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PayPerPost VC Defends Ethics of Paid Blogging 96

Posted by kdawson
from the there-goes-the-least-common-denominator dept.
An anonymous reader writes "PayPerPost venture capitalist and board member Dan Rua defends the ethics of paid editorials. He claims PayPerPost is 'good for the internet' and is not simply blackhat SEO. Rua states that PayPerPost has blown past its milestone of 15,500 bloggers, and is earning hundreds of thousands in monthly revenue. He describes PayPerPost's most viral product yet — ReviewMyPost — which pays people to link to paid posts. The LA Times accuses PayPerPost of paying bloggers to make up fictional testimonials. For instance, the Times reports that a law firm is using PayPerPost to pay bloggers to write that a certain birth control patch is killing and injuring young women. Rua does not deny these claims, but simply states they are the exception and not the rule. How long before the FTC follows through on their promise to enforce blogger disclosure?"
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PayPerPost VC Defends Ethics of Paid Blogging

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  • by andy314159pi (787550) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @06:47PM (#18508917) Journal
    I'm going to put on my Andy Rooney hat and say "you ever notice that people don't make money pressing widgets anymore? In my day, we mostly made money by manufacturing. Now we make money by blogging make believe opinions on the internet."
  • Yeah (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "How long before the FTC follows through on their promise to enforce blogger disclosure?"

    About as long as it takes these guys to get a clue:
    http://eefoof.com/image/9932 [eefoof.com]
  • LaLa Girl (Score:3, Informative)

    by shark72 (702619) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @06:50PM (#18508951)
    LaLa Girl, who was profiled in the LA Times article, has her blog here [paulnlaura.com].
  • by GFree (853379) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @06:50PM (#18508957)
    Paid bloggers are almost as trustworthy as, I dunno, fake critics from even larger corporations. [wikipedia.org].
    • by hguorbray (967940)
      Yes,

      We can TRUST a VC investor who is anxious to pump and dump this chump company which is another corporate attempt to subvert yet another populist grassroots form of expression into more astroturf for hungry advertisers seeking 'penetration' and to bypass traditional avenues.

      Next thing you know we won't even be able to play our home videos or our home recorded songs on our own Computers!!! -Oh wait...I think Vista/Zune does that.

      Coming soon -Soylent Green -made by people for people, out of people. How doe
    • Blogging Critic Les Whyneing was heard to say "Those who criticize paid Blogs could be encouraged to do more thinking and Less Whining!"
      • Re:oh rly? (Score:4, Informative)

        by trianglman (1024223) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @10:33PM (#18510721) Journal
        Yeah, this is all well and good for some (a few) slashdotters that do think. But for the hundreds of thousands of people who go researching on the internet about, for example, birth control and find the top 5 hits filled with these false articles, they won't know any better. This is consumer fraud, plain and simple. But this isn't something the government and FTC alone should handle; googlebot and all the other search engine bots need to wise up. They were able to do it for meta tag abuse, then link farms, this is the next step. The real, honest bloggers need to step up too. One of the main reasons there aren't already required paid disclosures on these blogs is because of a carefully run campaign (that was waged [slashdot.org] here [slashdot.org] too) to mark it, falsely, as an attack on normal bloggers.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by iminplaya (723125)
          No, let Google and all the other private sites go nuts, and then insure that the FTC and FDA and USGA, you name it, become trustworthy sources of information, that aren't in the hands of the people they regulate, by electing politicians who will turn them around. I don't care how many phonies are out there. The only part of the net we have a right to regulate is that run by government with taxpayer dollars. In other words, .gov and .mil are under public control.
          • actually, when it comes to commerce, if it happens between people in two different states, it does fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Its Article I, Section 8, Clause 3, aka the Commerce Clause [wikipedia.org]

            [Congress has the authority] to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.
          • by jvkjvk (102057)
            I don't see how Google providing a service to their customers - that is letting them know which sites are LYING to them - is regulation in any sense. If they can trace a web of mis-trust why not let their customers know about it? I would.

            I think they should provide the service if enough people want it. I assume that they do, considering that if the first 3 pages of your hits are all lies... how do you ever get to the truth? By the time you read it, you probably won't even recognise it as such.

            You are li
    • Adding volume to the internet is not enough. Blogging volume is not a substitute for quality any more than spam improves email.

