Obvious envious grumbling from the tinfoil-hat liberal cheap seats!By Marion Delgado at 6:51 PM
Blogging for Dollars
By J. Ryan
Leading Internet marketing firm pays bloggers to shill
It looks like the folks at USWeb.com, a leading Internet marketing firm, have taken the idea of shilling one step further and could very well be in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act.
While searching the online postings at CraigsList, I came across an interesting post, which read, “Get paid for blogging… We will pay you to post to your blog. We pay $5 via PayPal per blog posting. To start earning cash, email me with your name and blog URL. We are looking for people to pay today. If you don’t have a PayPal account, we can also send you a gift certificate for iTunes if you like.”
So I sent off an email requesting further information. The reply email came from Ed Shull (firstname.lastname@example.org) and read, “This is pretty simple. I will provide a subject, you write a short (50 word min.) post, we pay you $5. The first subject is a flower site. You should give a favorable review of the flower site, Dot Flowers.” The rest of the email went on to explain that in the review I must link to the Dot Flowers website using the anchor text “buy flowers online.” It also included a list of things I could write; such as “they have better pricing,” and that their site loads faster than the competitors sites. There was also info about the technical aspects of the site, such as the code used behind the pages and that it’s “error free.” After completing the post, the instructions were simple, “…please send me a URL to the post and your PayPal address. Also, let me know how often you wish to post for us, and we will send over more subjects. Thanks, Ed.”
Being a poor unemployed tech worker hoping to get into writing as a way to make money, the first thing that came to mind was, Hey that’s a pretty good deal to make a quick five bucks, and possibly more while doing very little work. Being a one-time journalism major, the second thing that came to mind was, to go ahead and do something like this would be unethical and possibly illegal. The problem is that the posts are not reviews at all. They are in fact paid advertisements disguised to look like the actual view or opinions of the person or consumer writing the blog.
The blogger is not required to say anywhere in the post that the views presented have been paid for by the advertiser. Even though it’s common practice for advertisers to write copy that has the look and feel of a news story or a consumer endorsement, according to the FTC they are required to include that the information in the article or review is in fact a paid advertisement.
In section 255.2-(b) of the “FTC Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials In Advertising,” it clearly states that, “Advertisements presenting endorsements by what are represented, directly or by implication, to be “actual consumers’’ should utilize actual consumers, in both the audio and video or clearly and conspicuously disclose that the persons in such advertisements are not actual consumers of the advertised product.”
So who’s responsible for violating the FTC guidelines? Would it be the responsibility of the agency or company that approved and paid for the review (ad) or their client, and not that of the person writing and posting to their blog. In other words, the blogger is merely writing poor copy that amounts to a deceptive ad. Or does the responsibility rest on the shoulders of the blogger posting the paid review on their site without disclosing that the reviews are actually paid advertisements?
I phoned the FTC to ask how these rules apply to bloggers. Unfortunately they were unable to answer my question. I was told that they could not answer my question in regards to how the rule applies or offer any legal interpretations as to how it may be applied. In addition, I also sent the FTC an email asking the same question and stating that I was writing an article regarding bloggers and advertising on the Internet. I did receive a reply back from the senior press officer at the FTC, Claudia Bourne Farrell (CFARRELL@ftc.gov). She wrote me back to inquire as to whom I was writing the article for. I informed her that I was a freelancer and not working for any particular publication. After my reply I received no further emails from her regarding the matter and additional emails went unanswered.
This was basically a blog-post, and it got this wonderful reply (no idea if this is stupid or satire, as is usually the case nowadays):
Well I love the idea, what a great marketing technique, and its been used for years, maybe the nba should fine Michael Jordan for all those years he wore his Air Jordans, when he really didn’t have them on off the court?
I think that the seo techniques used are very valid an a great idea Ed Shull is a Marketing Genius!
now I, going to place an order for flowers at dotflowers.
oh and if iterested dotflowers appears to be located here.