It seems from all the posts that Microsoft made a huge blunder by trying to pay folks off with free Ferrari laptops running Vista. Everyone in the blogosphere is trying to figure this out, but Peter, Brian and I figured it out day one at Weblogs, Inc: WE DO NOT ACCEPT BRIBES. Period, end of story. You want to be respected you pay your own way in life, and you don’t take payola. That’s it, there is nothing to discuss.
Any free product or service is a bribe, with very few exceptions. It’s wrong, and bloggers are simply new to the space and they don’t know what to make of this very, very obvious situation. I don’t blame bloggers, for most this is their first time as “media people,” and their going to make mistakes and learn things the hard way. The bloggers who go down the road of free products will learn, over time, that their credibility takes a hit. In some cases folks might get away with it, but in the long term most folks will get caught and their reputations will suffer.
At the end of the day your reputation is all you have, and life is too short to blow it on some free stuff. As I told my team, better we stay in $99 a night motels and fly coach than take people’s money for a junket and have people think we’re in their pocket (note: Microsoft likes to fly bloggers around as well–something I think is low rent as well).
Nice people make mistakes all the time. PayPerPost was a horrible, evil, and stupid idea by what seems to be a naive group of kids (at least by their really silly and self-absorbed reality show). On a side note, if I was their VC’s and they wasted my money–and their time–on doing a reality show I would kill them. Literally.
The PayPerPost folks got their beat up by bloggers, Google, and the FTC before it finally sunk in: covert marketing is very, very bad. Nobody likes to be deceived. So, nice people I’m sure, but really, really clueless and it took a lot for them to finally require basic disclosure (note: I think their disclosure policy is still a joke. I think they should be forced to put “This is a paid post” at the top of every single post. However, I’m not going to give them any more attention because it’s very obvious that they are going to fail based on the low-rent advertisers and unknown bloggers they are drawing to their site).
So, I give the PayPerPost folks no credit–zero–for getting to the ethical baseline we all live our lives by (i.e. not lying to people). PayPerPost has stopped pissing in our well, forgive me if I don’t say thank you.
Anyway, back to receiving free products. Free products are not cool, except in very few circumstances where the product has little value and can’t be returned (i.e. a free movie screening, but not a free vacation). For items with real value, like say a $3,000 laptop, you only need to look at the New York Times code of ethics to know what to do:
- Returning Borrowed Equipment
76. Staff members who borrow equipment, vehicles or other goods for evaluation or review must return them as soon as possible. Similarly, items borrowed to be photographed, such as fashion apparel or home furnishings, should be returned promptly.
There you have it folks. You don’t accept free products, and if you need a product for review you give it back as quick as you can. If for some reason they don’t accept it back you can give it away (but not to your spouse or something).
Note: For the idiots who say “you paid bloggers to post, why are you complaining that PayPerPost is paying people” let me explain one last time so your very, very small brains can have a chance of understanding this: we paid people to blog but didn’t tell them what to blog about. That is called church and state, or the Chinese Wall, in journalism, and it referrers to the fact that editorial and advertising are completely separate. Yes, we paid people to blog on Engadget and TVSquad, but we never tell them what to blog or how to do. That is the difference between PayPerPost and real journalism or ethical blogging. At PayPerPost you HAVE TO blog about the thing they are telling you to blog about, and in most cases you have to say something positive (hello!??!).