WOMMA, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, has joined a growing list of bloggers and online organizations taking a stance against PayPerPost. WOMMA’s members include a host of venerable companies such as Yahoo!, Wells Fargo, Sprint, and Coca Cola. PayPerPost is a DFJ and Village Ventures backed startup that allows advertisers to pay bloggers to positively review their products.
A Question of Ethics
The ethical issue is that PayPerPost does not enforce any disclosure policy. With 15,500 bloggers already compensated, there is no longer much guarantee that a personal online endorsement you read on the internet is purely and honestly motivated.
Web 2.0’s Red-Headed Stepchild
From it’s inception, PayPerPost has aroused the ire of established bloggers. Consider Jason Calicanis’ coverage, PayPerPost: Stupid and Evil. In the TalkCrunch Podcast, PayPerPost Raises $3 Million, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch and Rob Hof of Business Week body slam PayPerPost, pressing PayPerPost CEO Ted Murphy and venture backer Josh Stein against the ropes in this live debate.
The FTC Steps In
In December, the Federal Trade Commission stepped in to announce that online Word-of-Mouth marketers must give full disclosure in blog posts. PayPerPost’s respose was to give bloggers a sidebar badge. Clicking the badge reveals a boilerplate disclosure policy with a link to http://www.disclosurepolicy.org/. And who owns disclosurepolicy.org? You guessed it. PayPerPost.
The LA Times Steps In
The Los Angeles Times joined the party on March 9 with their story, Blogging For Dollars Raises Question of Online Ethics. In the article, they cite a paid blogger called SimpleKindofLife, saying…
“During the past six months, Colleen Caldwell has blogged herself into a new set of dishes, a weeklong vacation in North Carolina and a good chunk of her family’s Christmas presents …”
Not a bad way to make a living. The blogger’s disclosure is this small sidebar badge, nestled amongst a quilt of sidebar ads and buttons…
John Chow, my hero, now dilutes his blog with paid reviews
Meanwhile, JohnChow.com, a blog I read every day, has rapidly develoved into a flurry of paid reviewme posts. This is coupled with Chow’s amazingly successful ongoing cynical bid to linkbait his way into the Technorati Top 100. I’ve been very dismayed to watch my favorite blog cluttered up with paid reviews I have no interest in reading. But to John Chow’s credit, at least he is very open in his disclosure, blogging about earning over $7,000 on JohnChow.com in February.