I read Davis Freeberg’s post at Seeking Alpha Thursday morning and my reaction was a potent mix of disbelief, disgust, and anger. So I held off on posting about this until I had time to get over my initial reaction. Now, most of a day later, my reaction is – a potent mix of disbelief, disgust, and anger. Of all the companies to use a organization like PayPerPost, I never would have guessed ‘TiVo’. TiVo, you have one of the most vociferous, legitimate grass-roots movements of any product or brand! People, like myself, blog about TiVo not because we’re paid to do it, but because we have a genuine passion for the company and the product!
PayPerPost is an astroturf factory. Only companies that can’t get that kind of genuine response use them to fake it. It is a repulsive marketing tactic, sending bloggers out to shill a product – not because they have any genuine feelings for the product, but because they’re being paid to do so. This kind of bullshit cheapens a brand – and it is, frankly, an insult to everyone who legitimately blogs about TiVo or participates in online TiVo forums. Now that this is out there, everything is tainted. Now anyone who blogs about TiVo could be legitimate, or they could be some jerk just doing it for the money.
Bloggers – you want to make some money off your blog – hey, that’s fine. I’d like to make money off my blogging too. My dream would be being able to be a full time tech blogger and pundit and not having to work a ‘day job’ – but I’ll take making some money to make the site and associated activities pay for themselves and not come out of my pocket. But you can do that through honest means, without selling your integrity – and the instant you shill PayPerPost, that’s just what you do. Join affiliate programs for websites you yourself use or support (if you wouldn’t use the site or product, then you shouldn’t be an affiliate, no matter what it pays – integrity again). Try Google Adsense or another ad program. Get someone to sponsor your site. But never, ever, sell your content. The second you do that, nothing you say is believable. Are they your thoughts and words – or are you some advertiser’s puppet with an arm elbow-deep in your arse? Your readers can never know – and once you lose your integrity, it is damn hard to get it back. Reputations are far easier to lose than to build up.
When bloggers like these shill for TiVo because they are paid to do so, it doesn’t matter if they really do use and enjoy TiVo. It is like some talking head on the news reciting crap from some talking points memo – do they really believe it or are they paid to act like it? If you take the coin, you’re tainted. And that taint colors the entire blogging community, because if some people are willing to sell out, who else may have sold out in secret? It doesn’t matter if people include a disclaimer, or a ‘bumper’ in their video. Yeah, PayPerPost has a Code of Ethics for bloggers, but people jump on these ‘opps’ to make money. Just read through their own forums.
TiVo, it seems like this ill-conceived scheme is designed to create video astroturf on YouTube. Why? There are other ways to incentivize people to make fools of themselves on camera and post it to YouTube – and you even use them! See your own ‘Hook Up’ campaign and the video submissions. Or Sling Media’s Stand-Up & Sling contest. There are ways to get people to willingly create viral marketing content without paying them to shill – and the people who willingly produce the videos for the slim chance of winning a unit, etc, are almost always those who have a genuine passion and interest in the product, not someone just looking to make a buck.
In case my opinion isn’t perfectly clear – I am disgusted with TiVo for using PayPerPost, and I’m against the whole concept of ‘paid blogging’. ‘Paid blogging’ is just a polite way of saying ‘shill’. There are other ways to make money from blogging. Don’t sell out. And shame on TiVo for astroturfing. Just like laying astroturf over grass will kill the grass, astroturfing over grass-roots will kill the genuine movement.
Here’s an idea – stop pathetically paying people to pretend to be your friends, and put the money towards covering rebate claims from your real customers.