The online viral-marketing world had a minor shakeup today, when the subtly named company PayPerPost announced that it would require its contracted bloggers to disclose the sponsorship of certain posts, whether in the posts themselves or via a site-wide disclaimer. The move comes after an FTC ruling last week that companies engaging in word-of-mouth marketing must disclose their advertising relationships.
PayPerPost, as its name suggests, pays its blogging members for posts that link to sponsors; the payouts for linkage are as low as $5. Its member blogs read like a cross between comment-section spam and a really boring co-worker’s ramblings; the writers’ thoughts about subjects like credit cards seem pretty banal, until you mouse over the links and realize that they’re all linking back to the same UK credit card company, an odd choice for blogs penned by American writers. Linkage–and not editorial quality–is advertisers’ end goal; the music-blog world, on the other hand, is chiefly populated by enthusiasts who want their readers to believe that they care about the quality of the music they’re posting, at the very least. The old stalwarts of music-blogging, some of whom don’t even take advertising, have a developed level of trust with their readers–witness the mini-firestorm that ensued when some decided to test out the paid-review site ReviewMe.com.
Taken together, these developments make it seem that blogging as a whole is, slowly, becoming more and more like its old-media counterparts, at least in the way that the division between editorial and business is becoming more defined. While the increased editorial accountability is a good thing to us–reading just a few PayPerPost sites took quite the toll on our ability to trust people–what effects this delineation has on the music-blogging world remain to be seen; will it make people more gunshy about posting everything that lands in their inbox? Or will it free them from the idea of reactive blogging, and allow their online fandom, and editorial voice, to develop in a way that isn’t necessarily tethered to being the first on their block to link to the newest Arcade Fire MP3?