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November 27, 2006

Disclosure Policy

There’s a service called PayPerPost.com which has created not one but three separate waves of controversy in the blogosphere: when it launched (see Polluting the Blogosphere in BusinessWeek Online), when it got funded to the tune of $3 million (see TechCrunch), and when it had the chutzpa to suggest a disclosure policy for everybody else (see TechCrunch again).

PayPerPost does what it’s name implies; you can say that much for it: it pays bloggers to post articles about products from its clients.  Much of the controversy is over a policy which does NOT require bloggers to identify paid posts as such (although this is not prohibited either) and which allows clients to set “requirements” for posts such as that they contain pictures or that they be positive.  PayPerPost is the arbiter of whether a post meets the stated requirements.  If it doesn’t, no payment.  Decision of the judges is final.

Respected and envied VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) participated in but didn’t lead the financing.  They have invested in Overture, Technorati, FeedBurner, and, famously and fortunously, Skype.

Perhaps in reaction to the controversy and/or perhaps to fan the fires and get still more attention, PPP launched a site called DisclosurePolicy.org to “accelerate transparency across the blogosphere… DisclosurePolicy.org was created to provide a uniform disclosure mechanism as well as a central place to discuss the ongoing issues surrounding disclosure and transparency.”

The “uniform disclosure mechanism” is a multichoice form which a blogger fills out and which then generates text the blogger can post on his or her site as a disclosure policy.  True to its name and fame, PPP offers to pay each of its members who posts a disclosure policy ten dollars.

The first I heard of PayPerPost was when an ad for it showed up for approval on FeedBurner.  Didn’t do any research but I didn’t like the name and felt that running the ad might imply that I am paid for posting (not!) so I turned it down.  Not a moral judgment but it didn’t fit Fractals of Change.  Decision of the judge is final on that as well.

In FOC, thought I, ads are clearly identified and run in the sidebars or between posts in the center column and RSS feeds.  Whoops! Realized that there are links to Amazon which could result in revenue in my posts which mention books so I took them out (posted about that here). So PPP did make me think.

Although DisclosurePolicy.org may well be more an attempt to expose the fact that some blogs – including some which have criticized PPP – are hypocritical and have their own ethical conflicts than a serious effort to reform the blogosphere, I decided to fill out the form and see what it generated.  The results are below.  However, since it is not possible to be as accurate as necessary within the constraints of the multichoice questions, the text is edited. Deleted stuff has a strikethrough and added stuff is in [brackets].  Not edited for grammar.  I am not a PPP member and will not receive ten bucks for this.

This policy is valid from 21 November 2006

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact  tom at evslin dot com.

This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation [and includes house ads for related blogs, blooks, and books].

The compensation received will never [(I hope)] influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. All [Some] advertising is in the form of advertisements generated by a third party ad network[s]. Those [All] advertisements will be identified as [look like] paid advertisements.

The owner(s) of this blog is not compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owners. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we will only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider [or, better yet, other independent sources].

This blog does contain content which might present a conflict of interest. This content will always be identified. We are employed by or consult with: Evslin Consulting. We serve on the following corporate or non profit boards: FeedBlitz Ltd; ShoreCap Exchange; The Snelling Center [nb. links added by me since the form didn’t seem to allow them]. We blog about people to whom we are related. The most interesting such people are: Wife and children. We have a financial interest in the following that are relevant to our blogging: FeedBlitz; FeedBurner; stock in energy companies; investments with various VC funds; real estate in Vermont; stock in an antenna-tower company; the book hackoff.com. [nb. If I write about any of these companies specifically, I’ll be specific that I own the company.  Listing them here would be an endorsement without an explanation (and might be bad stock advice)].

To get your own policy, go to http://www.disclosurepolicy.org

Hmm…  More thought on this to follow.

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