image I wrote earlier today over at SiliconANGLE about the idea of buying your way into the conversation. I know my friends Sean and Steven both aren’t big on the idea of Magpie in particular and marketing and PR invading the social stream in general.  It is, however, an essential piece of the social media ecosphere since business is the oxygenated blood that keep our social media toys alive.

Still, there are those pundits out there that are against this sort of commercialization on almost religious grounds, or at least with a fervor generally reserved for religious holy wars.

I think I made my point pretty well in the SA piece today, which was to say that buying one’s way into ‘the conversation’ is socially acceptable to most if it’s done courteously and properly.

But I must say I’ve always found it hypocritical and repugnant the way some A-Listers have publicly regarded paid posting schemes while currently making their living from said types of posts.

The Riot Act
Skip if you already know that they’re all guilty of hypocrisy.

image For instance, ReadWriteWeb holds a weekly sponsored post called “Weekly Wrap-Up,” put on by Adobe Flash Media Interactive Server 3.5 most recently. This is particularly ironic, since just last month Marshall Kirkpatrick called a Forrester report encouraging sponsored blogging wrong, and termed it shilling. One wonders if this makes Kirkpatrick self-hating, or simply soulless, as he termed it a couple weeks ago.

image Michael Arrington at Techcrunch has remained fairly silent recently about sponsored posting recently.  The last time he really broached the topic specifically was back in November of last year when he talked about Magpie rather objectively for his personal style. When it comes to sponsored posting, though, Mike Arrington is much less vitriolic about the topic, though no less fervent, calling it shilling.

This, of course, doesn’t stop him from running posts showcasing the many sponsors of his various get-togethers, demos and conferences. I haven’t noticed many specifically sponsored posts in several months, but I know they exist in Techcrunch’s history in one form or another. No disrespect to Mike, but I think he calls it “doing business” when he does it, rather than shilling.

Similarly, VentureBeat has made veiled references in what is generally evenhanded coverage to the negative feelings they have towards Izea, but still regularly post sponsored blog posts of their own.

image Going beyond the “A-List,” what about Jason Calacanis?  In 2006 he made great waves when he said:

If you’re a blogger and want to keep the blogosphere pure I suggest calling these people–and the advertisers who are using them–out. Why can’t we know who the advertisers are on Payperpost? Are we to stupid too know? I wish someone would just out all the disgusting marketers who use this server so we can all shame them for their covert, evil efforts.

Hold the line bloggers!

Keep the marketers out of your posts and inside the ad units!!!

Meanwhile, his brainchild Mahalo seamlessly integrates sponsored links inside content within his answers search engine.


image My former work-mate and big boss Pete has even gotten his licks in on Izea and paid posting over the years, but of course his blog Mashable continues to run paid posts as well.

The Sentencing Phase
image Thankfully, at least for most of us, the fervor has been dialed back some.  Certainly Magpie has set off a lot of old irritations lately, but the teapot’s tempest seems mostly confined Marshall Kirkpatrick.

Part of the reason why a lot of folks are taking a second look at this is because of the work and vocal support from Chris Brogan.

Yes, Chris Brogan.  The dude who shaved his head last week.  The social media guru and all around nice guy who no one seems to be able to be angry at for more than a minute.

Nobody but Chris seems to be looking seriously at sponsored posting in a way that both makes ethical sense as well as business sense. Sure, there are some bright minds at Izea that I’m sure are working at it, but the social media thinkers and pontificators are all so struck with this “it must be evil” thing that they’re unwilling to even consider how you’d go about it in a way that could benefit a client.

It’s severely limited their thinking. 

Is it a dangerous path to advise a client down? Yes.  There’s a trillion ways to screw it up and suffer extreme blowback (particularly while there’s folks out there to blow back hard and fast – if it isn’t Marshall K, it’ll be someone).

But as I explained in my post today at SiliconANGLE, if you approach sponsored posting as a way to cordially buy your way into a conversation (as opposed to how it’s often approached by the non-savvy – a way to pay for the privilege of YELLING OBNOXIOUSLY IN MY EAR), it can be incredibly effective.

My guess is, though, that the majority of the response to this post will be centered around how I’m promoting evil in the blogosphere or the personality conflicts that may arise from me naming names. That just seems to be how we’re all wired on this topic.

Prove me wrong. Tell me your honest thoughts about paid posting and sponsored posts:

  1. Is it wrong all the time?
  2. Is it only wrong when Izea bloggers do it?
  3. Is it only right when “A-List” bloggers do it?
  4. Can it be effectively and ethically done on Twitter?
  5. Can we have an honest discussion on the best ways for us and our clients to do it without getting our panties in a bunch?

Update: I wish I could say I spurred this post at NakedPR, but it was up yesterday and covered just this very topic. Thanks @DigitalSignals

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