The Federal Trade Commission recently said it was looking into how it could require disclosure
when bloggers are being paid to write about a product, the latest move in a long-running flap over the potential abuse of word-of-mouth marketing. A big driver behind this flap was the emergence a few years ago of a company called PayPerPost, which (as its name indicates) paid bloggers to write nice things about its customers' products. PayPerPost raised a lot of questions about deceptive advertising, in particular, who should be held responsible for it: the blogger or the company paying the blogger. As Mike noted at the time, focusing
on one platform misses the larger point that deceptive advertising is deceptive advertising, regardless of where it appears. With that in mind, it shouldn't be at all surprising to see the company behind PayPerPost -- which has since changed its name to Izea -- is now paying folks to post its customers' messages to their Twitter account
. Seeing as how Twitter only allows messages of 140 characters or less, there's not a lot of room for disclosure there. These sorts of efforts will continue to spread to new platforms as they emerge, particularly when they grab new users in the way Twitter has. Perhaps the only saving grace is that as these shady marketing efforts grow, people will become more and more skeptical about product recommendations from untrusted sources online, undermining the value of paid placements for companies. This sort of microshilling doesn't seem like it will have a long shelf life -- especially if the FTC decides to get involved.