Not only is PayPerPost — the company that pays bloggers to write about advertisers — still around, but now it has raised a pile of money to boot, from some gullible VCs. Apparently the founders have decided to ignore all the free advice they got last time around about how they should probably require bloggers to disclose their conflict of interest, but then that probably isn’t surprising given what the founders said back when the subject came up.
In what was a strangely convoluted argument that kind of made my head hurt, the PayPerPost blog argued that forcing people to disclose actually made their posts worse because:
they use disclosure as an excuse to create less compelling content. These are people who just think of the service as “payola” and don’t put much effort into their posts. They will meet the minimum requirements but aren’t necessarily interested in the topic they are writing about.
In other words, it made them worse from a marketing point of view. But the hard part for me is that the posts we’re talking about are payola — although the PayPerPost people would obviously like you to think that all those bloggers chose to receive money for things that they were already going to blog about positively anyway because they just love those products so much, gosh darn it.
Yeah right. And obviously, disclosing that you’re getting paid for something will make it seem less authentic, which will make it resonate less with readers (although it might still give them some Google juice, as Scoble points out). That’s why they don’t want to do it. When it gets right down to it, PayPerPost and its advertisers are counting on their ability to pull one over on blog readers, because that’s the only way their idea has even a chance of actually accomplishing anything.
And it does no good to argue, as Dave Winer does, that lots of so-called “journalism” is full of that kind of payola — including tech reviews, sports reporting and travel writing, to name just a few. That doesn’t make it right.