Earlier this week Seth Godin wrote about recent efforts by companies or individuals to get their links to rise to the top of the Digg "most popular" lists. A potential issue to be sure, and one that is bound to force some changes in how social bookmarking sites operate.
But the bookmarking sites aren't the only form of social media that is coming under fire. What about services like PayPerPost that, as their name clearly indicates, is in the business of brokering paid blog mentions on behalf of companies. Buzz marketing is nothing new. Companies like Bzz Agent have long been using citizen marketers to spread the word, and marketers have certainly been known to reach out to bloggers and even provide them with products in the hopes that these bloggers (like any other members of the press) will provide some coverage (positive, negative or otherwise.) That's nothing more than PR for the digital age.
But this is different and tit-for-tat financial compensation seems to make all the difference. Doesn't it? Sure, PayPerPost encourages bloggers to disclose that they have accepted financial compensation in return for product mentions - but I would suggest that the bloggers who are willing to hype products in return for payment are the very bloggers who would be least likely to opt for transparency. Of course bloggers are entitled to earn revenue from their blogs - and paid posts are only one way to do so (many bloggers participate in Amazon's Affiliate Sales program and earn commissions on the sale of recommended books, others participate in Google's AdSense network and run text ads alongside content). The difference here is that it is much more difficult for readers to distinguish true opinions from paid mentions when those mentions are presented as true opinion. The PayPerPost model seems ripe for abuse.
As a blogger, this makes my skin crawl. Please weigh in. What do you think of pay-per-post compensation models? How do you think it will impact the blogosphere?