This image was lost some time after publication.

Whatever our differences with Jason Calacanis, we're foursquare on his side when it comes to the ickiness of Pay Per Post. PPP's Ted Murphy has been on a tear vs. Calacanis lately as part of a continuing campaign to prove the worthiness of PPP as a business. Certainly Murphy must be making money, but that doesn't make his business any less off-putting. The problem with PPP isn't that it's not effective, assuming it is effective versus other kinds of product promotion. The problem is that it's sleazy manipulation, pure and simple.

You either recognize that sleaze for what it is, or you don't. Too many PPP critics try to engage it on the merits of disclosing commercial relationships, and to Murphy's credit, he's quick to point out endless examples of gray-area shillwork by other bloggers. But the elemental success of the PPP model stands or falls on the ability of its bloggers to gloss over the fact that their posts are paid advertising. Not outirght deception, or overt manipulation. It's just subtle word-of-mouth-ish goodness that appeals based on its amateur, unpolished presentation. PPP is not designed to reach smart, savvy consumers. It's designed to reach large masses of indiscriminate blog readers on the cheap ... people who reflexively avoid obvious advertising, but who are easily drawn in by a regular-joe blogger.

Murphy's love of his "transparency" initiatives — such as the laughable "disclosure badges," which are in fact widgets for selling yet more advertising — should be further proof that the concept of disclosure as inoculation against impropriety is dead as a doornail. All the disclosure in the world won't justify the fact that Hewlett-Packard paid a woman to write their logo on her face. If you don't recoil from that, then you're not going to object to anything else PPP does — or anything they pay anyone else to do.