Jeremiah Owyang Inserts Foot In Mouth (Again) Over IZEA Sponsored Posts

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Rarely do I go after individual people on this blog. There have been a few occasions, but I prefer to talk about issues and not people. However, when the errors of a person are so egregiously over the top, I have a need to say something. This was the case over the weekend with Forrester research analyst, Jeremiah Owyang, who decided that he would depart from the typical role of an analyst, where neutrality and objectivity are key in providing unbiased advice, and instead insert himself into a conversation as a subject matter expert on a topic he really knows nothing about.

The topic is paid posting. As you are aware, I am going to be participating in a sponsored post campaign for Sears with Izea shortly. Izea recently did a similar campaign with K-Mart and a number of bloggers, including Chris Brogan participated in that effort. For longevity, here is Chris’ post, posted on his “Daddyblogger” blog.

Jeremiah picked up on this development and decided it needed to be a big issue, asking questions (in his typical braindead question asking style) about the campaign, and insinuating that Chris is not authentic in his post. This is not his role as a research analyst.

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This caused a massive stir on Twitter. My instinctive response, and judging by the response I’d say most people agree, is that Chris is one of the most transparent people on the web today. He exudes leadership qualities, and is highly respected among fans and peers alike. He has a tremendous reputation.

Jeremiah apparently has since had phone conversations with Izea CEO Ted Murphy and Chris Brogan, who serves on the Board of Advisors to “get the facts” about Izea and the campaign and this evening, he has written his own response to the response (lost yet?).

With all the background in place, let me offer my own opinion – less about Izea, and more about Jeremiah. Jeremiah is, as a representative of Forrester Research and in his function as a research analyst, expected to be a thought follower, not a thought leader. That is, his role is not to editorialize, or offer public opinion in such a way that exerts his influence outside of his Forrester client base. His role, in fact, is to analyze data, trends and the consensus of thought leaders in industry (online and offline, but largely online) and distill the data to a bottom line that is relevant to his clients.

Therefore, as someone who is not a part of the paid placements campaigns that Izea is running, his research should be more globally around paid placement/sponsored posts in general and not specifically about Izea. If he found flaws in the business, his advice to his clients might be to not consider using such vehicles. It should never have been about Chris Brogan.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh with Jeremiah. I am sure he’ll tell me if I am, and that’s fine. However, I have no patience for the riot incitement when it comes to one of the most ethical and upstanding men on the internet, and a friend. In this case, Jeremiah had no place asserting himself in a conversation that he had no information on. If you’re not part of the problem, and you’re not part of the solution, then you stay out.

If it’s a question of market research, as it should be for a Forrester Research Analyst, then the proper approach would have been private conversations with both Ted Murphy and Chris Brogan before stirring things up publicly.

If it’s a question of Izea reputation, then as a market analyst, the conversations and advice to Forrester clients should have been held within the confidentiality that I presume is expected between a client and a service provider with the above suggested advisement from those involved (Ted and Chris).

What should never have happened was the allowance of character assassination of Chris based on misunderstood premises and recycled arguments from two years ago.

I also don’t appreciate the condescension toward me when I challenged him on the matter.

@technosailor im listening, but you should call @chrisbrogan and @tedmurphy just as i did on the phone to get full story. Check your facts

For the record, I have spoken to both of them in great detail about this and other topics over the past year. Thanks, Jeremiah.

IZEA, Social Spark and Redemption

Update: This contest is now closed.

IZEA is one of those companies that everyone loves to hate. Why? Well… PayPerPost, the ill concieved program that when launched offered to pay bloggers for reviews of companies and products without disclosure and requiring positive reviews.

Many stories have been written about PayPerPost over the years, most of them negative. Ted Murphy, the CEO of IZEA, is a stand up guy though and adjusted PayPerPost to not require positive reviews and to allow for disclosures. This was better but wasn’t palatable for many bloggers. To his credit, Ted has been very open with me in the past year since I had a memorable conversation with him atop the rooftop bar at the Iron Cactus in Austin Texas for SXSW. We discussed the complications of IZEA programs. He noted that he wanted to provide a way for bloggers, particularly longtail bloggers who might not have direct access to large ad deals or corporate sponsorships, to be able to make a decent amount of money. My argument was that many longtail bloggers are new or inexperienced in the mine fields that are the internet and endorsements and that not enough education was presented around the concept. Bloggers could hurt their reputations or audiences simply lusting after the concept of “cheap money”.

