PayPerPost | Ted Murphy vs Jason Calacanis The Ultimate Showdown?

 

For some this will already be old news, but I feel I have to include this video just to show impartiality when discussing disclosure, paid posts and Jason Calacanis.

I first started to watch on Sunday morning, and as was typical with my connection, even at Podtech’s lowest quality setting, it was watch 10 seconds of video, wait 30 seconds for it to cache some more.
Then for some reason the stream connection broke and didn’t restart. The payer insisted that I start watching from the beginning again – no chance.

So I opted to download the full MP4 file – the only download version available seems to be the “full quality” version, 180MB – normally that isn’t a problem but it takes a while. For some reason the download was interrupted, and it didn’t resume.

I haven’t actually watched it all yet but some interesting notes:-

How did they manage to discuss so many of the topics I have been covering without mentioning my name once?
Even the change to Jason’s own disclosure came up, and it was referred to something like “you guys” that he had made a change.

This kind of video is great because you can watch the body language.

I tend to agree with the comments on Jason’s blog about references to “most people” this and that assumptions.

Jim Kukral had some good words to say about Ted’s marketing and cool head.

I got the feeling that this interview wasn’t Pay Per Post being put on the spot, but Jason Calacanis, or at least a bit of both.

So anyway Jason, as ThisNext is so honourable and above board, how many ThisNext users who use ThisNext with affiliate links include a disclosure at the start of the review, and does ThisNext require disclosure?

Update:- whilst this initially started off as quite a short post with very little commentary, do take the time to read the comments because they contain some intense debate regarding disclosure in paid posts, advertorials and affiliate marketing

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Andy,

    I have a little different take on this. Jason has been railing for months about PPP and how much he disagrees with it. He finally gets the founder in the same room and he was soft as hell on him? What is he Oprah all of a sudden? Softballs left and right and then the BS of signing the forehead.. He could of accomplished something with that interview, gotten some questions answered, but instead accomplished nothing

  2. says

    Maybe his bark is bigger than his bite?

    On some things Jason is effectively full of it. How can anyone be the first to have disclosure on a blog during this century?

    I effectively had a business blog back in 1998, with dated entries on a single page with references to various business activities. I didn’t progress onto permalinks for individual entries, there wasn’t enough need for them.
    There was a lot more business information on that site because it was part of the company site I created than Calacanis includes on his current site.

  3. says

    “On some things Jason is effectively full of it.”

    I have written about Ted Murphy before and have background with PPP as an advertiser. Jason had some good points, but it deflates quickly when he blew Teds points off (especially about affiliates). I personally think that both of them could have debated a little better, I was bouncing out of my seat when watching that because Ted really could have checked Jason a few times. However, I could understand that he was being interviewed and probably a little nervous. I think Ted did well. Jason ….well you are right, he had no bite on that one.

  4. says

    While I am all for the disclosure policies (which I betterput together), I do not believe that saying “situation in affiliate marketing is worse” is quiet correct. I personally have don much work with datafeed driven websites and if you look at these websites the dscription and info do not differ from the one found on the merchant’s website. While in pay per post you get pay ahead of time to place a review on the blog in affiliat markting I get paid only if visitors buy something. I do not think these two should be put on the same level. Imho.

  5. says

    Working with datafeeds is really just another passive form of advertising just like Adsense.

    It is when some level of WOMM comes into the equation, such as ThisNext (which is driven by datafeeds) that there becomes a problem.

  6. says

    Many times affiliates would spend their own resources to drive traffic to their websites and not every visitor buys – another reason why these two should not fall into same category.

    PS
    Andy you have to forgive me my spelling and grammar…. sorry.

  7. says

    Hi Andy

    I am the CEO and co-founder of ThisNext. I think it is worth clarifying a few points here.

    1, Affiliate links are pretty standard fare across the web. Most blogs don’t bother to disclose the links and no one seems to mind when someone like Boing Boing does not disclose.

    2, Affiliate programs differ from PPP in that affiliate programs only pay when the blogger creates a sale as opposed to getting paid upfront. That way, affiliate posts tend to self-select for posts that actually say something substantive and drive real interest vs just pimping bloggers in an effort to try to trick readers the way PPP does.

