Say it ain’t so Mitch! (or, Stay away from Marc Canter, he’s got it all wrong)

This Canadian company that no one has heard about has started hiring a bunch of bloggers to write about their products for $800 a month. It’s up to the writer to disclose they are in on the take. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I hate the idea of sponsors buying the editorial space.

I’m fine with Nike Art of Speed, just like I’m ok with magazine inserts.

I’m also totally cool with people holding contests on their blogs and giving away products that’s just fine.

I love the idea of people having cutting edge, even text-based, advertising on their blogs as long as they are clearly labeled.

Heck, I’m not even so offended when Nick has his writers thank the sponsors each week (although that is a little much, and I don’t know if I could get away with telling my bloggers to do that!).

Bottom line: I’m a capitalist who loves to make money. Now, it’s not the money so much as the fact that the money let’s me pay great writers to build build great brandsthat makes me happy. I understand that most media is advertising based, and I support efforts to make advertising more successful for both the marketers and the reader. We’re doing this ourselves at Weblogs, Inc (you’ll notice we are 15% ads and 85% content, and CNET is 85% ads and 15% contentwe’re trying to be good, not evil).

Now, the problem I do have is when writers get paid for their editorial space, and their voice. Even if you tell the public what is going on, the public has to wonder about everything you write going forward if you’re in on the take. That is why journalists are not endorsing products. It’s really basic stuff in fact.

Take for example my friend Mitch Ratcliffe. I think Mitch is a really smart guy, I love his blog. However, every time I read his work going forward I’m going to have in the back of my head “Oh yeah, he got paid by the Canadian content management software company I wonder how that impacts his views?!!?”

If I was running Silicon Alley Reporter again, or if I was the editor of WIRED or New York Times, I would never hire Mitch to do anything related to server software. If I did hire him to cover that space then I would have to run a really dumb disclaimer at the front: “Full disclosure: Mitch got paid $800 bucks a month to write about this obscure Canadian company’s software.”

Trust me, editors hate that. They would rather not hire you then have to deal with such huge conflicts of interest.

Of course, not everyone is a journalist so this doesn’t apply to everyone.

If Mitch goes and does ten of these deals a year, and makes $5,000 on each deal then he’s got $50,000 in his pocket for “just blogging.” However, every time he goes to write somethingon his blog or somewhere elseeveryone is going to say “wasn’t he paid by IBM, Microsoft, Google, Adobe, JetBlue, Tivo, Diet Dr Pepper, MoveAble Type, Dell and EBAY to write about their products? I wonder how that plays into his opinion about X, Y and Z????”

I think you get my point by now. Selling out like this for the quick buck makes everyone think about you as a sellout for the rest of your life.

Look at Mitch’s last post:

Okay, it’s Thursday and this is the first of my weekly postings thanking Marqui for its sponsorship of this blog. I appreciate that they can get behind the wide-ranging subjects that I talk about and I hope you’ll check out their communications management system for the enterprise, because it would be great to have the checks keep coming.

Sad. Every week jumping through the hoop for spare change come on, really.

What is really stupid about the whole thing is that you could just work hard and get 500,000 page views a month and charge a $8 CPM and make the same kind of money. Of course, that would take months of hard work taking $800 a month for selling out is so much easier.

Come on Mitch, you are so above this pandering. You’re a great writer, and this whole thing is making you look like schmo. I know you’re not a schmo, but this is how you look. I’m your friend, I’m telling you straight: give the money back (or to charity) and keep your dignity.

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