Reductio ad Advertorium

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at Ben Kunz’s “Modest Blogging Proposal” column in BusinessWeek. He leads with:

If “pay per post” lets online writers shill for cash, why not go all the way and sell real-life opinions, too?

He proceeds to take it all the way himself, ultimately concluding:

So let’s sell, people! Embed paid promotions into the fabric of life. Tell your kids to behave if they want an iPhone! Then ask Steve Jobs to send you an Apple (AAPL) gift card! We can call it Sponsored Paid Opinions in Human Meetings, or SPOHM—not to be confused with spam. 

It’s a brilliant piece, and I recommend that you read it in its entirety. And I’m not even being paid for my opinion! Swift would be proud.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.

6 replies on “Reductio ad Advertorium”

Thanks, and I didn’t eat any Irish babies while working on the piece.

I do think the entire issue points to the immaturity of blogging as a communications medium. The reason that editorial and advertising are separated is not “ethics” … but efficiency. When you lose your voice, people begin to stop listening. Bloggers may not see any risk in polluting their channel by writing puffery for $500 gift cards. I point them to telemarketing, another logical idea that eventually died as consumers got sick of unwanted messages arriving via phone over 6 p.m. dinner. Call it tragedy of the communications commons — a little pollution here, a little more there, and soon there is no clear ground left for anyone.



I agree. It’s one thing for a writer to be biased by his or her own world view, but another entirely to put that world view up for sale. As you say, it’s a matter of efficiency: trust is too binary for a reader to invest the effort in teasing out what part of a message is editorial and what part is advertising.

Or at least for an informed reader. I still marvel at the use of celebrity testimonials and endorsements in advertising. Perhaps we’re not all as sophisticated as we think we are.

In any case, I do wonder what happens if people start using ad blockers en masse. Will we reconsider the antiquated notion of paying for content? Or will your modest proposal start looking like a plausible alternative?

As I blogged recently, selling out: it sells.


Comments are closed.