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Is PayPerPost Trying to Outflank the Blogosphere’s Defenses?

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Crunchnotes notes that high profile blogger "Robert Scoble got sucked into the PayPerPost machine" because he accepted a fee from PayPerPost — a company that pays bloggers to write reviews about products and services — to speak at a conference.

It's a clever strategy on the part of PayPerPost: throw out enough money in enough different ways and all of the sudden everyone is complicit in its activities. Not that its activities are implicitly or necessarily ill-intentioned. As I just commented over at a Deep Jive Interests piece that defends the right of "blue collar" bloggers from making a living:

    I take sort of a middle position here. While I don’t begrudge the blue collars from trying to squeak out a living in the online blog-mines, I’m fearful that services like PayPerPost will help to lower the whole of the blogosphere’s credibility. Like it or not, “blogs” as a whole have a reputation (good, bad, and ugly in the mind of the general public) and if web surfers and searchers sense that paid services have sullied the bloggy waters (via paying writers to write paid editorial without clear disclosure), that can have adverse reaction in terms of traffic, page rank, and the overall health of the blogosphere.

Scoble has since backtracked and says that he will now reject PayPerPost's honorarium but oddly still seems to imply that he will take travel expenses. Talk about ambiguity!

TechCrunch has announced that they have refused to take on PayPerPost as an advertiser with the intention of keeping a "fence" between the likes of PayPerPost and themselves. Just as a point of note, Blogcritics decided against running PayPerPost ads that were offered to us through a third-party service. Not only would it be a strange conflict of interest, but it goes against the grain in terms of our philosophy that money is neither efficient nor valuable compensation that a company can offer to an open pool of bloggers. And that's not taking into account the ethical thicket that PayPerPost writers can get into if they're not super right-sharp in declaring loud and proud about how and why a review came to be.

I'll be curious to see how many blogger luminaries and high profile conferences PayPerPost can lay some money on, and how many well known online media sources will end up running paid ads.

Can PayPerPost buy its way around and through the blogosphere's defenses? I hope not. I'd like to see the hubbub die down and generally go away, but I fear that won't be the case. For now, I'll continue to follow the money.

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  • There are many ethical, moral and common sense decisions that will have to be made as this paid bloggers issue continues. Wal-Mart and that PR firm were attacted, and rightly so, when they created happy shopping bloggers who were paid because the money changed what they would say about Wal-Mart. Why would that not apply for taking money from PayPerPost?

  • Interesting. I am of the belief that bloggers need to develop editorial policies and ethical standards that they can post on the sites. That helps transparency, but I don’t see anything wrong with PayPerPost’s offer. It seems silly that the guy turned it down in order to heighten the sense of his own credibility. Well, bloggers have to eat too. It takes time and revenue of any kind to produce an effective blog. And the reality is that the bloggers are simply facing the same ethical issues that Big Media has known for years. Everyone has some ethical issues, even this site.

  • Thanks for the interesting comments, Bruce and R. I think the real danger lies in scale. If a blogger here and there is getting paid to talk about a new product and not doing a great job of disclosing, that’s one thing. But if 50,000 bloggers are all of the sudden talking up a product and flooding search engine results and news aggregators and so forth, there’s a real danger that the public (and the search engines and aggregators along with it) will turn away from the blogosphere as a source of information, opinion, and commentary.

  • R – Here is the difference.

    It is one thing for bloggers to get paid for good work, which is a principal of capitalism that has worked for centuries.

    It is another for one of the most influential bloggers in the world, who already makes very good money and enjoys terrific perks from his day job, to accept payment for a speech without revealing it originally. Anyone paying Robert is paying for influence and credibility, not just a speech.

    The old media has been atwitter all week discussing the same problem with CNBC uber-business reporter Maria Bartiromo and her accepting favors from Todd Thomson, formerly chief of Citigroup’s wealth management unit. Thomson was fired by Citigroup for poor judgment, including his dealings with Bartiromo.

    Now…as with Robert, you can say it there is nothing wrong with Bartiromo accepting corporate jet rides from Citigroup…on one level…except for this…no reporter, no matter how famous, can get too close to, or accept favors from the people and companies she covers, without problems. Experience has shown how dangerous that is and there is a reason such controls are in place.

    Yes, so Robert accepts a few dollars for a speech. On one level, so what? But on other levels, it matters deeply. His uber-blogger stature means that whatever companies and products he associates with will benefit from being in his orbit.

    George Washington made every mistake a military man can make at least once…he just never made it twice. I think Robert will display the same wisdom and will be more careful about to whom and to what he lends his hard-earned and well-deserved reputation as the world’s number one blogger in the future.

  • Yes, I was also surprised that an influential blogger was willing to take money from such a controversial company as well. It makes sense to me that if you don’t like an organization and what it stands for (as it seems with the case of Scoble and PPP) that it doesn’t look great to accept money from them, even if it’s simply a fee to travel and a honorarium to speak. I guess that’s why he eventually backed off this commitment.

  • The concept of sitting down at the table and boycotting the table are in general the issue at hand according to Scoble. He is going for the opportunity to influence all those ‘blue collar’ bloggers.

    (I happen to be one of those ‘blue collar’ bloggers myself even though I have two bachelor’s degrees and a masters in law, but my reasons are another story. I also happen to be a member of Blogcritics, all though not very active.)

    The US has been attacked for not sitting down and talking with various foreign governments over the last several years from Iraq to the UN to Iran and more.

    Then again many people attacked some orthodox Jewish scholars for attending a Holocaust deniers convention in Iran. Should they have boycotted or should they have gone there to provide a defense?

    The numbers (via rumor) indicate that there are about 10,000 blogs actively using all of the services including PPP, Blogitive, Blogsvertise, LoudLaunch, ReviewMe and the last five the popped up this week.

    Scoble has a chance to go and welcome a number of relatively new bloggers into the fold and give them his perspective. Will PPP benefit from his presence? Yes

    Will all those new bloggers benefit from the wisdom of an established uber blogger like Scoble? Yes

    Will the blogosphere benefit from a number of bloggers getting information raw and direct from Scoble? I think so.

    I will be there myself, paying $200 to attend plus paying my own travel expenses. The event is apparently open to bloggers but not PPP competitors.

    I am not defending nor promoting PPP. They have made some very serious mistakes that have not been covered at all in the blogosphere. They have done a very large amount of gorilla advertising and their name is front and center for the public to consider and typically contrast with ReviewMe, which does not seem to have near the base of ad clients and reviewers, but is widely recognized as somewhat better for requiring disclosures from go.

    Personally, I do not think Scoble can be faulted for going. I suspect that it is somewhat silly to accept the expense money at this point (unless he needs the cash – then fine). I am sure he will earn a lot more from speaking there in controversy and page impressions than he will earn from PPP.

    At the end of the day, that seems to be the key ingredient of the top 100 bloggers. They get into the thick of controversy and stir things up. Sometimes that gets messy, but for me that is the beauty of blogging. Its not something that is written to the standards of The Wall Street Journal but that fine line between Raw, Real, Flavored BS is what makes a blog so entertaining.


    Best Regards,

  • Very interesting Brett, thanks!

    My take is that Scoble should not have taken PPP’s money on both ethical and practical grounds. That he backed out of taking the honorarium *seems* to prove out that I’m right (though many have and will disagree!).

    And I think the rabbis were wrong to attend the Holocaust convention thing in Iran. Showing up to it gave it some small smidge of credibility.