    3, ThisNext dos not manage our own affiliate program nor do we pay users to make posts about any products. We simply provide a service that lets people shopcast their taste in various products they love. Just like Typepad and other blogging platforms.

    4, ThisNext currently does not use any datafeeds so your above point about feeds is not applicable to ThisNext.

    5, I am all for transparency and disclosure. That said, the disclosure really should come from the affiliate programs. They are the one’s paying out, not ThisNext.

    6, ThisNext does not require people to write only about monetizable products. People can write about whatever they want (as long as it is a product) and if the vendor of those product has an affiliate program, the blogger is free to add in his/her own affilaite codes. If bloggers want to write about products not included in affiliate programs, ThisNext is totally fine w/that.

    7, Several of our bloggers have asked for ways to disclose on the badge that they are NOT getting paid for the recommendations they make and we are faciliating that for them.

    It is also worth pointing out ThisNext’s policy wrt to blogger affiliate revenues: in short, we enable bloggers to keep 100% of their affiliate fees that they generate on traffic they source on their blogs/sites. IOW, if a reader buys something from a shopcast running on the blogger’s site and the blogger has an affiliate code for that product, the blogger keeps 100% of any commission generated.

    So all this being said, I hope you were not intending to impugn ThisNext’s sense of honor and ethical business practices w/your above remarks about my company.

    I would be happy to discuss w/you our business model and listen to any ideas you have about how you think ThisNext can raise the level of discussion about how to find great products worth spending hard-earned money on. ThisNext’s goal is to help people find great products that can improve their lives and whatever we can do to improve our service is something I would love to hear about.

  8. says

    Hey Andy, good stuff, as usual.

    Pretty cool that you got Gould to comment on your post. Not being intimately familiar with his company, I’ll just observe and wait for your comments to his.

    I think it’s interesting reading the responses to Jason’s interviewing techniques of Murphy. I’ve watched/listened to a couple of his podcasts and have to say that we should first realize Jason is most likely not a trained, professional interviewer. Well, I’ll assume he gets paid/compensated so that technically makes him “professional”. However, anytime you hear an interviewer, while off camera, chiming in with “uh huh’s” and “sure’s” it’s a tell tale sign they haven’t had any formal training (and if they did, they didn’t learn the proper techniques.)

    On the flip side, many of the comments here are coming down on Jason for not being tougher and holding Murphy to the canvas more. I thought he did well enough in that respect, however, much of the last 20 minutes or so of the interview was simply Jason trying repeatedly to get Ted to concede to the points that were introduced in the first 10 minutes.

    Finally, it’s pretty clear to me as a casual observer that there is a lot of ego involved (with anyone, most likely) that produces and delivers this type of video programming. I’ll be watching the progress and ego checking that continues with Calcanis as his podcast moves forward.

    I was not paid by Andy Beard to write this comment, though I do hope he donates more money to plugin developers! ;)

  9. says

    @Gordon: I will assume you are trying to do the right things in a fast moving space — just as Ted at PayPerPost is. Unfortunately for you, Jason is a ThisNext board member and shareholder who neglects to disclose his ThisNext ownership in a Disclosure Policy or in the first sentence of his product reviews (at your site and his blog). That hypocricy brings added scrutiny for ThisNext that won’t go away by pointing fingers at the affiliate networks.

    If you watch Jason’s interview with Ted you’ll hear his multiple references to “enabling” bad behavior by others. You face the same issues and haven’t taken a fraction of the steps PPP has to promote transparency. I’d encourage you to make Disclosure Policies a requirement for every ThisNext member — unless you/they have something to hide…Disclosure Policies can have a lasting impact on blogosphere transparency, but it will take leadership and some tough decisions…

  10. says

    Yo Andy,

    I think they both sucked, frankly. Calacanis was disingenuous and smarmy – Murphy just didn’t make his points and missed the opportunity to knock some of those soft-ball accusations out of the park.

    At any rate, I’m pretty sure both of them thought of the debate as somewhat “heated” – some people should stick to the written word.
    -j

  11. says

    @Vlad – One use datafeeds is to niche it, and rewrite the content – often there can be some WOMM involved, but not always. Don’t worry about your writing, it is certainly better than most Poles who have worked for me as translators because the words you use flow fairly naturally. My translators used to be too literal.