      Really good blogging and podcasting etc are the result of good editing. Encouraging volume goes against that.

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by owlnation (858981)
      or Wikipedia itself for that matter...
  • So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rrohbeck (944847) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @06:54PM (#18508993)
    If neither TV nor papers are legally obliged to report only true stories, why should bloggers?
    Why would anybody *believe* something they read on the Internets?

    • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @07:23PM (#18509267) Journal
      That's fine, but a "law firm paying bloggers to lie that a birth control patch is killing people" is just unconscionable smarmy stacked on top of smarmy.

      People in that law firm, and their bloggers, need to go to jail.
      • by maxume (22995)
        No they don't. If they actually did such, take away their ability to practice law and charge em a big fine. They aren't going to learn to 'play nice' in jail, and spending money housing and feeding them is just a waste of resources.
      • by rrohbeck (944847)
        So they're only jeopardizing the health of a couple thousand young women every year. Not much compared to what other corporations and organizations have in their closets.
        </cynic>
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by StarkRG (888216)
        While at first I agree with you there is the whole problem of free speech. But then I realized it's slander so, yeah, they could (or should be) easily be convicted.
      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by metamatic (202216)
        > Who the f*** decided that sentences on the Internet shall no longer be formatted with two spaces after a period?!

        That happened some time in the mid 80s when computers got proportional fonts. Try reading The PC Is Not A Typewriter [amazon.com] or a basic intro to graphic design and typography.
        • Yes, but the whole purpose for the double space, to give a wider separation that's easier on the eye, does not evaporate when you introduce proportional space fonts. Furthermore, even though font definition languages allow for you to specify context-sensitive kerning info, such that a '.' followed by a space could have extra space added, in practice nobody actually does this. Hence sentences all miss this.

          And we know that renderers like browsers are smart enough to add extra space because they forcibly re
          • by metamatic (202216)
            I use Firefox, which puts extra thin space after the period when the font supports it. If your browser is broken or your font lacks kerning information, complain to the responsible parties.
          • by StarkRG (888216)
            Of course then you get into the whole problem of how does the program know it's the end of a sentance and not just an abbreviation Mr. Smartypants is a cool word isn't it?

            (Heh, notice how I made "Mr" the end of the sentance and "Smartypants" the begining of a new one? That's what a program would assume if you made all periods (full stops) doublespaced. It's also why I think there needs to be double spaces after the end of a sentance.)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Brandybuck (704397)
      I find it amusing as all hell that the mainstream media is foaming at the mouth over blogging "irregularities". This is the same media that has never once apologized for blowing up trucks to prove that they're unsafe; presenting obviously forged documents as genuine; buying photoshopped images from partisans; failing to check that their key sources even exist; etc; etc.

      Not only don't I believe anything I read on the intertubes, I don't believe anything I read in the papers, hear on the radio, or see on tele
      • The difference is... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @02:20AM (#18512063) Journal
        The difference is that that media eventually _did_ have to apologize and admit that they faked it. No, it doesn't make them trustworthy, but:

        1. it does say that libel laws work. You can't run a major campaign to smear someone's or some company's reputation, let alone something of the calibre of "product X is killing people", and be left alone for long. And I fail to see why they shouldn't apply to bloggers too.

        2. Doubly so since it's not even as much a freedom of speech issue for the masses, as in, thousands of people saying what they really think. It's a case of a company basically astroturfing to disguise their smear campaign. Instead of publishing their own lies and opening themselves to a lawsuit, they just hide behind some faceless bloggers to do it. I fail to see why that would give them some kind of immunity.

        Especially _if_ you see blogging as some great liberation of the masses and chance to get on your private soapbox and say what you really think, methinks you should be very disgusted by this kind of stuff. It's nothing less than deliberately looting, burning and polluting that medium for some company's profit. It's something that diminishes the value of that resource by a lot, to make a tiny profit for someone. Even as bandits go, this kind of company is the _stupid_ destructive kind of bandit that causes a huge loss for a tiny profit.

        And that a lot are willing to just bend over and help spread the damage, if they get paid a few bucks, well, now you see one reason why traditional media has earned a right to have a heartfelt sneer at them.

