The Ethics of Pay Per Post
Suppose you ask me to write something nice about your company. I do it and you give me a $10 bill. If I work for you, then it’s a paycheck. If I don’t work for you, then it’s Pay Per Post and that’s a whole different bowl of noodles. . . or is it?
If I disclose the fact that you paid me the money to write the post as required by the FTC, then I’m in good shape, right? But if I disclose the fact that you paid me, maybe the value of the post decreases because now people aren’t sure that I told the truth.
A few weeks ago, a mommy-blogger was outraged by a proposal from a marketing company that offered to pay her if she wrote nice things about a big name brand who was having an image problem. I can’t be any more specific about the incident because I’ve since found out that the the entire affair was drummed up by an industrious wannabe PR pro and was never sanctioned by the company. Still, it brings up an interesting point. How is asking a blogger to write something nice about a company for pay any different than offering a blogger a free product in return for a review?
You could say that a review requires an honest opinion, which could be good or bad. But what if I agree with the positive statements I’m asked to write? If I believe that, despite recent reports to the contrary, ABC Inc. makes the safest product in its category, is it wrong to say so and get paid? What if I write it and ABC pays me afterwards as a thank you, then do I have to disclose it?
Many years ago, I tried one of the Pay Per Post companies, wrote the required text and was quickly dinged by Google who dropped my page rank two points. I was devastated. If that happened today, I wouldn’t care. Page rank is passe. But I do care if people think I’m a shill, writing half-truths about window blinds in order to make $6.00. In the spirit of full disclosure, I do occasionally Tweet for pay but I’m selective about which offers I put through.
The question here is about drawing the line or if there even should be a line? It’s my blog and if you want to pay me to write something and I agree to do it, then are we all good?
KMart announced today that they’re looking for gamer bloggers to send to the E3 convention. It’s all expenses paid, travel, accommodations and entrance to the show and in return all they ask is that the bloggers write about the experience and post links to KMart’s gamer blog (who knew KMart was so big with gamers?). Is that the ultimate in Pay Per Post or what? A several thousand dollar trip to video game heaven? Sure beats a $10 Starbucks card as thanks, doesn’t it?
This is where you come in. What are your thoughts on Pay Per Post? Have you ever paid a blogger to write about your company? I’d like to hear about your experience and where you think companies should draw the line.