October 30th, 2006

If You Can’t Tell Whether Something Is An Ad, That’s Deception


People don’t like to be deceived. When they think they are looking at noncommercial content, and you give them an ad instead, that’s deception. That’s why Wendy’s took flack for circulating ads on YouTube that were not clearly discernible as ads. And that’s why PayPerPost’s new disclosure policy generator won’t help bloggers avoid deceiving their readers and thus destroying their credibility.

An option from DisclosurePolicy.org:

The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content.

If you tell people in the fine print that you might deceive them, and then you go ahead and try to deceive them — well, that’s still deception.

The definitions should be clear and simple. It’s an “ad” if someone paid for it. If anyone looking at whatever the thing is — a blog post, video, text link, whatever — can’t tell it’s an ad, that’s deception.

In a world of infinite media, the only asset anyone has left, whether blogger, search engine, or traditional media company, is TRUST. Deception destroys trust, and so it’s fundamentally bad for the media business.

  • Scott: the reality is that we ALL have a vested interest in driving a Disclosure Policy framework so audiences have a common method to understand the affiliations/disclosure practices of any blogger they find. The issue/solution mirrors data privacy and Privacy Policies -- and the diversity of sites/audiences to be considered.

    Of course, the more critics refuse to try/share disclosure advice at DisclosurePolicy.org, the more this sounds like a blog-traffic-driving controversy rather than a real issue they want to help solve. It's hard to claim a Disclosure Policy framework isn't a helpful step towards blogosphere transparency.

    Check out DisclosurePolicy.org, use the DP Generator, edit it to match your practices, link to it from every page and then share your DP advice so others can learn from your perspective/experience.

  • a reader

    The New York Times is a deception. So are Reuters, Associated Press, and the rest of the centralized and infiltrated "news" organizations. Deal with it.

    Are you aware of how easily these organizations are played?

    You can't believe ANYTHING you read on the internet. Deal with it.

  • Mario,

    You're incorrect. I see you didn't actually LOOK, but offered a snap judgment instead. Every paid post is disclosed.


  • I like your thoughts - remember that payment occurs in many ways. If you get any free goods or services in addition to cash, it should be disclosed. Period.

    Here are some thoughts I had:

  • Mario

    You are being deceptive because you aren't telling us which ads were paid for. It doesn't matter if you're honest in the review itself, if you aren't telling the whole story, you aren't giving the reader critical information they need.

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