Since that conversation, Ted and I have stayed in touch about new programs such as SocialSpark which seems to take the same principle of making money for bloggers and executing in a wildly different way. While I personally do not plan to jump in on the paid review arena, I would note that I am giving IZEA a chance with a big outreach happening next week. It’s redemption time and I’m putting my neck out for a company I’ve had odds with. However, I believe in the principle of redemption and I also believe that it’s really difficult to come back after making big mistakes. People remember mistakes, not the things done right. I feel like IZEA has started to execute well and that they deserve a chance.

As I said, I am participating in an IZEA/Sears program for the Grant a Wish program. The details of that program, and the benefits to you my readers as well as a Charity during these Holidays will be seen in the days and weeks to come, but considering the history, I wanted to stake my position on IZEA, Social Spark and Ted Murphy today.

Thoughts on PayPerPost – The Only Time I'll Talk About It

A lot has been said about PayPerPost over the past few years and largely, I’ve stayed quiet on the matter. My silence should not be interpreted as acceptance of how the business is setup or “sold” to bloggers. Techcrunch and others have covered the company, the business practice and the impact on the blogosphere ad nauseum. I have no desire to cover the same ground, so this will be the one and only post on the matter. :-)

At SXSW, I spoke in some length with Ted Murphy, CEO of IZEA, the umbrella company that PayPerPost operates under. It was a really great conversation as we relaxed on the rooftop patio at the SXNW party. People watched jealously as we lounged comfortably while everyone stood around trying to talk to other people. :-)

At any rate, Ted expressed that the focus of his company is to provide bloggers with choice. Bloggers want to be able to make money, and we help them do that. For those not aware, PayPerPost pays bloggers to write reviews of companies and products. They no longer require “positive” reviews and now allow for disclosure of paid posts, however in my opinion, the damage is done and not everything is being disclosed from the PPP side.

I’m all about blogger’s choice, and providing opportunities for bloggers to make money. However, these choices and decisions must be made as educated decisions. If bloggers make the decision to use PayPerPost based on an understanding of the ramifications of paid content, then the decision and the consequences are completely on them. However, an offer to make money without ensuring that the blogger knows the consequences of these actions is shady.

Bloggers largely can face three major consequences of using Paid Review services such as PayPerPost: Loss of search indexing, loss of credibility and loss of readers. Not all bloggers will suffer consequences, and not all bloggers will face immediate ramifications. But the potential is there, and this is the context that these decisions should be made in.

Loss of Search Indexing

Some bloggers don’t care, or they simply don’t try to ensure that their blog is listed high in search engines like Google and Yahoo. To many more, ensuring PageRank (whatever it is?), good search engine result positioning (SERPs) is critical for the growth of there blogs. Because PayPerPost largely targets new and longterm bloggers, this search aspect might be foreign or even completely unknown to the blogger. Matt Cutts, the Google Spammer (not spammer as in he spams, but spammer as in he ensures the Google index is free of spam) has already talked quite a bit about Google’s position regarding paid content and links that pass “bought” influence. Whether you agree with him or not, he is the authority on this stuff and bloggers should understand the ramifications of paid content.

Loss of Credibility

Bloggers watch what other bloggers do and they take their cues from them. As you post paid content, the reputation loss that can be had from other bloggers or potential jobs, etc is vast. Anyone who is willing to “sell” their objective judgement for a few bucks is seen as the lowest form of life on the planet.

Loss of Readers

Potentially the biggest immediate impact that bloggers would face is the loss of reputation among readers. They expect you to be something and when you’re not, they’ll head for the hills. Contrary to popular belief, readers are not as loyal as you might think. If they see you using them for monetary gain, they are exponentially more likely to walk away and never come back.

While I have a lot of respect for Ted, my only remaining beef with PPP is that they are not proactively doing what they can to make sure bloggers understand the consequences. Give bloggers a choice, but make sure they understand the consequences. If they decide to press forward with the service, that decision is on them.