Why PayPerPost, their investors, and their advertisers should be ashamed of themselves.

I just spent an hour on other people’s blogs commenting about their reactions to my PayPerPost thoughts. It hard to have the argument when folks who are getting paid by PayPerPost are doing it out of financial hardship, but I will try.

The key issue here is one of deception. PayPerPost is currently a platform for marketers to do covert and deceptive marketing. Now, you can disclose you are using the platform, but no advertiser has to date (at least according the founders who wouldn’t list ONE advertiser during their interview with Mike Arrington on TalkCrunch).

The fact is no one in the world–NO ONE–wants to be covertly marketed to. Add to that the fact that PayPerPost enables people you consider your friends–or who you thought were your friends–to covertly market to you for profit. That’s really evil in my book.

The fact that the investors and founders of PayPerPost will not take a stand against deceptive marketing shows what a horrible idea this is. They could easily make their process transparent. If they are so proud of what they’ve created (and invested in) why not list every advertiser, advertising campaign, participating blogger, and their blog posts on the PayPerPost site? I think you know the answer to that question: they would lose 99% of their advertisers. What advertiser wants to look so desperate that they have to PAY PEOPLE to COVERTLY write about them.

The best products and services in the world get written about because.. ummmm… they are the best products and services in the world. What about the average and bad products in the world you ask? Well, they either get better or they go away. No amount of marketing–covert or transparent–is gonna make people think a bad product is good.

Now, I wouldn’t have half the problem–in fact I would have not problem–with PayPerPost if they did the following:

1. Made a transparent marketplace as I’ve described above.

2. Forced bloggers to start each PAID post with a disclaimer saying “I’ve been paid to write the following blog post by INSERT-ADVERTISER-NAME-HERE as part of a PayPerPost campaign. For more information on PPP and this advertiser click here.

Until PayPerPost takes a stand on deception and disclosure they, their bloggers, their investors, and their advertisers should be ostracized by the blogosphere. We should out the covert advertisers and bloggers and explain to them the mistake they are making.

I’m all for innovation in advertising and blogging, but I’m 100% against deception.

We didn’t build the blogosphere to be a playground for deceptive marketers. We built the blogosphere as a place for people to share their thoughts honestly and transparently. We built it as an alternative to the shortcomings of the one-way nature of MSM (mainstream media). In fact, the currency of blogging is authenticity, and for my money the opposite of authenticity is deception.

Hold the line everyone… we’re better than this and we should not give up this beautiful city that we’ve built just so some VCs can make a quick buck. There is NOTHING innovative about deception.

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PS – Are there any lawyers out there who can speak to the legal issues around covert and deceptive marketing in other mediums?

Update 1: Peter Wright, Director of Software Development for PPP, deflects the very serious issue in a comment below. Peter: Let’s have a real dialogue about this–it’s important.

Update 2: PayPerPost’s desperate advertisers are already being outed. PayPerPost should just end this issue and force transparency on their system. Will their system work with transparency? Well, the current advertisers–the ones who many folks think are doing it to game Google and Technorati–will run for the hills. As many folks are saying, $10 for an inbound link is $150/$250 less than SEO companies charge. PPP would have to do a LOT of hard work to make their model work transparently… however, I know exactly how to do it.