With Twisted Logic, PayPerPost CEO Defends Indefensible Business


If you're interested in hearing some of the most twisted, blubber-filled blather explaining and defending PayPerPost, the service that pays bloggers to write positive posts for advertisers with questionable disclosure, you'll love this interview Jason Calacanis did with PayPerPost CEO Ted Murphy. To hear Murphy say he has no problem reading a blog that contains paid posts that aren't disclosed as such and try to attach some kind of logic to it is one of the saddest moments in marketing history. PayPerPost has been a laughable business model from its start and to hear Murphy try to justify it is just painful and offensive. It's an affront to what limited credibility marketing still has in the eyes of people. Lines are already blurred enough and Murphy, it seems, wants lines to disappear completely.

Murphy then goes on to categorize bloggers as people who do not have to adhere to ethics. Nothing like calling your customers idiots while using them to make money. Reacting to Calacanis noting disclosure in Google AdSense ads, Murphy tries to make the point PayPerPost posts are content and are somehow different from paid ads even though the PayPerPosts posts are paid.

The overarching problem with Murphy's defense of his business model is that he assume people who reads blogs are just as savvy about marketing are marketers themselves. He assumes people understand all the details of marketing and can easily discern between paid and unpaid content on the web.

PayPerPost, in our opinion is, by far, the worst, most deceptive form on online advertising today. It's worse than pop ups. It's worse than in-text advertising. It's worse than flogs. It's worse than spam. Like the separation of church and state, there must be a separation between content and advertising. Payperpost ignores this and that causes great harm to an already greatly distrusted industry. Stop. Just please stop.

by Steve Hall    Mar-28-07   Click to Comment   
Topic: Online, Opinion, Worst   

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Let's get a couple of things straight:
1. PayPerPost requires disclosure by all participants.

2. We encourage our bloggers to be as transparent as possible.

3. We were the first organization to push disclosure policies and we invented the disclosure badge.

4. I did not categorize bloggers as people with no ethics, rather I said bloggers are not journalists and don't adhere to the same standards. There is a difference between true journalism and other forms of content creation. True journalism is unbiased and does not fall victim to public relations, marketing, propaganda, incentives or disinformation. They do this through editors, research staff, separation between sales and editorial, third party verification and fact checking of information. Blogs (with the expection of a very few in a sea of millions) tend to be one person operations that communicate the perspective of the individual. There can be no expectation of any of traditional journalism standards. To believe the average 18 year old blogger sitting at home blogging about video games holds himself to the same standards as a reporter for the New York Times is ridiculous and doesn't say much for the concept of Journalism.

I value and read both forms of expression, but they are not at all the same, even if that New York Times reporter happens to be publishing via a blog.

5. It really has nothing to do with people being savvy about marketing, it has to do with people being savvy about the content they are reading period. That is what is so powerful about the concept of a Disclosure Policy. DP's aren't just about marketing relationships they are about relationships and influences in general. Disclosure of where you work, what organizations you are part of, free stuff and insider information you receive all play into painting a clear picture of the blogger for the benefit of the reader. I don't just advocate disclosure about marketing relationships, I advocate full disclosure of all relationships.

6. When a Disclosure Policy is in place I am ok reading a post whether a sponsorship is disclosed in the post or not because that information is always available to me. It is not my preferred method, but as a reader I do accept it. I wish the A-List bloggers would adopt Disclosure Policies as they are often the people with the most to disclose. Where is yours?

7. I do prefer to have in-post disclosure as both a reader and advertiser. As an advertiser I always require a disclosure badge. I want my message to be as clear as possible. However, it is not PayPerPost’s place to tell all of our bloggers or advertiser how they have to disclose. We can only give them strong guidance and let them know that they have to disclose in some way.

Posted by: Ted Murphy on March 28, 2007 3:05 PM

Did you pay Ted to post that long response?