    @Gordon – I assumed there might be some kind of database product search built into the system, from which users could select products. I do need to look at the system more closely, but can’t.
    I must admit I tend to avoid signing up for services that are even loosely similar to services I might intend to create in the future and I take special care reading user agreements.

    It is very hard to disclose a business that only exists on an business plan, and how I make disclosures regarding particular services could potentially be too revealing.

    ThisNext is as much a competitor to my own plans as maybe Amazon or Ebay, but you are doing things a little smarter.

    The technology and the software underlying our Website and the Services is the property of ThisNext, our affiliates, and our partners. You agree not to copy, modify, rent, lease, loan, sell, assign, distribute, reverse engineer, grant a security interest in, or otherwise transfer any right to the technology or software underlying our sites or the Services. You agree not to modify the software underlying our sites in any manner or form or to use modified versions of such software, including (without limitation) for the purpose of obtaining unauthorized access to our sites.

    A case that is really interesting is

    Beyond Systems, Inc. v. Keynetics, Inc., 2006 WL 687156, D.Md.,2006., Feb 14, 2006

    The company whose sole financial interest was the sale of a platform for enabling the sale of products provided by a 3rd party affiliate system was being held liable. I haven’t been able to find the final outcome.

    There is no point in a company suing individual affiliates, they much prefer to go after platform owners and the affiliate programs themselves. I am not a lawyer, thus I don’t know how something like this might affect ThisNext.

    You are correct saying that affiliate programs do differ from PPP – an affiliate benefits financially from higher conversions if they are able to say something positive about a product, however not all affiliate marketing is WOMM, thus not all affiliate marketing requires disclosure.

    An Amazon widget or Ebay widget wouldn’t require disclosure, because they are just display adverts based on CPA/PPA

    The same is true of Google’s new service to a large extent, though maybe it is possible to refer to direct products.

    With Amazon and Ebay it is possible however to directly refer to a single product, just like your mini review blogs and I have seen it is possible to actually create inserts within real blog posts.

    ThisNext do seem to have some kind of policy on WOMM based on the following.

    (ii) publish falsehoods or misrepresentations that could damage ThisNext or any third party; (iii) submit material that is unlawful, obscene, defamatory, libelous, threatening, pornographic, harassing, hateful, racially or ethnically offensive, or encourages conduct that would be considered a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability, violate any law, or is otherwise inappropriate; (iv) post advertisements or solicitations of business: (v) impersonate another person. ThisNext does not endorse any User Submission or any opinion, recommendation, or advice expressed therein, and ThisNext expressly disclaims any and all liability in connection with User Submissions.

    It seems to me PayPerPost are just facilitating a relationship between companies that want to be talked about and bloggers, yet Jason and many of his readership are holding them liable for every utterance made by a Blogger.

    If ThisNext is just a platform, like PayPerPost, how are you able to claim being exempt?

    Surely every 3rd post on your blog should be encouraging people to use proper disclosure.

    It is actually interesting the contempt Jason shows for search engine optimization, when ThisNext is a service whose very essence is a highly optimized reviews platform with extremely interesting linking structures.
    The ThisNext business model is based on monetizing search engine position gained from the use of various widgets and blog inserts. thisnext-20

    My own solution potentially is more viral and possibly better SEO potential, but a lot of the same characteristics.

    @ Dan – Jason does now have some disclosure of ThisNext after constant prodding, mainly from me I think in public, though obviously not to the standards he wants other bloggers to use (first line in every post)

    One thing that he did make clear in the video I forgot to mention is that he is not a shareholder in AOL

    @James – I need more plugin suggestions – I will have to open up the first round of voting soon.

    @John – I didn’t want to be too critical. In some ways I wish Dan was in the room as well – similar to the Techcrunch Podcast a while back

  12. says

    Andy,
    I’ll check but the player should be playing fast since we use a CDN and have a fast bandwidth provider. I’ll check things out. I thought the interview was good.

  13. says

    @ VC Dan

    Firstly, I suggest you walk your talk and disclose you are an investor in PPP whenever you are stumping for the company or start slinging accusations of hypocrisy at me, ThisNext, or Jason.

