National anti-covert and deceptive marketing on blogs day: Jason Calacanis asks: “I’d really love to hear what smart folks like Seth Godin, Fred Wilson, Adam Curry, Mark Cuban, Esther Dyson, John Battelle, Cory Doctorow, Xeni Jardin, Rafat Ali, Joseph Jaffe, Brian Alvey, Kevin Rose, Tim O’Reilly, Doc Searls, Jeff Jarvis, Steve Rubel, Dan Gillmor, and Nick Denton think of covert marketing coming to the blogosphere.”
I didn’t need to be asked. I pretty much exhausted all the vitriol on this topic I could muster last week.
Jason (and I in my earlier post) are blasting a cancer called “pay to post” (that’s not the name of the company, as I refuse to point their way) in which bloggers get paid if they blog about specific product or service and point to a designated URL. The “cancer” part of this concept is not that the bloggers are getting paid — its the context and covertness (is that a word?) of the practice that is currently being encouraged by the company. The advertising is taking place within the context of the edit well — inside posts. I find those double underlined “contextual ad hyperlinks” offensive so it should come as no surprise that I find covert editorial splogging strategies reprehensible.
But rather than blasting them anymore, here’s my suggestion to the company that is the recipient of all this crankiness today.
1. Have a corporate retreat. Do what Jason is suggesting. Think about what you’re doing. You’re in Orlando. I know a blogger nearby who can swing by your retreat and tell you what you can expect if you keep heading down your current strategic path.
2. Don’t do what Peter Wright is attempting. Someone who works there named Peter Wright is attempting to defend the concept by attacking Jason Calacanis. I can’t count how many ways that’s a really dumb strategy. However, try defending your point of view first before doing something roughly akin to handing someone a stick and saying, “Please, can you hit me up side of my head with this as hard as possible.”
3. Surrender & change your practices: You need to state immediately and explicitly that you do not condone covert marketing. That you will not pay for posts that are not clearly marked and disclosed. That nothing you are doing is “covert.” If you don’t do this, things will only get worse. Attacks on what you’re doing will go mainstream in 3-5 days. The tech reporters who read Michael Arrington and Jason Calacanis are already starting to smell blood. You are toast, so wake up and smell the breakfast.
4. Turn your “We see the light” announcement into an opportunity to display “best-practices” in sponsored blogging. Get rid of the covert marketing aspects of what you’re doing (only pay for disclosed and clearly labeled marketing) and you’ve got a decent concept. Position it as a Search Engine marketing concept and change your language and, s I said in my earlier post, you could power something like what Techmeme has going on in their sponsored blogs (although in their case, the sponsor is doing the blogging).