Posted by: Bevo on March 28, 2007 3:32 PM

Disclosure be damned, PayPerPost is the same thing as a cold-calling solicitor. Would PayPerPost's cronies honor an online equivalent of a "no solicitors" sign?

Should such a sign be necessary when anyone with an iota of common sense knows that no one wants to read advertisements instead of actual discussion?

PayPerPost's business model, assuming full disclosure 100% of the time, isn't necessary illegal or immoral, it's just ignorant.

Bevo, your response is perfect. =)

Posted by: Anonymous on March 28, 2007 4:49 PM

I have looked at some of the models/options for this type of service and it seems like they are more on the up than people like to think. Most services offer advertisers the ability to post an "opportunity" to Bloggers who write on certain categories of topics and then the blogger chooses if they wish to make a post. This is much like a PR wire, expect bloggers get paid to post the content. The advertiser gets to seed content they can use and states whether the post needs to be "Positive, Negative or either" if the blogger wishes to make a post then they get paid once it is verified.

It's kind of like paid product placement in movies, TV, etc. or like getting a review in a magazine where a brand is advertising a lot...

Are these magazines prostitutes? This is standard practice in the "holy editorial world" that everyone is trying to say is so legit. Take a look at Midwest living magazine, there is a 6-8 page section every month on Chicago, and you know what they pay for the right to have editorial content written on them, does that make the great content on Chicago not valuable? No, but it ensures that Chicago is seen by their readers.

I agree that this type of model if exploited by the underbelly of the Web will undermine legitimate content, but the world of all of us will police the abusers and make them suffer anyway.

Posted by: Bryan on March 28, 2007 6:07 PM

@Anonymous - Why can't you use your name or website? Anyway, comparing solicitors to PPP is like comparing solicitors to walking into a store. You always have the choice to leave.

@Steve Hall - What I find funny is that I posted an opportunity at Jason's for you guys to come to my site and participate in a discussion about disclosure along with a poll, yet where are you guys? Hiding over here beating the same old horse. A couple of you have dropped bye and said, "Oh, you disclose. sorry". Is that it? I will be the first to admit most paid posts are crap, probably 90%, but some actually would qualify as content. Some bloggers actually attempt to relate it to their lives, as well as make it humorous or interesting and just provide a link to the site.

I'll say the same thing here, come over and let me know what you think about disclosure (on the main page) and give me your thoughts at http://www.shadowscope.com/archives/2007/03/should_paid_posts_be_disclosed.php
As long as you aren't there flaming I see it as being a good place to start a discussion.

Posted by: Richard on March 28, 2007 7:10 PM

Richard. I had never heard of you or your blog before but now that I have I'll check out the conversation. Thanks.

Posted by: Steve Hall on March 28, 2007 7:23 PM

1. I don't recall you mentioning that in the interview

2. A blog post on your company blog consists or a "policy." One might think one of those more legal "check the box to acknowledge I've read the disclosure policy" might be more professional.

3. A badge? Great. Yet another graphic to be place in some obscure place on a blog along with the thousands of other graphics that clog the side columns.

4. True journalism "doesn't fall victim to public relations"? That's a laugh.

6. What exactly do you want me to disclose? I write about advertising? Those things in the right hand column are ads? I eat cereal for breakfast? What's to disclose? I write about advertising.

7. That's laughable. As the creator of this service, you have every responsibility to define it. For publishers who choose to join Google's AdSense program, there are very strict guidelines as to how the program may be implemented. For you to say it's only your responsibility to offer "strong guidance" as to how the program is implemented is sad. Very sad.

The bottom line is you're messing with the purity of editorial and reader trust. Oh sure, most editorial is influenced by PR but there's no money changing hands and that's a big difference.

I'm sure you will have plenty of bloggers using PayPerPost, In fact, there are ad bloggers using the service and that saddens me.

Posted by: Steve Hall on March 28, 2007 9:12 PM

He did mention a couple of times in the video that PPP requires disclosure. That's why Jason and WOMMA are now screaming that it has to be at the TOP of the post. Originally it was just disclosure, now they are moving the target.

