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July 01, 2006

Spam, the final frontier: PayPerPost

You've heard of comment spam, but get ready for a brave new world of sleaze. Ted Murphy's PayPerPost is a new automated service that pays bloggers to tout products on their blogs, typically without disclosure:

Murphy is launching PayPerPost.com, which will automate such hookups between advertisers and bloggers and thus codify a new frontier of product placement. Advertisers pay to post details about their "opportunity," specifying, among other things, how they want bloggers to write about, say, a new shoe, if they want photos to be included, and whether they'll pay only for positive mentions. Bloggers who abide by the rules get paid; heavily trafficked blogs may command premium rates. Those seeking to subvert PayPerPost from within can't: No pornographic or "illicit" content is accepted. [Business Week]

According the article, PayPerPost evolved from Murphy's earlier venture, BlogStar Network, which he founded in 2004, and apparently fused with MindComet in 2005.

PayPerPost claims that it's an opportunity for honest bloggers to make money of stuff they're writing about anyway. That's right. Generous PPP will give you five whole dollars to post 30-50 words about the fascinating products and services that keep the trackback Spam industry in clover (dating services, debt relief, balloon mortgages...).

In other words, PayPerPost is offering bloggers $5 per glorified link. God knows how much PPP is charging its credulous clients for the privilege.

Marketing blogger James Durbin doesn't mince words:

The system Ted [Murphy] has set up, in fact, is geared towards shills who will make very little money lying about products to make a little more. Anyone with high levels of traffic who accepts this money will quickly be found out and labeled a pariah. It's destined to be a low-budget, microblogger scam.

I take comfort in the fact that the PayPerPost business model is so wretched that it will burn everyone involved. Companies who pay five bucks a pop for a couple sentences on a random blog are stupid.

From what I can tell PPP will pay anyone with a blog, irrespective of traffic. So, they're probably already spawning Astroturf Spam blogs--link farms that exist solely to house unread 30-50 word blurbs on spring break meccas that the spammer has never been to.

I'm embarassed to see that Carbonfund.org* is already signed up to recruit bloggers on PayPerPost. I wonder how long it will be before PayPerPost gets its first political candidate as a customer.

[*Developing: Here's the link to PayPerPosts' current "Opportunities" page that lists Carbonfund.org.

According to this comment by Ramsey Huntley of CarbonFund.org, their organization did not authorize PPP to recruit bloggers to post about their organization and they are asking to have the reference to their organization removed.

Update 2: I've exchanged email with Ramsey Huntley and he confirms that CarbonFund.org did not give PayPerPost permission to offer bloggers money in exchange for posts. I've also contacted PayPerPost to get their side of the story, but I haven't heard back from them yet. I'll write a follow-up piece on this issue once I've heard from PayPerPost.]

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Comments

I don't see what's wrong with shilling goods and services in which your readers are interested, like HOTTT!!! SEXUALYaEXPLISIT!! porn sites or HUmuNGOSS COCK "RIP her APArT!!" penis growth pills. Humiliation and degradation of certain groups of individuals are staples of both pornography and politics, so what's the big deal?

Okay, I demand five bucks from each spam industry for this post.

I actually restarted my blog in order to get free passes to a screening of Serenity. (But, hey--Serenity.) But I disclosed the payola, so I don't feel bad about selling out. Also, it was Serenity.

But I remember the PR people who tried to enlist bloggers were slammed for being fairly ham-handed about the whole thing; rather than just giving free passes to people with blogs, they attached strings (you had to link to the movie website, and you were supposed to write about the movie afterwards) that were no more than what just about everyone would have done anyway, except by stipulating them in advance they made the whole thing seem a little more sordid than it really should have been.

Uhh, let's see... Isn't the reason I read blogs precisely because I don't get commercials spewed at me?
A blogger could play a trick on the pay per post folks something like that Goya painting of the Spanish royal family which depicts their faces as grotesques. Similarly, I remember a coffee commercial years ago that featured a testimonial by a “housewife” about how the coffee made hubby all happy. The actress, incredibly, managed to play the scene straight, yet simultaneously made it clear that hubby could choke on the damned coffee for all she cared. The fact that Goya was not whipped or the coffee commercial scuttled underscored the blind arrogance of the people that commissioned the work.

I want to clarify the reference made in your post about our organization that suggests we recruit bloggers to write about us. We do not.

The first we’d heard of PayPerPost was through your blog. Carbonfund.org has not signed up with PayPerPost and, as a non-blogger, I can’t say I get what they do. (If you look at our website you’ll see we are mere novices in the blog arena with two posts.)

We are asking to have the link and reference to our organization removed. Rest assured, our non-profit mission is carbon offsets, global warming reduction and protecting this little blue speck we call home.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Ramsay Huntley
Carbonfund.org

This sort of thing really ticks me off. When I get this hot about something the only thing to do is kick back with a refreshing Diet Coke (TM). Ahhhh, that's refreshing.

>Similarly, I remember a coffee commercial years ago that featured a testimonial by a “housewife” about how the coffee made hubby all happy.

Wasn't that the Firesign Theatre?

Rrrgh!

"What I'd really like right now are some Do-ree-tos." - Survivor, 3rd Season

"I can't believe my parents bought me a brand new Murano! Aren't the headlights cool?" - Everwood

"Snapple?" - Seinfeld

"Napoleon sure did let me down. But you know what never lets me down? A nice, hot cup of British East India Tea! (TM)" - Honore de Balzac

It's inevitable, though; politicians pay people to blog the way they like, a la Maggie Gallagher, and presumably, others. That leaves only two options: either take the money from other causes, leaving oneself open to the same charges, or take the high road, while leaving a low road still open.

Well, if politicians can do it, why not bloggers?

I'm waiting for someone to pay me not to write something.

coming from my profession, musician who plays jingles (or, jingle whore), i can cast no aspersions on people for selling out. all i can say is, five bucks isn't enough. also i recommend taking time to brush the teeth between clients. it just is somehow nicer that way.

Mr. Huntley, please email me. I'd like to discuss this story with you at greater length. I added a link to your comment in the post above. I also emailed PayPerPost to ask them for clarification.

Lindsey, I hope you remember to collect your 10 bucks -- ppp is offering a promo for mentioning its site...

Kristjan, that is too funny. Arnold doing product placement. A new wrinkle.

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