    Secondly, I am not “pointing fingers” at affiliate networks. I am merely observing that the blogosphere is rife w/undisclosed affiliate links and no one seems to object to them in the vast majority of cases. If you have an issue w/the behavior of millions of bloggers and want to call out their “hypocrisy”, so be it, Sisyphus. This rather parochial objection of yours does, however, seem to be at odds w/your earlier, non-PPP-disclosed comments about how you believe bloggers own their relationship w/their readers and should disclose as they see fit. To quote you:

    ” I’m a market-forces guy and a firm believer that bloggers own their blogs and their audience relationship.” (see http://www.webomatica.com/wordpress/2006/10/15/blogs-splogs-flogs/#comment-156)

    To me, dragging ThisNext into the debate is a diversionary tactic of trying to play gotcha w/Jason and thereby deflect attention away from PPP’s arguably dubious strategy.

    ThisNext offers a free service where we pay *no one* to write about products they love.

    I don’t see much difference between what we offer and what blogging platforms offers w/their automated Amazon links in terms of ethical propriety. If someone can cogently explain the difference, I am happy to discuss it, but so far it seems like a lot of arm-waving in an attempt to draw ThisNext into a debate that is only tangentially relevant to us.

    @ Andy

    Thanks for the heads up re: the case.

    WRT to the question of whether there is parity between PPP and ThisNext, please consider the difference between *commissioning/soliciting* people to write about *specific* products for money vs a place where *any* product can be discussed and no money changes hands between the platform and the contributor. IOW, ThisNext encourages no particular focus on any particular products and and not shilling our contributors.

    Despite VC Dan’s pseudo-allegations above, ThisNext has nothing to hide. I believe in disclosure but, like I said above, no one has been able to explain why ebay widgets or typepad affiliate links are somehow exempt from disclosure while ThisNext is somehow obligated. If anything, ThisNext ought to be even further removed any ethical debate since only a fraction of the items are even potentially monetizable vs everything being monetizable.

  14. says

    Gordon I think that is a little bit unfair. My readership in general knows who Dan is and I think that is the case on almost every blog he comments on.

    Disclosure is a tough subject in regards to comments

    Soliciting – I am solicited about new products or companies available to affiliates on a daily basis, 20 or 30 emails per day, and that isn’t counting the email marketing trying to get me to buy products.

    I choose which products I review, even when I am solicited.

    Within the PPP you can pick and choose – Dan well knows that whilst I display the “review my post” badge, I have never written an opp for Pay Per Post – nothing has yet been appropriate for my readership and time.

    I know affiliates who won’t send an email to their list unless they are guaranteed to earn $20 to $50K from a single email.
    With some that requires a cash payment upfront even to look at the offer.

    You might find my other discussion on disclosure interesting
    http://andybeard.eu/tag/disclosure

    In particular I would like to highlight this post about Clickbank

    http://andybeard.eu/2007/02/clickbank-require-disclosure-a-list-bloggers-totally-missed-the-point-in-december.html

    I know both Dan and Ted have read it, but very few others because attacks on Pay Per Post are fashionable and don’t affect people’s personal financial interests.
    I have asked Jason in comments before why he doesn’t attack affiliate marketing, especially affiliate marketing that includes product reviews that are not disclosed.

    I have trackbacks on my blog, the only links to that post are my own, and one from a social bookmark site.

    That is significant bias in the blogosphere

    Today I spent some time browsing the blog on ThisNext – whilst there is no hyped marketing, there is definitely WOMM and encouragement to try products.

    In many ways the ThisNext blog reminded me of many of the PayPerPost blogs that are heavily criticised by Jason and his readership.

    No fixed niche
    Possibly unrelated content
    A casual visitor wouldn’t spot a relationship between the blog owner suggesting the product, and the content being mentioned
    No disclosure

    It has been mentioned many times that Amazon, Ebay, CJ, Linkshare, and even Google have to encourage disclosure.

    In fact Google actively discourage disclosure for their referral units
    http://andybeard.eu/2007/01/google-requiring-affiliates-not-to-declare-ftc-womma.html

    No WOMM should be exempt, so why should paid post companies who have taken action on disclosure not point the finger at affiliate related services (and people) who quite frankly haven’t.

    Solutions for disclosure also aren’t sexy. I invested time and money in my disclosure policy plugin, a little more time in a feedflare for feedburner, but that doesn’t get any coverage whatsoever.

    If you go a little further back in my archives, you will see references to qualified legal opinion regarding disclosure and affiliate marketing

    http://andybeard.eu/tag/disclosure/page/2/

  15. says

    @ Andy

    Thanks for your thoughtful response to my comments.