        3. some of the safeguards of traditional media just don't work for bloggers. E.g., the right to have them also publish your response to whatever accusations they made against you, is worthless when it's just some random page someone found while surfing. The chance that someone comes back to a week old post, reads all comments to your own response, is clever enough to skip past the "no, I'm the real Brandybuck and I really make patches that kill people" or "nah, I know Brandybuck, he really makes patches that kill people" trolls, etc, is close to nill. It also places an undue and disproportionate effort on the victim: you don't just have to contact one newspaper to publish your objection to what's been said about you, you have to troll a few thousand blogs. It's an undue waste of your time.

        4. sometime at the beginning of the 20'th century the real media discovered that it's actually good for business if they at least pretend they're impartial and only do _reporting_. That's why they have policies like always including an opposite point of view, for example. Or why if it's a personal opinion piece, it tends to be clearly marked as such, and not as news. At any rate, they've distanced themselves quite a lot from the blatant smear campaigns that previously passed for journalism.

        That's also another reason why they publish those apologies, btw. It's not just libel laws, it's that the newspaper or TV station itself wants to distance itself quickly from anything that taints that impartiality image they've been building. Even if you're not really impartial, you want to at least look like you are, or it will affect your business big time. So you'll want to distance yourself very fast and very loud from any dumb thing you've done that looks blatantly overtly partisan.

        Now that impartiality not entirely true for everyone, of course, but it's still a step up from what happens in the blogs nowadays. Blogs by and large are at the point where journalism was in the 18'th century. Lopsided partisan pieces, ostensibly carrying only half the story, fictional fabricated "news" to support a pre-conception, rumours passed off as "news", mouth-foaming fanboyism, etc. And now a good helping of people just taking the money to copy-and-paste whatever material some astroturfing company gave them, too.

        So basically, sorry, but I can see why a professional journalist would sneer at the "I r a journalist 2" blogger gang. Believe neither if you will, but one at least does have some higher quality work to justify that sneer. No, the professional media aren't saints, but it takes an extreme case of OCPD to lump them both in some "neither is perfect, therefore both are equally crap" pot.
        • by jvkjvk (102057)

          So basically, sorry, but I can see why a professional journalist would sneer at the "I r a journalist 2" blogger gang. Believe neither if you will, but one at least does have some higher quality work to justify that sneer. No, the professional media aren't saints, but it takes an extreme case of OCPD to lump them both in some "neither is perfect, therefore both are equally crap" pot.

          Yes, however it takes an extreme case of cynicism to imagine that all bloggers are crap and that "professional journalists" have the right to sneer at the category as a whole. There are multiple reasons the traditional media centers sneer at bloggers, and not all the motives are as pure as you impute.

          To lump all bloggers into the same category as the opportunists who take gelt for their web-presence as a kind of shadowy astro-turf society is misapprehending the fact that Bloggers want Their Opinion heard,

      • Not only don't I believe anything I read on the intertubes, I don't believe anything I read in the papers, hear on the radio, or see on television.
        I suppose you expect us to take your word for that?
    • It's still libel if the the author publishes it maliciously and falsely. This seems to be what is going on here, but IANAL.
  • Anonymity breeds distrust in public communication. Whether it's trolling for fun or misinforming for profit, the upshot is a building general distrust of the communications channel itself. It is literally communications breakdown.

    The only solution to this is full authentication of every user on every computer throughout the net, with some government controlled centralized database. In other words, DRM on steroids. And the total end of anonymous political dissent.

    Which is worse? I have my opinion.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      look at the claims and context.
      IF a respected journal/blog/stone carver says something from an anonymous source, think about trusting it. I don't mean people posting, I mean the original writers of the story.

      If it seems to e onsense, or just some post in a forum somewhere, just ignore it.

      If they want to be taking seriously, then they need a good reason for being anonymous.

      • by maynard (3337)
        How do you know who anyone is online? Why should you trust anything written by an anonymous writer as accurate? If you want to trust the content, you must first trust the identity of the author. Or someday, you'll get snookered bad.
        • Exactly. How can you sort the truth from baldfaced lies? Indeed, some aren't even "baldfaced", i.e. obvious.

          In fact, I was making sweet love to Angelina Jolie and Anne Hathaway in a 3-way the other day, and she told me she couldn't believe the crap that was out there about her -- tabloids are now printing rumors that bloggers are making up.
    • Not all anonymity is used to troll for fun or spread misinformation. Those two behaviors lead to the defamation of anonymity, though, and that's what causes people to be so upset.

