Remember the moment you knew MySpace was doomed? It came in the form of obnoxious ads. Which your Twitter stream is about to be. So: are you making that cash, or being cashed in on? Pay Per Post is back.
Today, the Times runs a trend(ing) piece in the business section on how Twitter users are making serious cash Tweeting ads. Like, serious cash. How much?
Meet John Chow, a guy who makes money telling people how to make money online with his blog. Basically, imagine an infomercial about making infomercials. That's this guy, who's described as a "blogger and Internet entrepreneur." Watch, he makes money:
Mr. Chow treated his 50,000 Twitter followers to a photograph of his lunch (barbecued chicken and French fries), discussed the weather in Vancouver and linked to a new post on his Internet business blog. Then he earned $200 by telling his fans where they could buy M&M's with customized faces, messages and colors...In October, Mr. Chow's income from Twitter ads was around $3,000. "I get paid for pushing a button," he said.
$200 bucks. For telling people about M&Ms. Since the Times doesn't, let's take a look at what that Tweet looked like:
He's got the designation of it being an ad in two characters, four if you count the parenthesis. He puts the designation of it being an ad after he places the link, so visually, your awareness doesn't come into play until you've been given the chance to get to/click on whatever's being sold. And four characters out of 88 comes to about 4.54% of the message. It looks subversive to me, and I know it's an ad, but then again, I'm not dumb enough to follow this guy in the first place.
Yet advertorial content is a time-honored tradition in all kinds of publishing formats! Including this one, where we place "sponsored ads" everywhere. But these look like out-and-out endorsements, followed by the designation of it being an ad. And if you attach them to hashtags and @feeds, you can more or less just harass and molest the flow of information coming in to Twitter. Just like when you could see HOT XX NEKKD AMATEURS being attached to Twitter messages that were coming out of Iran after their elections a few months back, by automatic spam bots. Brilliant.
So: what's the defense for completely subverting and messing with the user experience on Twitter? Enjoy this:
"We don't want to create an army of spammers, and we are not trying to turn Facebook and Twitter into one giant spam network," said Joey Caroni, co-founder of Peer2. "All we are trying to do is get consumers to become marketers for us."
Kind of sounds like the way vampires work, right? Once you're done with getting your blood sucked, you become one of them because you need more blood. The reason people left MySpace en masse (besides the fact that Facebook offered a cleaner interface and unanimously better user experience) was because of the gross, nonstop barrage of advertising, which Facebook has thankfully kept to a tolerable minimum. What's to stop your Twitter feed from becoming just one, long, advertisement if the people and trending topics you follow are being turned into ad-vampires left and right? And do people even really care that much?
One problem is that many Internet users eschew the idea of these ads, saying they commercialize authentic dialogue and undermine people's credibility. "It interferes with your relationship with your friends and your audience," said Robert Scoble, a technology blogger with more than 100,000 followers on Twitter, who says he "unfollows" people on Twitter who send him ads.
Exactly. So who's to blame for all of this, really? When Twitter goes to shit, and like a bad strain of drugs, everything you touch comes from the same gross source lacing it with their nasty advertorial additives? This assclown, snake oil salesman Mr. Ted "The Murphman" Murphy, he of Pay Per Post, a company basically everyone in Silicon Valley regards as straight-up evil.
They're not wrong. Pay Per Post was having users sell other users on products with no disclosure that they were ads. Whoops! The Times article catches up with Murphy, who's now doing Izea. Which is how Julia Allison ended up shilling for Sea World. But Murphy's reformed! He's better now! He knows he made a mistake!
Ted Murphy, the C.E.O. of Izea, now a 30-person business backed by $10 million in venture capital, said the company initially "made a big mistake" by not setting disclosure standards for publishers and advertisers. Today, ad networks promote their standards; Izea's ads on Twitter are typically demarcated with signifiers like "#ad" or "#sponsor."
Right. Except, whoops, not all of them:
The Times piece wraps up like so, as they chat with people running Likes.com, which, I don't even care to know what it is, really. All of these people are gross and lecherous. Here:
"We are trying to limit it, to prevent people from losing their following," said Bindu Reddy, a former Google product manager who started the company with her husband, Arvind Sundararajan, a former Google engineer. "We know people are queasy about this."
Right! But probably not as much as Twitter is, or should be. It doesn't appear that they're doing anything to even take a cut of the product being moved under their hood. Amazing that the most money being made on Twitter isn't by Twitter. Their product goes down in value to them because it's becoming an ad network.
But who's even dumb enough to follow Julia Allison and John Chow? Won't they catch on to the con being run on them? Well: the same people who watch bad TV, for one thing. Philo Farnsworth probably thought his invention was going to make the world a way better place, too.
Meanwhile, spambots and assclowns like Ted Murphy's zombie army who're getting small bucks will attach themselves to hashtags and your @feed like leeches. Big brands won't care whether this hurts what people think of their product—however much we want it to, or however marginally it will—because this creates awareness. And to think, it's all because of a guy who likes like Ted Murphy. Look again. Right?
Nothing gold can stay, Pony Boy. Unless we can get everyone to do this: