Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I guess Izea isn't the place where you can get Swedish meatballs

I probably get a few hundred things in my RSS feeds daily, and many of them pass by without being read. But I did happen to read two of them, both of which had a common theme.

One was written by Julia Roy, the other by Loren Feldman. See if you can tell them apart. (I think you can.)

...Never been to a Kmart. It’s just not on my radar. So when Izea contacted me and said that Kmart would like to give me a $500 gift card I wasn’t sure what to expect. Sure I’ve heard of them and seen stores around, anyway I didn’t know what to expect. Turns out Kmart has all kinds of stuff for a web video geek such as myself. The first thing I did was go to Kmart.com and look at cameras. Sure enough they had the Kodak zi6 HD camera that has garnered my interest of late. $200 out the door delivered....

...Kmart sent me on a shopping spree for the holidays! Yup, you read that right. Kmart provided me with a $500 gift card to go shopping crazy at the Kmart store here in NYC. I have to admit, I had a blast! I've not been inside a Kmart in a quite some time- not since my mom used to take my siblings and I there for back-t0-school shopping. The store experience is just how I remember it, not exactly visually beautiful but packed with deals that sure are pleasing to the pocket....

Now both the posts begin with this language:

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Kmart via Izea.

This was followed by a statement noting that the opinions were Julia's/Loren's. And then they stated their opinions (both were positive on the deal). This was then followed by the $500 gift card offer. Here's how Julia worded it:

I have also been hooked up with a $500 Kmart gift card to give away to my readers. Hooray!

There are TWO Ways to Play....

1st: Leave a comment on this post with the Kmart Item #s of products you would buy with a $500 gift card. Remember the comment must include the items you would want from Kmart that add up to $500 or less - and you must include the sku/item#'s. You can go to http://www.kmart.com to look for item numbers.

2nd: Using your Twitter account, Retweet this exact phrase "RT @juliaroy is giving away a $500 #Kmart Gift Card on her blog - simply tweet or comment to enter http://urlbrief.com/a3a746" You only have to say that phrase.

Each tweet or comment counts as one registration. The contest allows up to two registrations per person, so leave both a comment on this post and and a ReTweet on Twitter of the phrase above for a double chance to win!

The winner will be chosen at random, you can get the full details here.

In my view, Roy and Feldman fully disclosed everything that needed to be disclosed, right at the tops of their posts. I wondered what other people thought of the practice.

Evan's PR blog:

After retweeting their URL's to enter myself into the contest (cause who doesn't want $500 from KMart?!?!?!), I tweeted "With all the people Retweeting Chris Brogan, I'm guessing no one has sees credibility issues with taking compensation? Great! Me neither! ha" to which blogger Chris Brogan replied, "@erob1 - the key there is disclosure. Say it up front. Be clear. Provide info. Done. : )".

Evan continued:

[E]very blogger had some form of disclosure or disclaimer stating that they were compensated/sponsored for their post, but where is the connection to what they are blogging about? Shoemoney.com blogger Jeremy Schoemaker wrote a full post about the KMart and Izea campaign, including pics of his shopping trip with quirky comments and all, but what does that have to do with what he posts about, which is normally financial stuff and tech stuff. Also as of the time of this post, Sears Holding Corp., for KMart, had not released a press release about their campaign and I couldn't find anything about it on Izea's site...why not???

With the two posts that I saw, I really didn't see an issue. Roy specifically talked about getting items for her apartment, and Feldman (as noted above) talked about video cameras.

But would a professional like Feldman use video equipment from Kmart? If I recall his conference speech correctly, he would. I forget the details, or even the conference, but I vaguely recall that Feldman stated that you could get acceptable video output from lower-end video cameras, and that in some situations you can get by without spending gazillions of dollars on high-end equipment.

So, not having really heard about Izea (or Pay Per Post), I wondered what the negatives were. I figured that I'd run into some "Izea is sleazy and doesn't inform readers that posts are paid" types of arguments. However, the first negative post that I did find was a scathing review from a blogger. Here's part of an email that Izea sent him:

Thanks so much for your post. We are glad to see that you were excited about the Opp. Unfortunately, we are not able to approve this post because it does not meet the requirements of our Terms of Service regarding Interim Posts.

According to our Terms of Service, PayPerPost Opportunity-related posts may not appear consecutively on your Blog. Each PayPerPost Opportunity post must be separated by at least one non-sponsored, original content, post. ‘Sponsored’ posts apply to both PayPerPost Direct and Marketplace Opportunities, as well as other sponsored posts from competitive services.

While arguing that the questionable post actually was non-sponsored, original content, Izea replied with the following:

I have reviewed your post, however I was unable to find your Disclosure Policy. Please make sure your blog has one and then resubmit your post. If you have a site-wide policy please make sure it is available from every page of your blog. You can check out www.disclosurepolicy.org to get your policy.

So this first objector thought that Izea's disclosure policies were too stringent and haphazardly applied (he had been paid for previous posts, despite the fact that he didn't have a disclosure policy).

However, others have questioned Izea's disclosure policy. Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote this in an October 2007 post:

PayPerPost is a venture funded Search Engine Optimization scam that threatens to torpedo the reputation of the already widely questioned blogosphere. It may also be a perfectly fair way for small time bloggers to make a living, depending on who you ask....

None of us are pure and there are few firm lines established regarding what is and is not acceptable when you're trying to make money blogging (I called a paid review service brilliant just last post) - but disclosure of payment is one of the most basic requirements for paid blogging to be ok. Even with disclosure, PPP is a sketchy operation; the disclosure story at PPP has always been a little murky. The company instituted a requirement of some on-site disclosure at the end of last year, but even some major brands patronizing PayPerPost require "no in-post disclosure."

Kudos to Sears/KMart for being open about what they're doing.


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