Several times Ted has made sure that the bloggers that participate are aware of PPP policy regarding disclosure. If there is no disclosure the posts are not approved, blogger doesn't get paid.

The badge, if used actually has to be placed in the body of the post itself.

I tend to agree with you (Steve) on #7 but the fact is that in any kind of medium advertisers are NEVER ahead of the curve on this because it's not in their best interests to be. They always tend to go only as far as they are forced to. Look at magazines, TV, Auto companies, Cigarette manufacturers, Newspapers, for example. They are no different and never have been. They only disclose as far as they are made to.

Posted by: Richard on March 28, 2007 11:19 PM

I wouldn't disagree, Richard. There's idealism and then there's reality. people will do what they need to do to sell. I can understand that. Tactics will be put iplace as long as they can be. Still, it doesn't make it right.

Posted by: Steve Hall on March 28, 2007 11:41 PM

Self regulation is not second nature to any industry. But, I think there'll be some self-correction over time. The usurpers (advertisers) may not get what they expect for their money. They may end up placing ads instead.

That said, that shifty eyed CEO of PPP shouldn't be getting paid.

Posted by: Gerry on March 30, 2007 4:22 PM

I think the problem that everyone has about PayPerPost is they did not think of the business model first.


I disclose within the body of each sponsored post that it is a sponsored post. This is in addition to any disclosure badge required by the advertiser.

I have a disclosure policy for all my blogs and websites and adhere to the WOM blogging ethics. You may find disclosure policy and blogging ethics links on the top of the sidebar of all my blogs.

Before taking an opportunity to create a post for an advertiser, blogger, service or program, I visit the website. If there is something to be downloaded, a demo to be viewed or a forum to visit, I do it. I have found many useful tools and services through this vetting process.

I do not take an opportunity if I think the advertiser is being unethical or the content of the website is not to my taste or for general viewing.

PayPerPost allows bloggers to flag or ban an advertiser. PPP also has a very active forum in which opportunities and advertisers are discussed.

I am a professional writer and editor and expect to be paid for what I write. I write only what I think and will not sell my soul for a $20 post.

With blogs named Advertising for Success and CoolAdzine for Marketers, what do you think I do for a living? Sell fish or make pottery?

Get over it and get on with some real discourse.

Eileen Trainor aka CyberCelt

Posted by: CyberCelt on March 30, 2007 10:17 PM

I don't see a problem with a blogger deciding to sell links. I don't see that it's at all different from traditional websites sellng links or advertizing space.

As for Payperpost, In my experience they've always been clear about requiring disclosure. I generally do so in a couple of ways, including the 'in post' badge for ppp posts. I also keep a general site-wide disclosure policy. http://blog.peculiarplace.com/disclosure.html

Posted by: A Peculiar Blog on April 1, 2007 4:40 PM

I completely disagree with your statements here about writers for PayPerPost being deceptive. I have a disclosure policy tab right at the top of my page, I categorize my posts for them as "sponsored posts", and I only take opportunity assignments that I can write about as naturally as possible.

The difference between Paid Posts and pop-ups is that someone can choose NOT to read my paid post. There is no choice to view a pop-up or not. And what about people who include Google ads in their RSS feeds? I don't even get a chance to click away before I've been exposed to an actual ad.

If you are going to complain about there not being a difference between content and advertising, then your choices for what to read online are going to be severely limited. It's getting harder these days to find ANY webpage that does not have Adsense, AdBrite, TextLinkAds, BlogHer ads (which I also run), and many other types of "paid sponsorship". What is wrong with me being able to actually control what products I "advertise" by writing a post about them?

And finally, aren't you being hypocritical here? YOU RUN ADS!!! "The above article is a paid advertisement or Adrants promotion." appears right after your post! If you truly believe in separation of content and advertising, then DON'T RUN ADS RIGHT AFTER YOUR CONTENT!!!

Posted by: Elizabeth on April 1, 2007 5:07 PM