GNC reader and blogger Karoli posted a comment to my PayPerPost article, and expanded on her blog, justifiably calling me to task on how I expressed myself in the article. I made repeated reference to PayPerPost in the article using a noun as a verb. My intent was to discuss the larger impact of undisclosed advertising in blog posts and used PayPerPost as a euphemism for that (which given the second paragraph of my post is quite ironic). Doing so detracted from the clarity of the message I was trying to give and also unfairly degraded a companies trademark. As Karoli put it
“It’s clearly disingenuous to write a post dissing someone’s site based on nondisclosure when disclosure is REQUIRED.”
So let me correct the misrepresentation of Izea’s product, and then give a few clarifying points on my opinion that will hopefully renew Karoli’s faith in my objectivity.
The PayPerPost site has a clear code of ethics that requires disclosure and backs that up with potential redress in the terms registration agreement. Bloggers can be banned for failing to disclose. The proof will be in whether this ever gets enforced, but Izea has listened to the feedback and made changes to its business model in response, which is commendable.
Now to clarify my main point, I am definitely pro bloggers getting paid (Todd pays me to post here) and I am definitely pro advertising and very supportive of interstitials(advertising embedded in content) as long as they are fully disclosed and obvious as ads. There are lots of bad marketing practices used and they actually detract from the utility that advertising could provide. To completely disguise advertising as content or opinion is to lie to your audience/customers. Doing so will likely cause the individual(s) who engage on that practice more harm than the long term than they gain in short term benefit.
While Izea has taken steps to change their business model they are not the only ones out there, and there are many that sell paid blog posts without requiring disclosure Blogitive, Smorty, Blogsvertise to name three and some examples of dodgy advertising practices from Ron Paul and paid forum posts. And this is the organised companies, there are also advertisers directly approaching blogs with deals directly. This has little effect in small quantities but a few scandals could hurt the blogging community.
The only place the word “evil” occurs in my post is in quoting Mark Hopkin’s ironically intended title of the post I linked to. There is nothing evil about undisclosed advertising itself, it is only a tool and like all tools the morality comes from the use it is put to. I do not even have an opinion of the morality of a bloggers posting undisclosed ads as opinion, that judgment is up to the blogger themselves. My point is that actions have consequences and that:
- without being aware of what those consequences can be
- ignoring long term consequences over short term gain
- or ignoring the impact on others of our actions in preference for personal gain
is likely to either hurt the individual blogger or hurt the community that allows them to be in the game in the first place.