If You Can't Tell Whether Something Is An Ad, That's Deception

People don’t like to be deceived. When they think they are looking at noncommercial content, and you give them an ad instead, that’s deception. That’s why Wendy’s took flack for circulating ads on YouTube that were not clearly discernible as ads. And that’s why PayPerPost’s new disclosure policy generator won’t help bloggers avoid deceiving their readers and thus destroying their credibility.

An option from DisclosurePolicy.org:

The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content.

If you tell people in the fine print that you might deceive them, and then you go ahead and try to deceive them — well, that’s still deception.

The definitions should be clear and simple. It’s an “ad” if someone paid for it. If anyone looking at whatever the thing is — a blog post, video, text link, whatever — can’t tell it’s an ad, that’s deception.

In a world of infinite media, the only asset anyone has left, whether blogger, search engine, or traditional media company, is TRUST. Deception destroys trust, and so it’s fundamentally bad for the media business.