PayPerPost Recruits 'Link Love'

Controversial viral marketing firm PayPerPost, which pays bloggers to write about products, has launched an affiliate program aimed at recruiting new bloggers who will link to existing entries.

The new affiliate program, "ReviewMyPost," pays new bloggers for writing items that link to PayPerPost blog items. At launch, the new bloggers will be paid $7.50 per link, while the original bloggers will get that same amount for each new recruit who links to them.

The initiative, unveiled Wednesday, was met with criticism from some word-of-mouth experts. Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer for word-of-mouth monitoring firm Nielsen/BuzzMetrics, said the affiliate marketing structure adopted by pay-per-post potentially "eviscerates any semblance of objectivity" of the links written by paid bloggers. "This model, even with their attempts at disclosure, further muddies the integrity of consumer conversations," he said.

Moreover, Blackshaw said, the program lends itself to questionable search engine optimization practices; advertisers or bloggers could purchase links to drive up their organic placement on Google, for example. "Buying "link love" also raises lots of tough questions about the integrity of search results," he said.

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Ted Murphy, PayPerPost's CEO, disputed that paying for an endorsement cheapens links. "I don't believe that compensation devalues links to the advertiser," he said. What's more, he added, PayPerPost links are identified as sponsored.

The company has come under fire in the past for what critics describe as co-opting the blogosphere for commercial interests. At a recent media conference in New York, David Weinberger, co-author of the "Cluetrain Manifesto," described the company as "corrosive to the conversation." Earlier this month, the company tightened its disclosure requirements, mandating that bloggers put graphical labels on sponsored posts, but criticism continued.

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