      If only there were a way to weed out the trolls and misinformers. Well, there is. It's called moderation. Now what do we do when the mods themselves share opinions with trolls and misinformers? What do we do when the mods actively participate, for whatever reason, in the trolling or the spread of misinformation? Theoretically
      • by maynard (3337)
        If only there were a way to weed out the trolls and misinformers. Well, there is. It's called moderation.

        How does moderation resolve intentional deception by seemingly authenticated - but anonymous - users? Especially when we're talking about blogging forums, which mostly disseminate opinion. Moderation doesn't cull out trolls so much as it enforces groupthink among the site faithful. Just look at dailykos.
        • That's the problem that occurs when the moderators themselves are part of the trolling or misinformation spreading problem. It's pretty sad when it comes to that point. That's when you storm their site HQ with submachine guns.
      • As Juvenal wrote[1]: Quis moderatiet ipsos moderates?

        [1] or surely would have, if Alanus Gorea had been around to invent intarwebs back then.
  • It's fraud (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bit01 (644603) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @07:15PM (#18509171)

    A marketing executive claiming that fraudulently misrepresenting paid propaganda as objective third party opinion is somehow okay?

    He's the one that should be in jail, not the so-called terrorists.

    It's a real shame truth-in-advertising law hasn't caught up with them yet.

    ---

    Marketing talk is not just cheap, it has negative value. Free speech can be compromised just as much by too much noise as too little signal.

    • Re:It's fraud (Score:4, Insightful)

      by RexRhino (769423) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @07:49PM (#18509559)

      Marketing talk is not just cheap, it has negative value. Free speech can be compromised just as much by too much noise as too little signal.
      Remember folks, we need to get rid of free speech to protect free speech! Right after we destroy the village to save it!

      A marketing executive claiming that fraudulently misrepresenting paid propaganda as objective third party opinion is somehow okay? He's the one that should be in jail, not the so-called terrorists.
      So he should go to jail for expressing his opinions on ethics?

      It's a real shame truth-in-advertising law hasn't caught up with them yet.
      "truth-in-advertisment" laws can only apply to traditional media. The internet is international, and impossible to track without big bother controls. There is no reason why a company cannot just operate out of a country where paying people for blog reviews is legal. The only way to stop it then would be big brother spying on all blog operators (which I am sure you wouldn't be against - Any loss of freedom is justified to you protect us from those terrible terrible advertisments - but would be nearly impossible to implement).
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bit01 (644603)

        Marketing talk is not just cheap, it has negative value. Free speech can be compromised just as much by too much noise as too little signal.

        Remember folks, we need to get rid of free speech to protect free speech! Right after we destroy the village to save it!

        No, you are willfully misinterpreting and emotionally exaggerating what I said to distract the reader. You know full well that speech is controlled in many different ways to promote the common good e.g. truth in advertising.

        A marketing executive claiming that fraudulently misrepresenting paid propaganda as objective third party opinion is somehow okay? He's the one that should be in jail, not the so-called terrorists.

        So he should go to jail for expressing his opinions on ethics?

        Again, willfully misinterpreting what I said for your own ends. You know full well I was refe

        • Re:It's fraud (Score:4, Insightful)

          by RexRhino (769423) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @11:36PM (#18511153)

          You know full well that speech is controlled in many different ways to promote the common good e.g. truth in advertising.

          Speech is never controlled for the public good... although censorship is always justified as being "for the public good". Speech is controlled to benifit the ruling class and the rich and powerful. So called "truth-in-advertising" laws are designed to make people less suspicious of advertising ("It is against the law to advertise falsehood... therefore I can believe commercials"), when in fact outright fraudulent claims happen all the time, the English language is ambiguous which makes it possible to make virtually any claim while at the same time being in compliance with laws, and there is no way the government can possibly evaluate all possible advertisment claims for falsehood.

          A free society that admits there is falsehood in advertising, and there is virtually nothing the government can do to stop anything short of outright fraud, is one where people are skeptical and on-guard. The society where the government says "we are protecting you from false advertisment", are the people who will will blindly believe everything they see and hear, secure in knowing that the benevolent state is protecting them from any fraud.

          Again, willfully misinterpreting what I said for your own ends. You know full well I was referring to his "business", not his opinion.

