Is it true that there’s no such thing as bad publicity? I’ve always wondered about that — I’ll bet whoever owned Tylenol didn’t think so after it poisoned a bunch of people way back when (now I’m dating myself). In any case, Ted Murphy and PayPerPost.com have certainly been testing that motto today. It all started with an article in BusinessWeek by media writer Jon Fine about Ted’s new venture, which involves bloggers getting paid to make positive posts about companies.
Then Marshall Kirkpatrick posted about it on TechCrunch, saying it entices bloggers to “sell their soul,” and all hell broke loose. My pal Scott Karp got his knickers in a royal twist over the idea, saying that the whole concept of blogging has “now been starkly divided into the pre-PayPerPost era and the post-PayPerPost era” and that blogging has “been irrevocably tainted” (Scott has since followed up with a more thoughtful post).
Pete Cashmore of Mashable says that PayPerPost is “a terrible, terrible idea and totally unethical,” and Shel Israel says on Naked Conversations that he hopes this “nasty, cynical, ugly idea crashes and burns quickly.” Should be a fun time at the blogger dinner that Ted Murphy is co-hosting with Jeremiah Owyang and Shel in a couple of weeks, since Shel effectively calls him the devil.
And I thought some of the stuff that has been written about Jason Calacanis was bad. Ted Murphy must be wondering what he did to deserve all this, and to his credit he appears to have responded on several blogs in an attempt to do some damage control. Is PayPerPost the end of blogging as we know it, or a disaster that ruins the credibility of every blogger? Hardly.
Yes, it is kind of dumb, especially since there is no requirement for the blogger to mention that he is being compensated for his posts. But I think the comparison to the mainstream press is a good one — everyone knows there are publications that get paid for their content, and people take them less seriously. Credibility is won a post at a time. PayPerPost doesn’t change that — it just makes it more obvious.
And for what it’s worth, I think slamming Ted Murphy is kind of an immature response. Don’t like his company or his idea? Fine. But suggesting that he’s the devil is taking things a wee bit too far for my liking. Rob Hyndman and Mark Evans also have some thoughtful responses to the whole brouhaha.