I am not one to jump on the latest topic that everyone is talking about but this is one that really interests me. Every six months to a year the debate about paid posting comes up again and the usual arguments break out. This time though there is a Forrester report that backs paying bloggers to write content about your company. Jeremiah Owyang got the ball rolling with his post the other day that which was responded to on Read Write Web. The next day Matt Cutts shared the position of Google when it comes to paid blogging. Ted Murphy, from Izea the owners of Pay Per Post, quickly responded to Matt in an Open Letter to Matt Cutts. (I feel like I am in high school giving the details of a fight between multiple cheerleaders.)
Personally I have never been a fan of paid posting in general. I feel that once you sell out your voice that you lose your credibility. Sure you can post disclaimers on your site, you can tell people that it is a paid posting, and you can have tons of other content on your site but personally I just feel that it is cheap. Even if you are looking at an area that you cover I just feel that it is a contrived post and rarely honest. Forrester has tried to class this process up by labeling it “sponsored conversations” but really payola is payola. When you are getting paid to write about a company your honest opinion isn’t going to come out and what you are doing is less then genuine.
There have been a lot of points that have been brought up and I wanted to go over a few with my opinion on them.
1) How is paid posting any different than TechCrunch, RWW, Gakwer, and other large blogs passing on page rank when they write a post thanking their sponsors or having sponsors write posts that pass on page rank?
It isn’t any different and they should suffer the consequences of having paid posts on their site as well. Lets be clear, just because you have a company paying a ton of money to advertise on your site it doesn’t make it okay to write a thank you post and pass on page rank. Sure it isn’t a review or an advertorial but it is close enough to it. There is always a little blurb about at that companies product or service and it is never critical. How is that different from some WAHM writing a glowing review of a swiffer that she probably has never used?
2) The average person doesn’t know how to insert no follow links. Why should they be punished? And if they are punished how to do they get help?
Chris Brogan broached this subject in Matt’s blog. I feel that Chris is making a valid point but whenever you start doing something for money shouldn’t you examine all the repercussions of it? Not understanding how to do a “no follow” link and asking for Google’s mercy is akin to me starting a business and not understanding how to pay taxes on the business. I am not an accountant so why would I know this stuff? That answer wouldn’t fly with the IRS. Why should not knowing how to code a “no follow” link be any different with Google? Just because you don’t know how doesn’t mean you should not have done the proper research. I agree that having to add a “no follow” code to a link isn’t common knowledge for most people. But soon as money enters the equation it changes the situation and what to expect out of both parties.
3) Why are so many people against paid posting? It is a good way for smaller bloggers to make money.
You know what I agree. If you want to make a few extra bucks a week through blogging and don’t have a large audience to generate revenue through display ads than do paid posting. However in doing so you shouldn’t be looked at the same by Google for that. Google isn’t the end all and be all. If you can accept that your site will not be looked at the same way than go for it. But not expect to be treated the same way for the choices that you make.
Personally if I see a site with a disclaimer and a lot of paid posting content I probably will never come back to the that site again. Automatically I discount what they have to say because I know their voice can be bought. When you sell out your voice I know your opinion can probably be bought as well.
How do you feel about paid posting?