Sunday, November 14, 2010

Paid to put in client's 2 cents

Once or twice a week for the past 20 years, I've received at least one telephone call, e-mail or letter from a reader asking the same rhetorical question:

"Do you actually get paid to write that (expletive)?"

And that's just from family and friends.

I'm kidding. Sort of. Other readers wonder:

"Are you seriously willing to attach your name and photograph to that (expletive)?"

I get the same type of comments from readers who add their opinions to columns and blogs that appear on azcentral .com, the newspaper's Internet site.

Almost always the queries are made anonymously.

Those of us in the news business are accustomed to readers posting at the end of articles or columns.

Anonymous jeers are to news writers what hecklers are to comedians.

I didn't know until recently, however, that some of those anonymous readers actually are being paid to post responses.

I was on the phone with a young man who told me that a friend of his had what he called a "side job" filing anonymous posts on Internet sites that ranged from news operations to mainstream business websites and more.

He said that even a casual search of the Internet would turn up dozens of operations offering money for blog posts.

And it's true. There are such businesses. And it's been going on for years. (The fact that I just heard about this may indicate that the readers wondering why I get paid may have a point.)

Back in 2006, for instance, Bloomberg Businessweek published an article titled "Polluting the blogosphere" that described the practice. The story reads in part: "Advertisers pay to post details about their 'opportunity,' specifying, among other things, how they want bloggers to write about, say, a new shoe, if they want photos to be included, and whether they'll pay only for positive mentions. Bloggers who abide by the rules get paid; heavily trafficked blogs may command premium rates."

There seems to be no law requiring an anonymous poster on an Internet website to announce whether he or she is being paid.

Some of the companies who advertise for such bloggers are very open about the arrangement. One that I looked at said that after a blogger signs on with the company, an "administrator then assigns writing tasks for what our advertisers want you to mention in your blog."

A friend of mine who once worked in newspapers and now represents politicians and political campaigns says that mainstream websites like are littered with paid blog posts.

They're like the audience "volunteer" in a magic act who actually is a plant by the magician. Only multiplied by . . . hundreds? Thousands?

The young man who told me about this said that his friend earns roughly 5 cents per post. He said that his friend uses as many as 10 different fake identities when posting and earns enough money on a good week for "beer money."

Not exactly a career path, but quick easy cash.

News writers know that staff members working for politicians and business interests will post anonymously on a website to make their causes or their bosses look good.

This is different. There's something creepy about getting paid 5 cents to put in a client's 2 cents worth. Although there is a positive side - at least for me.

For the first time in 20 years, I figure that I now get to respond to every expletive-laced rhetorical comment I receive by asking:

"Do YOU actually get paid to write that (expletive)?"

by E. J. Montini The Arizona Republic Nov. 14, 2010 12:00 AM

Paid to put in client's 2 cents

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