Saturday, July 01, 2006

TechCrunch offers to sell your soul

Marshall Kirkpatrick

Ted Murphy, CEO of advertising firm Mindcomet, has launched a new service called You guessed it, it’s a marketplace for companies to connect with bloggers who are willing to blog about a product - for a price. The companies can set guidelines for their requests such as whether a picture must be included and whether they will only pay for positive blog coverage. There does not appear to be any requirement that the payment for coverage be disclosed. There is a requirement that must approve your post before you are paid. Wow.

TechCrunch does not accept payment for posts.

Is this a bad joke designed to torpedo the blogosphere’s credibility in general? It doesn’t appear to be. If we’re all trying to negotiate a space between Hollywood and mainstream journalism, this is taking things way too far towards the most insipid parts of Hollywood.

Clearly comfortable with the “all press is good press” paradigm, Murphy is emailing bloggers with a link to scathing coverage at Business Week (”Polluting the Blogosphere“) and even includes the words “As seen in Business Week” in the company logo. Blogger Jeremiah Owyang gave us the tip on and assures us that though he has grave concerns about this, Ted Murphy is not the devil. I don’t know if I’m convinced.

If you visit the website you’ll see that they do advertising for some very high profile clients. I can imagine many of them wouldn’t want to be associated with a project like this at all. Like EarthLink. They have a major campaign underway to improve advertising by paying people to make authentic promotional materials for them. How ironic.

Rafe Needleman writes about startups, new technologies, and Web 2.0 products.

How to kill blogs:

by Rafe Needleman
June 30, 2006 2:15 PM PDT

Just saw this on TechCrunch (referencing a BusinessWeek article): PayPerPost is a new system that pays bloggers a bounty to write about products and services. Companies sign up for the network (currently there are offers to cover iTunes, Superman Returns,, and many other products) and pay bloggers when they cover their products. There's no requirement that the blog run a disclosure that the item is paid.

This is a bad, bad, bad thing. It's hard enough for bloggers and professional journalists to maintain their integrity as it is. Even an unsubstantiated rumor of impropriety can destroy a writer. And PayPerPost casts a pall of doubt over everybody.

Maybe I'll go start a company that certifies writers as "guaranteed payola-free." Sure, we all have our biases. We're human. But when I read a blog, I want to know that the opinions I'm reading actually come from the writer's heart and head, not directly from some influence-pusher's marketing budget.

I am adding this service to my list of awful ideas that subvert the social contract.