Union Hotel, Fitzroy, Mebourne

Traditional commercial media have always been a dubious source of commentary and news, the way I see it is that their job is to sell time (TV and Radio) or space (Newspaper or magazine) to advertisers, and therefore the entire content of their broadcast or print product is based around ensuring they get lots of eyeballs, and that they don’t say anything to upset the advertiser.

There’s also a certain amount of advertorial, some of which is clearly labelled, and then some (some would say most) of it isn’t labelled. That’s all fair and good, because as educated consumers, we’re aware of media as business, and therefore we tune out to the obvious and sometimes not so obvious advertising messages.

I don’t have any issue with this at all, because media is in the business of business, and the general public has a certain level of mistrust with them at the best of times.

Since blogging became the IN thing in 2004/2005, many people have started treating personal or non-traditional media blogs as an alternative editorial and sometimes even news source. Primarily made up of passionate people in the early days of the blogosphere, there was rarely a word of mention about ‘monetising your blog’ or having that crazy belief you could make a buck from your blog.

That’s been changing at a fairly fast pace over the last eighteen months, with the contextual advertising kids, such as Google Adsense, making it easy for any Jill or Joe Public to earn some pocket money from placing fairly obvious advertising on their site.

Then came the likes of Text Link Ads, who cashed in on the “sell links off your blog” as a way of helping advertisers with their SEO. Both of these scenarios, and those similar businesses, etc are all fair and good. I believe mainly because it is easy to spot advertising from editorial, and so we’ve built up a certain level of assurance that there isn’t advertorial anywhere.

Then there’s that more difficult to pin down affiliate arena. This is where bloggers can post about how great ProductX or ServiceY is, and often, bloggers will mark these links in the form of (aff) or (affiliate) after the link, or worst case, you can mouse over the link and soon discover a link with the form of /affiliate_id=4353 and know fairly promptly that there’s a commercial implication in that link being on that post.

Not withstanding the plethora of splogging and seo driven blogs, it’s all fairly transparent what is going on with most posts. They might not be TV ad breaks or clearly marked advertisements, but you know the real deal to a certain degree.

Now, however, there’s a new kid on the block, and they’re making the public aware of what I imagine has been happening for some time in darkened laneways, and trying to pass itself off as legitimate method of earning money.

Imagine sifting through a list of topics, seeing one about a product or service you’ve tried (or maybe heard about, or maybe not even that), and being offered anywhere from $1 to $50 to write about it? So I can start writing about how great Florida is, or how I love office chairs, knowing that I’ll be making some sweet cash from my typing workout.

If that’s your dream job, then head right over now to PayPerPost.com and scour the list of topics to write about, and away you go – no more crazy ethical decision making for you, you’re now in the big time!

Who else believes this is a concerning trend? Who else believes that the implied trust in blogs is quickly eroding, and we’ll never return to this simple life, or perhaps I am just naïve, and it’s been like this all along?

Image: Union Hotel, Fitzroy, Melbourne.

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