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What have American Idol, Wayne’s World and ShoeMoney got in common?

May 29th, 2007 · 7 Comments

ShoeMoney talks about disclosure over at his blog today and it reminded me of the podcast I watched the other month where Jason Calacanis rips into PayPerPost CEO Ted Murphy about the whole concept of bloggers being paid to endorse products through sponsored reviews.

When I read an affiliate marketers blog and I see links to anything I assume they get paid for it.

In the podcast Jason Calacanis accuses Murphy of encouraging covert marketing techniques by allowing PPP authors to post without a disclosure (something I think they’ve subsequently changed). Anyway, Ted comes back with the point that product placement or celebrity endorsement is no different to non-disclosure. He cites American Idol and the fact that there are great big cups of Coke on the desk of the panel (which, interestingly enough, are fuzzed out in post production for the UK market). It is taken for granted that the people behind American Idol are being paid to display these Coke cups.

The film I was shooting over Easter had a supermarket delivery truck in the background for a lot of the action shots. Why? Because they supplied the catering firm. I’ve not seen Casino Royale but, from what I’ve heard, it’s basically a two hour advert for cars, watches and cell phones. There is no disclosure policy flashed across the screen every time we see James Bond jump into his Ford car or Simon Cowell taken a swig of Coke so why should online content be any different and anyway, what difference would it make?

[coolplayer width=”425″ height=”350″ autoplay=”0″ loop=”0″ charset=”utf-8″ download=”1″ mediatype=””]
Wayne’s World – Product placement at it’s best
Like ShoeMoney, whenever I see a link to a product or a service on a blog or website, I automatically assume that they’re getting something out of it. That something might not necessarily be financial, of course. It could be the hope that by linking out that they get a bit of link love back, for example. People have different motivations for linking out and I accept that some of those may well be financial. I don’t have a major beef with that and take the view that if someone introduces me to a great product or service that they should be rewarded in some way. I’m not a fan of paid posts or reviews but that’s a subject for another day.

At Twenty Steps I only link out to other sites that I believe will benefit my readers in some way. Some of them I get paid for but that’s not the reason for including them. I would never link to something or do something on my site just because I get paid a couple of bucks. That’s the quickest way of losing readers as John Chow is finding out.

The key thing for me is not contained in a disclosure policy, it’s in my trust of the other person. Do I believe in their endorsement or are they just in it for the money? Telling me that a link is monetized or not means Jack Shit if I don’t trust you and no disclosure policy will make the slightest bit of difference.

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Tags: Making Money Online

7 responses so far ↓

  • Mike // May 29, 2007 at 10:30 pm

    For some reason my video plugin isn’t working so here’s the link to the Wayne’s World product placement video.

    See? Now the headline makes sense.


  • Bill Hartzer // Jun 5, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    I’m glad you brought up the Calacanis/Pay Per Post debate–I’m not sure if I have ever agreed with him, but there are sometimes when disclosure is appropriate and disclosure is inappropriate.

    That Wayne’s World video is a classic!

    If you’re writing about a product or service and you’re being paid for it then I have no problems or issues (as a reader) if you don’t disclose that it’s a paid post or paid endorsement. I would expect that you wouldn’t endorse something that you don’t believe in.

    After all, think about it this way: if someone paid you to “endorse” or “write about” something and you really didn’t believe in their product or service then would you really continue to “endorse” it and write about it in a positive light? Most likely you’d actually just tell that person or company to “go away” if you don’t like them, right?

  • Mike // Jun 6, 2007 at 9:47 am

    Thanks for stopping by, Bill. The whole pay-per-post issue is a thorny one and one which probably deserves it’s own post. I personally couldn’t accept money to endorse a product unless I believed in it but it seems to me that slapping a “This is a paid post” disclaimer at the beginning of the post seems to make it acceptable to others.


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