Discussions of regulating digital marketing were just below the surface at New York Ad:Tech. My last post gave an overview of efforts to regulate digital marketing. Now, here’s an interview at Ad:Tech by reporter David Spark with Ted Murphy, CEO of Izea, the company that makes the paid blogging service Social Spark. Ted’s been in touch with the FTC, and that made it into the interview.
How Can Digital Content Pay for Itself?
The quest for “monetization” is still a major theme in digital publishing. Can long-tail marketing pay for itself? What about social media? How can the need for journalism get attached to new working business models?
Answer: Pay for Play, the “Oldest Profession” in Marketing
Pay for play is absolutely present in many non-digital business models. Gartner Consulting is being sued for this right now, for $1.4 billion. IT consulting used to be rife with “sponsored authorship.” They wanted to avoid this kind of case.
I was part of this. First you’d pay Aberdeen to write nice but vague things about your firm, then after a few quarters of paying Garner they’d become aware of you, and you’d get mentions. There were only winks and nudges, perceived or real, exchanged with the subscriptions. Hell, the analysts that covered our space probably thought we all just had nervous ticks.
But firms, like the one in the video below, are explicit about “you pay, we get people to publish stuff for you.” Sounds a bit like the PR trade, but with less smoke and fewer mirrors, and more certainty of results.
The FTC would require that such relationships be made transparent to readers. And though this sounds reasonable, consider why political figures endorse and speak for one another. PR and lobbying are pretty similar: one pursues political favor, the other journalistic favor. Having a truth squad to enforce ethical behavior could be a medicine more deadly than the disease it seeks to solve. Regulation or not, your online BS detector is still the best defense.