          Do you have any understanding that laws are enforced with violence? That throwing people in jail destroys lives and families? That having large amounts of people in prison not only costs society billions of dollars, but leaves people open to exploitation as well as encouraging a prison-industrial complex? That prisons often act as criminal universities where people who have made a few mistakes are indoctrinated into a life of crime? There is also a terrible danger in any law of the law being used as a pretext for distructive policies like racial profiling, and for the eroding of civil liberties.

          Criminal law is a very dangerous thing, to only be used when some behavior is such a clear and present danger as to warrent the social problems and risks to civil liberties involved. To suggest that we should throw people in prison for something as minor as paying people to blog a product is vicious, cruel, and authoritarian. Especially when all that is nessicary is to let people know that a company has been promoting fake blogging, and people will neither trust that company nor that blog for a very very long time. The only reason I can think of that you want to throw this person in jail is because you get off on that kind of thing.

          And now we have the straw man. There are many possibilities, you've just chosen the one you think you can argue against. Some other ways to reduce/stop it would be to rely on competitors and consumers to report it, do statistical analysis of blog traffic and to make the penalties so severe (e.g. per-sale fines and executives personally liable) that even a small chance of being caught makes it unprofitable.

          OK, so we rely on competitors and consumers to report it... So corporations will give false reports to harm competitors, and consumers will give false reports based on other issues (they don't like the blogger's race, their politics, their negative review of a product they like). This solution leaves people completly innocent of the crime open to terrible abuse, abuse that is worse than the crime itself. Doing statistical analysis of blog traffic? First, how are they going to do statistical analysis of blog traffic without compromising people's civil liberties by forcing non-suspects to turn in their web statistics to government? Second, how does statistical analysis of their blog traffic reveal that they were paid to give a product a good review?

          Finally, make the penalties so severe that even a small change of being caught makes it unprofitable? You mean like the U.S. and its War on Drugs? Which put millions of people in prison (t

    • by rrohbeck (944847)
      Erm... Product placements? QVC? Lobbyists? Analysts? It's all the same thing.
      I don't like it either, but that's the way business works in large parts of the world.
  • Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @07:16PM (#18509191)
    How long before the FTC follows through on their promise to enforce blogger disclosure?

    Is that saracasm, or is this something you actually want?

    I thought anonymity on the internet was an inalienable right to most /.'ers.

    I guess it only applies to people saying things you agree with.

    I'll post this as AC, while I still can.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wootest (694923)
      I don't think the goal is "expose the personal details of everyone". I think the goal is "for everyone paid to write something, make them write that they *were* paid to write something or they won't get their money".

      I still think writing what they're told in exchange for a check is ridiculous, but at least now you'd know which ones were paid. (Or, rather, you'd know which ones were written by people getting paid by companies who demanded they write that.) In any event, disclosing that you're getting paid do
      • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RexRhino (769423) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @12:15AM (#18511387)
        How do you intend to enforce a law saying that bloggers must reveal that they have been paid for a positive review, without compromising the anonymity and freedom that people enjoy on the internet?

        In order to prove that a blogger is in fact acting against the FTC rule, you would have to show that they are explicitly receiving money in exchange for the review. Since neither people involved in the transaction have any incentive to reveal the transaction, you have go with a bunch of very expensive, and very dangerous (from a civil liberties standpoint) activities such as undercover sting operations like creating fake law enforcement blogs (which is the very crime they are supposedly fighting against), massive phone tapping and email tapping... or some sort of licensing and supervision scheme for blogs.

        Of course, it is even harder than with something like drugs, because if the people involved don't explicitly agree to some sort of payment deal, and just have an unspoken understanding, you can't charge them with anything. Apple could easily just send out a check (or more likely, free "evaluation" Apple products), with no explanation or stated strings attached, to bloggers who give a positive review of Apple products. There would be absolutely no evidence whatsoever to convict Apple on any misdealing. Unless you want to throw people in jail or fine them on purely circumstantial evidence, which most would consider a grave violation of civil liberties.

        There is no way to enforce any kind of rule on this in any effective way, without compromising the freedom, anonymity of the internet, and the civil liberties of those on the internet.
    • by owlnation (858981)

      Is that saracasm, or is this something you actually want? I thought anonymity on the internet was an inalienable right to most /.'ers.
      Sarcasm is most definitely an inalienable right to most /.'ers...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by bro1 (143618)
      I am pretty sure that you have missed the intonation here... It definetely was not someting like "OMG!!! I cann't wait till anonymity is banned on internet OMG OMG!! LOL".

