// Internet Duct Tape

Hey Bloggers, PayPerPost is Illegal

Posted in Technology, Web 2.0 Blogging by engtech on December 13, 2006

Matthew Ingram and Tony Hung go into it in more detail, but the FCC FTC has made a ruling on schemes (like PayPerPost) where bloggers get paid to review products without having to disclose the agreement. Quote: “such marketing could be deceptive if consumers were more likely to trust the product’s endorser “based on their assumed independence from the marketer.”

Raised concerns about a specific type of amplified word-of-mouth marketing, specifically the practice of marketers paying a consumer (the “sponsored consumer”) to distribute a message to other consumers without disclosing the nature of the sponsored consumer’s relationship with the marketer.

We are at the crossroad of determining what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour on the “social” Internet. There’s been a few snafus lately with major corporations and astroturfing (word-of-mouth marketing gone bad). Notably the Walmart story a few months ago, but in just the past few days there has been a fake Playstation 3 blog / viral marketing campaign was revealed.

If bloggers try to do paid reviews via a more ethical / legal service like reviewme.com, they may still be penalized by search engines (more recent) [1]. Search engines like Google use links heavily in their algorithm to determine the top results, and companies have been trying to use sites like PayPerPost and Reviewme.com to buy links and increase their position. Being in the top three results on Google for a search term can make or break a business.

I find the subject interesting because I have participated in word-of-mouth-marketing campaigns for Nokia, O’Reilly and Wiley (free products if I write about them — always disclosed.)

[1] Avoid the search engine penalty by using rel=”nofollow” on the links for paid reviews.

15 Responses

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  1. Mark Goldberg said, on December 13, 2006 at 10:47 pm

    Note: It is the FTC, not the FCC. The FTC is the Federal Trade Commission. The FCC, Federal Communications Commission, has not exerted authority over internet content on the basis of it being an information service.

  2. engtech said, on December 13, 2006 at 11:43 pm

    Thanks Mark. That’s what I get for posting late at night.

  3. Danielle said, on December 14, 2006 at 2:26 am

    Interesting find! However, I did a little more research on it, and it appears that it is not part of the law YET. It’s still in the petition stages. It’ll probably another several months before anything passes, but PayPerPost would be wise to require disclosure in the mean time.

  4. [...] I think Engtech may have wires crossed on this (emphasis mine): If bloggers try to do paid reviews via a more ethical / legal service like reviewme.com, they may still be penalized by search engines (more recent)[1]. Search engines like Google use links heavily in their algorithm to determine the top results, and companies have been trying to use sites like PayPerPost and Reviewme.com to buy links and increase their position. [...]

  5. engtech said, on December 14, 2006 at 9:31 am

    response to: http://www.makeyougohmm.com/20061213/4045/

    The 2005 link was the most explicit one I found. What actually prompted my post was Matt Cutts in a message board Dec 9th 2006:

    http://www.seomoz.org/blogdetail.php?ID=1576&jump_to_comment=13001

    “Google wants to do a good job of detecting paid links. Paid links that affect search engines (whether paid text links or a paid review) can cause a site to lose trust in Google.”

    Discussion:

    http://www.calacanis.com/2006/12/11/use-payperpost-get-you-blog-bounced-from-google/

    http://labnol.blogspot.com/2006/12/stop-writing-reviews-for-money-or-face.html

    My take on it too is that you’re fine as long as your pointing to related content and not spam. It’s all about what neighbourhood you’re playing in. Point to the wrong people and it can hurt you more than any $$$ benefit.

  6. silveira said, on December 15, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    Why people can’t profite in wordpress?

  7. PayperPost is bad, mmkay? « Web.Impact said, on December 15, 2006 at 7:18 pm

    [...] Engtech’s post title includes the word ‘illegal’ — but nothing is set in stone yet. It’s just bad. [...]

  8. engtech said, on December 15, 2006 at 7:25 pm

    It’s against the wordpress terms of service.

    They’re giving away free blogs, they don’t want people to profit from it.

    Go to blogger or run your own wordpress install if that’s a problem.

  9. timethief said, on December 15, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    Alleluia! I’m delighted to hear the pay-for-click parasites are being given the boot.

  10. joeduck said, on December 19, 2006 at 1:04 am

    Disclaimer: Because I’m willing to take $1000 from anybody who is foolish enough to pay me to quote this post, I may be breaking the law.

    Like many bloggers who do NOT do Pay Per Post I cringe at the concept … but then I also realize that TechCrunch, Engadget, Battellemedia, not to mention the web at large, are all literally built around the concept of getting paid to let advertisers appear around quality content – content that is often about the very advertisers the FCC is (correctly) worried about having inappropriate influence.

    The notion that authors can completely extract themselves from advertising influence is as absurd as it is pervasive. People see it in others but not themselves. Posting disclaimers is fine but it’s not enough.

    I suggest a sort of “ombudsman” board of high level bloggers who will handle complaints and a clear set of ethics guidelines, all run on a single blog open to the community.

    Ummmm – gee, could we fund THAT blog with ads?

  11. ching07 said, on February 03, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    thanks for the info , i never thought payperpost is a scam.im almost get to join there.

  12. drmike said, on February 03, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    Just for reference, PayPerPost requires discloser that you are being paid for a post.

  13. engtech said, on February 05, 2007 at 3:20 am

    Now they do :)

    They made that change after the FTC ruling. Even then, they only require you to mention it somewhere on your blog, not on the paid post.

    But that looks like it is changing in the future.

  14. [...] reveals all manner of opinion about Pay-Per-Post. Some love it. Some hate it. Some think it is illegal. Still others say that PPP has experienced a kind of redemption. As for me, I’m just not [...]

  15. [...] I did get paid from payperpost twice, $15 for a referral and $5 something for a post that I made. According to Engtech, “Hey Bloggers, PayPerPost is Illegal” [...]


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