An AdSense banner ad caught my eye in searching for headlines today that brought me to the site for PayPerPost, a rather ingenious way for marketers to get PR out in the "blogosphere". In a nutshell, a company wanting PR (termed "advertisers" on the PayPerPost beta Web site) can post opportunities for webloggers to post content on their site regarding a specific topic that a company would like to have covered. Bloggers have to fulfill certain quality requirements and posts must stay on their sites for a period of time before they will be paid by the marketers - and the pay ain't much: 100-word posts go typically for USD 10 and 50-word posts for USD 5. For these rates the likely quality equates to little more than paid search engine spam for marketeers who want to create synthetic "buzz" for their products and concepts. Yuk.
If this particular instance of Pay-Per-Post is not likely to result in quality content it's worth noting that the model as a whole may have some long-term promise. We see at Gather contests for the best stories submitted to the service and of course AOL has had a good degree of success in hiring away social bookmarkers from the Digg service to support Netscape. People with money are willing to pay for amateur and semi-pro content out of pocket, a concept that may have some appeal to people who are unable to get out of contextual ad dollars what they feel their efforts are worth. The trick is to make it a market for independent journalism and not a propaganda marketplace. For example, if a on online journal or a corporate weblog needed a piece on a particular topic, why not put out a price tag for it and let good webloggers fight for the right to post at a realistic rate? Or, alternatively, if a good weblogger is writing on a key topic, why not auction off the redistribution rights to the highest bidder online?
Some say that there's no such thing as bad PR, but it's clear that paying for artificial enthusiasm disguised as real interest is not in the long-term marketing interests of companies. But on the other hand new tools that enable high-quality independent writers and opinion-makers to make a living out of generating content that's consumed via key channels may be in the long-term interests of both publishers and authors. Expect there to be further ideas for online authoring marketplaces that provide a more sophisticated approach than PayPerPost to paying authors for quality content and more ideas as to how marketers can leverage weblogs effectively for PR value in a more authentic way.