      It was more like "Crap, FTC promissed to enforce blogger discosure and now they have yet another pretext".
  • by RyoShin (610051) <tukaro@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @07:20PM (#18509247) Homepage Journal
    I've always agreed with the notion of blogs. They allow normal people to get news and ideas out without having to spend many years in college or attaching themselves to a newspaper or television station. These people may not get wide exposure, but the good ones tend to stand on their own, while the rest of the crap gets drowned out.

    Recent issues with blogging, such as these PayPerPost people, the scandal over the PSP blog, and recent political considerations by congress, has made me rethink my position on blogs, and I've come to a conclusion (barring other insightful thoughts from others or further pondering):

    Nothing has changed. Nothing at all.

    The thing is, this isn't new. Ever since blogs started, hell, ever since anyone started reviewing products, some people were bought and paid for. Previously, it wasn't this obvious. A company would send a "demo" model to a person or publication for review, and let them keep it. The publication might then want to spin the review in a positive light, in order to keep getting more freebies or get in closer to the company.

    Politicians have paid companies to make commercials, or people to spread rumors or plant thoughts. In the past, companies and individuals alike have hired people to protest, likely for things they didn't even care about, to try to get something changed in their favor. Product placements are all over; celebrities get paid all the time to wear some new fashion designer's clothes to a big event to get them press.

    And not just celebrities, but regular press, too; trained reporters with oversights and editors and accountability partake in these dubious activities (no, I don't have any specific examples).

    All that's happened now is that it's more straight forward and available to the common public. They've cut out the middle man and the distracting cloaks and are saying "We want people to say this, we'll pay you $X, you write Y words. Any takers?".

    Whether this is good or bad is up to you. My immediate position is leaning towards good, as there will probably wind up being a list of bloggers being paid to advertise products or morals. This will make it easier for those who read blogs and don't want to deal with paid posts to filter out those who do this kind of thing. More innocent ads such as "Try new BrandX Soap!" can actually help bloggers who have a good message to get out to the public, but might not be able to afford their hosting limits. (The problem, though, is over time how do they keep the advertising from blending with the real content?)

    Nothing has changed, we're just doing this on a much larger scale.

    On a side note, I do enjoy this quote:

    "PayPerPost versus authentic blogging is like comparing prostitution with making love to someone you care for deeply. [...]," said Jason McCabe Calacanis...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stratjakt (596332)
      How's it any different than all the obvious Apple ads that get posted as "news" right here on /.?
      • by RyoShin (610051)
        I thought about mentioning so-called "slashvertisements", but these are just as edgy as the reviewers being sent a camera. How can you be sure that so many of the Apple newsposts are ads? I'm not discounting the idea, but has anyone, either the submitter of a story or a Slashdot editor, admitted that a post was paid placement and not marked as such?

        That's part of the problem with advertisement and "news" in the past. Unless it was admitted by an involved party, or very conclusive evidence was presented, you
        • by stratjakt (596332)
          I don't think they're paid ads, but the /. editorial staff sure wants me to run out and buy everything Apple sells, and pointing out any flaws or shortcoming in any Apple product is a sure-fire way to lose your oh-so-important karma.

          It only bugs me when the comments cross over into complete fabrications, and bullshit. This is supposed to be a geek site. Masterbating for Apple because they're "hip", and not for legitimate tech reasons is just so utterly un-geek.

          You get self-proclaimed computer experts tell
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by grcumb (781340)

      On a side note, I do enjoy this quote:

      "PayPerPost versus authentic blogging is like comparing prostitution with making love to someone you care for deeply. [...]," said Jason McCabe Calacanis...

      Paid blogging is like sex with hookers?! Beauty! Where do I sign up?

      Any chance of scoring some blow, too?

    • by maxume (22995)
      What exactly would you do if you disagreed with the notion of blogs? Would you also try to stifle wackos handing out pamphlets and other forms of self publishing?

