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.