    I understand your desire to defend Dan whom I am sure is a perfectly nice guy. You know him from seeing him around the blogosphere and know he disclosed at least once. Therefore you judge him trustworthy, regardless of however self-interested his remarks about PPP might be.

    Fine, it is your prerogative to do as you like on your blog.

    That said, to make the leap that he should be let off the hook because people just “know” who he is and his relationship to PPP is not fair to me, to him, or to your readers.

    Lets look at the situation: Dan stands to make millions off of PPP if the company is successful. He is obviously heavily biased in PPP’s favor. (Would be interesting to know how biased: maybe he would be transparent enough to publish PPP’s cap table). You are asserting that it is OK for him not to disclose this every time since it is incumbent upon your readers to just “know” this about him, no matter Dan’s potential upside. In short, your readers should be smart enough to figure out Dan’s motivations when he writes.

    Now lets look at what you are advocating for the general blogger: apparently you feel their readership is less smart than yours since you would require the general blogger to always disclose any potential transactions, no matter how small, lest those general readers be duped by a wily blogger keen on making his latte money off of a CPA fee. (Readers who care about the affiliate deals in place can almost always tell if there is a CPA relationship so explicit disclosure of CPA is easily checked if not already assumed to be in place.)

    That looks like a double standard and strikes me as profoundly unfair. More unfair than the implied diss in the comments about how I, Jason, or ThisNext have anything to hide.

    There seems to be two competing ethical claims at work here:

    1, a desire for disclosure in the name of the common good
    2, a desire for autonomy by bloggers in the name of the common good

    You seem to recommend the latter for yourself and Dan while advocating the former for general bloggers and companies like sixapart, ThisNext, and others. How come you get to choose your regular audience over the general internet user whereas other bloggers must favor the general internet user and not their regular audience?

    Now all that being said, I *am* open to evaluating ThisNext’s policies but no one still has articulated why TN is different from existing blogging companies wrt disclosure. Further, what, beyond adding red tape, you would hope to achieve by having TN, which pays no one affiliate fees and which is simply a common carrier and which has no particular interest (financial or otherwise) in what products a blogger chooses, force itself into the relationship between bloggers and their readers?

    Please don’t take these comments in the wrong spirit. I enjoy the debate and look forward to working w/you all to make the Net even more cool than it already is ;-)

  16. says

    @Gordon: You’re debating the wrong guys here. Your board member and shareholder Jason Calacanis is the one mandating first sentence disclosure in conflicted product reviews. ThisNext enables conflicted product reviews so either follow Jason’s advice or debate him, not us — watch the interview video again and you’ll see his mention of “enabling” multiple times. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the debate, but I hate seeing misguided energy by passionate entrepreneurs.

    As for comment transparency, thanks for the support Andy, but there is a longstanding mechanism for audiences to understand the context/conflicts of any commenter and that is the siglink — that’s why anonymous commenters carry less credibility than transparently siglinked ones. I transparently siglinked to my blog here and at webomatica. The front page of my blog mentions payperpost no fewer than 8 times, including where I list my investments. PPP is also listed in my sitewide Disclosure Policy, linked from every page. Compare that approach to Jason’s comment at http://thermalblog.co.uk/the-golden-donkeyp/#comments when he had no Disclosure Policy and zero ThisNext disclosure on his homepage and you’ll realize you’re debating the wrong guy.

    That does, however, highlight another value of Disclosure Policies — they provide a goto place for anyone to understand the biases of a commenter via siglink. As always, conflicts may be small or large, but a Disclosure Policy can cover the spectrum. I’d love to see you lead by example by adopting one at your blog and getting Jason to do the same

    I understand you are in a tough position. You are trying to build a business that enables bloggers to make money from publishing their product reviews/recommendations. Your board member and shareholder, Jason Calacanis, is mandating disclosure in a manner that makes ThisNext appear hypocritical along with himself.

    So what do you do? Publicly reject Jason’s first sentence disclosure mandate, follow his mandate or separate him from your company/shares — any of those moves can help ThisNext appear less hypocritical.

    In the meantime, I’d love you to answer the question Jason has refused to answer: What is ThisNext’s business model and what are all the ways it makes money?

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