      "I like turkey gravy, the fact that some of the turkey gravy on the market isn't 100% turkey doesn't change the fact that I still like turkey gravy when I make it for myself." I mean, good for me, but who is supposed to care?
      • by RyoShin (610051)
        You're right, if I didn't like blogs, I probably wouldn't do shit about it. I was trying to illustrate the point that this doesn't change a whole lot by saying that my own views of blogs were not changed by this, either.
    • by pvera (250260) <pedro.vera@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @07:53PM (#18509605) Homepage Journal

      The thing is, this isn't new. Ever since blogs started, hell, ever since anyone started reviewing products, some people were bought and paid for. Previously, it wasn't this obvious. A company would send a "demo" model to a person or publication for review, and let them keep it. The publication might then want to spin the review in a positive light, in order to keep getting more freebies or get in closer to the company.


      This was very common with a music reviews site I used to write for. All of the music we reviewed was provided by the record label, at their expense. All we had to do was listen to their stuff and write about it. The problems started when I started submitting reviews unleashing a torrent of hate on some really crappy music. They did not like it one bit, because if we pissed off the label, then the stream of free CDs would stop, and the magazine couldn't survive if it had to foot the bill to purchase all of these CDs. Eventually I stopped writing for them and started posting reviews to my own web site.
      • if we pissed off the label, then the stream of free CDs would stop...

        That's the one thing I like about this, and makes me want to start a blog just to try it out and see if I am right:

        Basically, the site pays you to blog about something. You get to choose what that something is -- you can browse through the stuff that advertisers have submitted. If an advertiser wants an honest review, you can give them a negative one -- and if it pisses them off, there will be other advertisers. If an advertiser does not

    • by pi_rules (123171)

      They allow normal people to get news and ideas out without having to spend many years in college or attaching themselves to a newspaper or television station. These people may not get wide exposure, but the good ones tend to stand on their own, while the rest of the crap gets drowned out.

      That may be true, and it's what is often touted as the manner in which the "Main Stream Media" will be kept in check, but what I'm seeing more and more of is that blogs morph into domain experts in certain areas. As they d

  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @07:23PM (#18509275)
    15,000 bloggers just lost a large quantity of traffic.

    what we need is an impartial clearinghouse to tell us which bloggers are now paid astroturfers...

    it could be to blogs like another site is for general news [slashdot.org]
  • While there are a lot of things wrong with this, there are measures that can be taken to protect people.

    One, if someone is gettting paid - there is a papertrail however weak. Second, if they can track where things are being posted there is now a way to link the person being paid to the post they made. As long as this information can be subpoenaed, thre would be a way to unmask a person.

    On the otherhand, removing people anonymity may discourage people from taking a stand against true insults and crimes.

    Exc
    • by cdrguru (88047)
      Subpoena? For what? You thinking of suing a blogger for exercising his "freedom of speech"?

      There are no laws being broken here. You might be able to sue someone for falsely representing something, but I doubt it. As far as I know "I was lying" is not actionable in any manner.

      Maybe, just maybe some misrepresentations could be construed as slander, but probably not on the Internet.
  • Do no evil (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by dbIII (701233)

    to pay bloggers to write that a certain birth control patch is killing and injuring young women

    Now I understand the context of Google's management saying they should not be evil - there are plenty of others doing it as part of business. Save it for the pulpit guys and don't play nasty evil games with the excuse that it is ultimately for good by exposing people to God's punishment. God is big enough to look after himself and really doesn't need to be told what to do by funded mentalists pretending to be p

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by psaunders (1069392)

      God is big enough to look after himself and really doesn't need to be told what to do by funded mentalists pretending to be pious for profit.
      Hear, hear. Senti mentalists, I identify with. Judge mentalists, I have very little time for. Funded mentalists, I slam!
  • Oh please (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @07:31PM (#18509359)
    You expect me to believe that special interest groups are masquerading as normal individuals on the internet? That's about as realistic as global warming.
  • Oh, the irony of an anonymous Slashdot blog talking about the ethics of possibly fake, misleading or simply poorly researched blogs. Surely anyone knows that anything you hear from the news should be somewhat suspect, and anything you hear from blogs must be able 10x more suspect than that, since bloggers don't even have their future credibility on the line. Slashdot included. Blogs should never be seen as anything more than a vague starting point, about as reliable as overhearing a conversation in a bar
    • I don't have complete faith in the summaries or TFA on /.; however, I do give a lot of credit to the fellow /.'ers. The mistakes in the summaries or TFA's are pointed out viciously by this community: everything from blatant lies to tupos. No, I wouldn't give /. competely go, but its one of the best news sources out there primarily because of the "peer review."
  • by inasra (1079579) on Tuesday March 27, 2007 @09:22PM (#18510325) Homepage
    Before flaming me down, I'd appreciate if you could read my post in its entirety.

