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WOMMA Blows It On Disclosure Issue

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The Word of Mouth Marketing Association takes aim at the blogosphere’s favorite target, PayPerPost, but Andy Beard found some reasons to be concerned about their choices of disclosure exemplars.

WOMMA took some time to blast PayPerPost after an article about one of their participating bloggers, Colleen Caldwell, made it to the Los Angeles Times. Her offense? Posting a disclosure policy generated by PayPerPost to disclose her acceptance of compensation for blogging about various topics.

Beard took a peek at the WOMMA statement, and at the LA Times article in question. He noted the participation of Jeff Jarvis and Jason Calacanis in the Times interview; their commentary subsequently made it into WOMMA’s piece.

There are some deeper issues in play, especially when it comes to disclosure. Beard found that Calacanis, and Jarvis to a lesser extent, have room to improve in that area. First, Jarvis:

Jeff is collecting email addresses every time you place a comment, so you would expect some kind of privacy statement, especially with the amount of tracking going on.

You would also expect some kind of physical mailing address, because in some ways his blog is performing WOMM for the various businesses in which he has involvement.

Beard’s issue is more with privacy at Jarvis’ BuzzMachine; Jarvis has a lengthy disclosure page, but it is not accessible from single blog posts.

Now for Calacanis’ site, where Beard finds much more to poke:

I can’t give you an example of Jason Calacanis’ disclosure policy, he hasn’t got one.

It is well known that he has financial connections with www.ThisNext.com which is present all over his website without disclosure.

Jason’s ThisNext connection is also important, because in many ways ThisNext is a competitor to PayPerPost, and online reviews sites are not immune to problems with shilling reviews.

When Jason attacks PayPerPost is it really just because of ethics and his concern?

Beard wraps up everything by going back to the WOMMA piece, and what he saw as a contradiction between their recent statement and point number 5 in their FAQ.

That section of the FAQ answers the question about why there aren’t specific rules about what people should say. But in their anti-PayPerPost commentary, they call for "strict guidelines" on disclosure.

It would be instructive if WOMMA could deconstruct the PayPerPost disclosure policy as Caldwell has posted on her site, and indicate what may be construed as deceptive, unfair, or unclear. Along with why WOMMA should be the ones qualified to do so.

WOMMA Blows It On Disclosure Issue
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  • VC Dan

    Nice post David. Ted’s latest post at http://blog.payperpost.com/ makes it pretty clear how WOMMA had a shot at influencing Disclosure Policies when they first came out and dropped the ball. Their conflicting guidelines do a lot less for transparency than DPs, but even still every WOMMA member can use PPP in accordance with every WOMMA guideline. In fact, PPP’s marketplace review process can help any sponsor monitor compliance with industry or corporate disclosure policies. Imagine what is involved for an agency managing multiple blogger relationships and multiple corporate disclosure requirements — without PPP it could be a transparency fiasco.

    Anyway, keep up the great blogging…

  • Andrew Beard

    The aim of the article was to demonstrate how easy it is to make mistakes, and maybe people are judging others by rules that they are not following themselves.

    You have actually just made one of the mistakes that WOMMA, Jason and the LA Times made, you didn’t link through to the source article ;)

    The LA Times issue is actually very bad, because in their terms of service they don’t allow deep linking, very much like Krak.dk were recently charging people for deep linking to their content, typically almost $1000, even though they didn’t clearly mention that it was against their rules to deep link to them.

    • David A. Utter

      That was an intentional omission, Andy, to encourage thoughtful consideration by our readers. Really. :)

  • Colleen Caldwell

    As I said on the WOMMA blog – I think my disclosure is pretty prominent. It’s on every single page of my blog, and I’ve been very vocal there about being paid to blog as well.

    Thanks for your input on the matter!

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