PPP: PayPerPost Perhaps Controversial, But Not Evil
For the as-yet-uninformed, PayPerPost
(PPP) is a consumer generated advertising platform. Essentially, advertisers and publishers open up "opportunities" to bloggers, who then choose
to respond to those opportunities in exchange for cash (or, in what seems to be a little-known but important point, the blogger can donate the payment to the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, or other organizations).
In a recent TechCrunch post announcing PPP's $3M in VC funds
, PPP is called "controversial." According to Michael Arrington, "The key area of controversy is the fact that advertisers can mandate that posts be positive on the product, and disclosure of payment is optional for the blogger." Both these things are true. Neither of these things make PPP inherently evil.
In fact, PPP specifically puts the responsibility for evil squarely on the advertiser, publisher, or blogger.
Advertisers mandating positive reviews is nothing new. I used to write product reviews for a CNET in the pre-blog years, and at the time (late 90s) it was generally understood that my $300 paycheck for a review was contingent upon the review being published, and in order for the review to be published it had to pass muster by the company, which was really an advertiser. A company would pay CNet to review their product, CNet would pay me (and a zillion others), and so it goes.
I will say I was honestly surprised at the number of PPP opportunities which were designated +/-, that is positive or negative or neutral. Not all advertisers mandate a positive review.
Bloggers, for that matter, don't have to take opportunities which require positive reviews. This is where the responsibility for one's own slimeballness comes into play. I can safely say that I will never take an opportunity that calls for a positive review if I do not have something positive to say. I can also safely say that I will never take an opportunity and talk about something or participate in buzz for something if I don't know anything about it. I will also always disclose which posts are PPP posts by putting "PPP" in the title and labelling it as such in the body. That way, readers can skip over something which, by the sheer nature of being a paid-for post, might offend their sensibilities.
I don't believe these actions make me a slimeball; I retain my integrity, have something to write about, advertisers get something for their money, readers can skip the post if they want, and everyone wins.
Of course there will be bloggers who do nothing but take every PPP opportunity they can, and who will intersperse their PPP posts within the minimum number of non-PPP posts (PPP posts cannot appear consecutively on a blog, and a blogger cannot blog more than three PPP posts in any given day). PPP puts restrictions on their bloggers so as to reduce the chance that a blogger will become a splogger.
If a blogger goes over to the dark side and becomes a splogger, that is not PayPerPost's responsibility. In the TechCrunch article, Arrington says that one of the investors, Josh Stein at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, "seems excited about the potential profitability of the company while downplaying the ethical issues raised by this and other blogs—the market will sort things out, he says." I agree. If bloggers become sploggers, I think advertisers will stop paying for the posts of those particular bloggers because their review/buzz/etc will be tainted.
The only difference between PayPerPost as a platform and an Amazon Affiliate link is the money: dollars instead of pennies. The Amazon Affiliates network has been around for ages; I've been collecting checks from them for 5+ years now. The biggest difference between PayPerPost as a blog advertising
network and something like Google's AdSense or the BlogAds Network is (besides, again, dollars versus pennies) the control
bloggers now have over what appears on their blogs. Do not underestimate the value of that control.
The last thing I have to say is this: if PayPerPost is evil simply because it provides a platform for people to exercise choices which might good (advertising what you believe in or have thought about, and disclosing that you are doing so) or might be evil (advertising simply for whatever pays you to do so, and/or not mentioning you're being paid for it), then a huge chunk of the internet is evil. Guns don't kill people, people kill people, and all that.