    I am from India and my site targets a world audience (we offer hotel booking service for Indian hotels). Its difficult for me to judge how users from other countries are liking or disliking the site and what we are doing right or wrong.

    I use this service as a sort of marketing research/Focus group and the review has helped me immensely to know what needs to be changed, to make it easier for our customers abroad.
    On the net, when you get a feedback, you take it very seriously as only 1 in about 1000 users who have the thought send you the feedback. But i don't want to wait knowing that 999 users may not have liked some aspect of the site. We are small and financial resources are always scarce, so this is a good way to get feedback on our site.

    I actually only ask for an honest review, and in fact encourage them to blog their criticisms.

    A couple of points from what i have seen.
    The group of bloggers there will most probably have at least seven degrees of separation from the average slashdotter. So you got nothing to worry about ever being mis-led by them.
    They honestly mention if a particular post was paid for or not.
    Most of them are not anonymous.
    Though an brutally honest review of the site may have been asked for, lots of them don't give one. Their editorial reads like scripted by a marketing droid.

    I feel they are really not much of a threat to the blogosphere.
    You should be more worried about paid, anonymous, astroturf(er)s whose sponsors are not known and their intentions are at best of times unfathomable.

    I neither own any stake nor am i in any way connected (other than having used their services) to payperpost. I also am not benefited monetarily or otherwise from this post.
    And the reason i am posting this under my slashdot account with my web address is because i never do anything i feel is morally repugnant and as a result got nothing to fear.
    So flame away.

    PS: Do any of you know of an online service where you can hire or rent a focus group which fits a SMB's budget? I would love to get more info. Thank you.
  • I may be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure that PayPerPost requires disclosure by participating bloggers. There are probably other outfits that don't disclose, but these guys try to walk the ethical line. I consider that better than most sites out there, given the glut of gadget review sites that almost always glorify whatever product they're pimping. Hell, all the PC hardware sites tend to use the same nerfed wording whether a product is better or worse than its competitor. They don't ever say "Geforce 42-
  • Even if we do have a law that forces bloggers to disclose who pays them does anyone seriously think that will reduce paid blogging? Deals will still happen - discounts or free test units/samples "encourage" blogging about your product, just paid for with cash or heck farmed out to India blog center that does not have laws about paid opinions. The article mentions someone being paid $12 for a post about a movie - heck thats less that a price of a dinner. There is no way to enforce any law that requires discl
  • I, personally, am scared of the day that the Fed requires bloggers to disclose their affiliations. First off, it would be next to impossible to enforce, second it limits freedom of speech for a specific, typically harmless, group and beyond that opens the door to further restrictions on critical speech.

    Like everything else, people are typically smart enough to distinguish the NY Times from the Weekly National Enquirer. People should be smart enough to separate fact from fiction without a full disclosure

  • by asninn (1071320)
    There's nothing wrong with paid blogging, just like there isn't anything wrong with traditional advertising. The only thing that's not acceptable is misleading people about your motives, your impartiality (or lack thereof), and so on.
  • It mentions the LA times, yet links to the Baltimore Sun. Heres the link:

    LA times [latimes.com]

    FTR, my opinion of lawyers wasn't that high to begin with. But spreading lies and deceit about birth control that's beyond tacky, it's sick, pond-life. Long live the Christian States of America.

  • If you want a newspaper (from the biggest to the smallest) to review your movie, play, product, etc., you have to buy advertising in that paper.

    I've worked in promotions. I have the experience of calling a major paper up and asking if we could get our play reviewed. "If you buy an ad, we'll consider it," is their answer.

    I've also worked in the editorial department. If you think that ad buying doesn't influence editorial, then I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

    This is nothing new. There's nothing to see h
  • Unconscionable? Sure. Illegal? Possibly.

    But there is one thing that is absolutely certain: This is no different then anything else in the world before the internet.
    You have to pick your sources based on a history of reliability and integrity.
    For 100's of years there have been the naive, gullible, and downright stupid wondering how on earth they got ripped off by that seemingly nice young man in the ally. Why would we think anything is different now that 'the nice young man' is on the internets?

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