheted up by companies like Pay Per Post, Loudcloud and Creamaid:
Is pay-per-post [without disclosure] a “black hat” business model? Some would say that it is but they are among the purists in the blogosphere. The blogger capitalists that I speak to say that it is a great model that should be a money maker for bloggers all over and that companies should take advantage of the phenomena while they can.
Here’s my thoughts:
Paid placement without disclosure is always unethical. Rebuttal: But since when has ethics ever been important in a capitalist economy?
Some marketers and companies will always treat customers like livestock – like bloated sows to be milked for money and then tossed into the chipper shredder for further extraction. The Great and Powerful brand remained a one-way communications channel, an echo of top-down command-and-control organizations. You’ll buy our product and you’ll damn well like it.
Blogs were different because they were in a ‘real’ human voice and divorced from the sewage written by committee. Personality trumps brand in this case. A product’s quality and how it is talked about among ‘real’ people becomes more important than a product’s perception management. A blogger’s reputation and trust is built up over time via loyal readership, interlinkage and search engine ranking. Large companies that don’t understand blogs don’t have the patience to build trust or loyalty – loyalty to a person (who may leave the company) vs loyalty to a brand (that is eternal).
Bloggers like to pump up how transparent and self-correcting things are in the blogosphere. When paid placement without full disclosure is added to this mix – the system breaks down. The transparency becomes occlusion and the ‘real’ voice becomes another corporate mascot.
I think another question is the difference between editorial and advertising. I think magazines wrestle with this when you see a 4 page section laid out exactly like the rest of the magazine except for the word SPECIAL ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENT in tiny type at the bottom. Labeling content as advertising or paid placement does get us ‘off the hook’ so to speak.
On the other hand, I have no pity for companies that make shitty products or treat their employees like shit and then pay others to pump up their offerings instead of improving said shitty product. Then it all just becomes public relations and we’re back to square one.
Companies that facilitate paid placement on blogs and don’t require disclosure by the bloggers are doing a cute little dance that We know that we’re supposed to do this – but we don’t want to require it because then we might not have as many clients so we’re just going to recommend disclosure and not enforce it. They choose higher volume/income instead of respecting the blog format.
In other news, my new favorite ALT tag for images is ‘Bloated sow nursing piglets.’