PayPerPost, a company that pays bloggers to write about products, will announce new tools for advertisers to target high-end bloggers, disclosure "badges" to better identify sponsored posts, a Firefox toolbar and new video categories.
PayPerPost CEO Ted Murphy said those items will be launched next week. Expect some hubbub as Murphy is pretty upfront about how he wants top 100 bloggers in the PayPerPost network. Today, PayPerPost has "a small handful of the top 100 bloggers," says Murphy.
If Murphy has his way that tally may change. Today, advertisers pay $5 to $10 per post in bulk campaigns. But PayPerPost's new segmentation engine--a Web interface that can specify the quality of network bloggers by Technorati rank, Alexa traffic and other criteria and exclude domains--will allow an advertiser to pay higher amounts. For example, a top 100 blogger could be paid $2,000 for a sponsored post. One sponsored post a week in a sea of non-sponsored posts could pay some bills.
"The strategy is to bring more bloggers on board," says Murphy.
If reaction from the AlwaysOn conference is any indication Murphy may have an uphill climb. Murphy gave the company's PowerPoint spiel and experts on a panel chafed at the concept of paid blog posts.
Eric Janszen, CEO of iTulip, said PayPerPost is a tough sell because both bloggers and readers value editorial independence. One blogger in the AlwaysOn "Blogger Bullpen" cheered loudly. Beet.TV CEO Andy Plesser said he'd be "very leary if I'm a marketer and I'm paying someone to blog my product."
While I can certainly echo those sentiments, I don't have a big problem with PayPerPost's model--as long as the disclosure is up front. To me, PayPerPost's model harkens back to the old Goto.com model, which was based on paid search results. Bid the most and your search result was at the top. Sound familiar? It should. Goto.com became Overture, which was later acquired by Yahoo. Goto.com/Overture also gave Google a nice model to emulate and perfect.
To those that argue that PayPerPost is shady: Is it any different than a product placement on a television show? Ever notice how NBC's The Office resembles a Staples commercial? How about those Ford placements in American Idol? And if a blogger finds a product he likes and then goes to get the sponsorship the placement may even be more credible.
The key for PayPerPost model is disclosure, which is what got the company in hot water with the blogging community before. When the company launched in June 2006 without a disclosure policy, PayPerPost was lambasted. In October, Murphy implemented a disclosure policy that lacked teeth--it was up to the blogger to disclose as he or she sees fit. Murphy says the move cost him about 50 advertisers out of about 3,500 and a small number of bloggers. In December, PayPerPost made it mandatory that bloggers disclose they are being paid.
Murphy says the company is about to standardize how disclosure is delivered. With PayPerPost's disclosure badges--a blue graphic bar at the bottom of a page that reads "This post sponsored by PPP"--bloggers will have a graphical way to disclose that they are sponsored to mention a product. To maximize revenue these bars will also provide additional links when moused over. One weak spot is that these badges aren't mandatory--although disclosure is. Murphy, however, notes that advertisers are likely to prefer the disclosure badges and he expects wide adoption.
The third component of PayPerPost's enhancements will be a Firefox toolbar, which will inform a blogger of potential sponsored opportunities at a particular site.
Finally, PayPerPost is looking to ease video sponsorship. Today, video on the site is a very manual. With the new tools, PayPerPost will divvy up sponsorship opportunities into three categories--standard, where a blogger uploads video, bumpers, where an advertiser inserts ads before and after a video, and a mashup approach where advertising and blogger video is thrown together.
Whether Murphy's company takes on a few more barbs after the company's latest efforts remains to be seen. But Murphy has a thick skin--he also believes he's onto something big.
Indeed, if PayPerPost does land a few top 100 bloggers for a price the network could snowball. "If you look at paid search there was controversy about that too," says Murphy. "Ultimately it's going to be about the quality of the post content."