PayPerPost Blocks Google Adsense in Prime Real Estate of Blogosphere

Late last spring there was a great deal of controversy surrounding the announcement by Matt Cutts of Google, that Google would start accepting submissions by people around the world that wanted to identify blogs or websites that receive money for sponsored articles.  The concept was one in which Google would test their own ability to penalize sites that accepted paid sponsors and at the same time allow Google to reduce the bayou of the links coming from those sponsored articles as well.

This is sometimes referred to as a Google bomb, when Google comes and and wipes out a websites page rank and essentially blacklists the website.  In this case Google was between the lines offering up a threat to any website that does business with an advertising company other than Google.

Advertising Firms Preventing the use of Google Adsense

Google isn’t the only advertising company that likes to play hardball in order to develop a bit of a monopoly on the Internet marketing industry.  In fact almost all of the Internet marketing companies like to position themselves in a way that blocks a website from doing anything but working exclusively with them.

In a way this is a bit of a branding or trademark like Battle.  Google basically approaches it from the perspective that a website should not allow contextual advertising on their site if they also run Google’s contextual advertising known as AdSense.  Google’s threats to blacklist websites that engage in sponsored article and buzz building exercises is a tangent on that team as those buzz building articles have the potential to influence Google search results and its own contextual advertising program, along with every other search engine on the web.

PayPerPost disallows Google’s contextual advertising in prime web real estate

 

I recently ran into a strange problem with PayPerPost.  PayPerPost is one of those companies that pays bloggers to write sponsored articles.  They function essentially as an advertising middleman connecting advertisers to bloggers.  An advertiser wants to build buzz about their product or website, they can solicit a blogger to cover their product or website in a future blog article.

 

PayPerPost has a section in their terms of service that specify the following:

“There are to be no third party links, ads or other detractors located within the sponsored post.”

In the past this has precluded bloggers from using tools like Snap and Ontok highlighter which converts ordinary text in a blog article into a link that takes a reader to a website or a shopping page. So if you mention Motorola cell phone in an article Ontok would convert the text into a link to a site that sells Motorola Cell phones.  PayPerPost does not allow that to take place in any article that is paid for by a sponsor.

Why?

  1. The Ontok links would devalue the PageRank value of each link in the article and on the home page at that time.
  2. It also detracts from the focus of the text a bit and makes it less likely that a reader will click through the sponsored link as opposed to any of the Ontok links.

Ontok’s solution

Ontok does provide a start and stop piece of code that can enable a blogger to stop the inclusion of their java script from running.  So you could include this code at the beginning and end of a sponsored article so that the sponsored article would not have any Ontok links.

Blocking Google Adsense

PayPerPost is also now blocking Google Adsense ads from showing up near articles.  I say now because I have a blog that appears to have recently become victim to an unstated policy change.  Back in January my blog Maven Mapper’s Information was approved by the head one of the primary people in charge of reviewers at that time.  I had Adsense running on the blog and it did not cause any problems with their approval process.  About a month later questions came up about the use of Adsense positioned in a way that it appears in an advertising box to the right side of the article.  It was reviewed and again approved by PayPerPost.

This week they appear to have changed the interpretation of their own terms of service.  They will not allow Adsense advertising blocks to appear at the top of an article, to the side of an article nor within an article.  The top positions and embedded in special advertising blocks to the sides of blogs are two of the most successful places to put Adsense ads as recommended by Google.  PayPerPost is not allowing Google ads to be placed where they earn Google and Bloggers the most money.  That starts to sound a little anti competitive to me, but no more so than the anti-competitive stance that Google is taking against PayPerPost and all sponsored article companies as they prepare to black list sites.

Using PayPerPost means Sacrificing Key Real Estate

“The ’secret’ was simply to move my ads down from the banner position into the actual post itself.”  Darren Rowse of Problogger.net

That option is off the table for bloggers working with PayPerPost.  :(

Real Estate Analogy – Getting your House Kicked out of the MLRS for choosing a different realtor

The blacklisting would be analogous to a ReMax removing a home from the multiple listing residential service if the home owner of a home decided to choose Century 21 as their realtor instead.  That is the scope of the impact of Google’s threats against sponsored article companies.

Tit for Tat

Now PayPerPost is responding in a way that would force Bloggers that utilize both services to move Google’s ads to a position of obscurity, lower performance, and essentially decrease Google’s revenue potential in the rapidly growing market of the blogosphere.

PayPerPost’s Clarification of the Term of Service

Here is a quote from PayPerPost on interpreting their own Terms of Service. 

The TOS does state that Ads are not allowed within sponsored posts. There are no exceptions to what type of ad they are. In text links, Google Ad blocks, and any other way of putting an ad within the post is not allowed.

“There are to be no third party links, ads or other detractors located within the sponsored post.”

Your Ads are located within a sponsored post, so this post will not be approved if they are not moved. If you continue to resubmit this opportunity without moving the Ads, you are choosing to not follow the Terms Of Service which may lead to suspension.

That quote is in reference to this article(below), featured in a picture. 

I had to change my blogging template after PayPerPost threatened to suspend my account as our dialogue over this issue had corresponded over a series of 4 emails (4 they sent and 4 responses from me if you include the last which stated that I would change the way I blogged in order to conform to their new TOS interpretation.)

Image of article not allowed by PayPerPost because of Adsense Ads in advertising box in template

Dialogue from PayPerPost clarifying their TOS interpretation

Here is a copy of the dialogue that we exchanged.  Please note that this dialogue utilizes an imperfect support email process and is not held in a ticket system, so each response is accompanied with a new rejection of the blog, which I had to resubmit each time I attempted to show that I had not changed my blog since its approval in January 2007 and that it did conform to the TOS as PPP had defined it in January.

PayPerPost Initial Rejection

 

Hey Brett!

Thanks for your post!

Unfortunately, your post cannot be approved because you cannot have Google ads in your post.

Please revise your post and re-submit.

Thank you!
SG

My Initial Response

 

Dear SG,

There is nothing in the blogging rules from PPP nor specifically from this opportunity that prevents Google ad boxes on my blog.

The TOS does prohibit inline ads, but Google ads sense ad blocks are not inline ads. 

This question and issue has been raised at PPP several times in the past and PayPerPost has consistently stated that Google Adsense ads are allowed.  In fact to prevent them could actually get PayPerPost into a legal issue.

I have resubmitted the article for approval.

Thanks,

Brett

PayPerPost Second Rejection and Response

hey Brett!

I understand that there are no inline ads. The problem is the Google ads that are in your post. You can have Google ads at the end of your post, but not in the middle. Google ads may not be between the text of your post and the title of your post either. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Please remove these ads and re-submit.

Thank you!
SG

My response to second rejection and response

 

Hi SG,

The google ads are at the top of the article. They are not in the middle.

Where in the TOS or the blogger rules does it state that Google ads can not be between the title and the post?

You only have about 2000 other blogs in the PPP system with ads in the same place. This would be a distinct policy change if it is a new rule or policy?

Again, its not wise to pick this type of fight with Google either. They get upset about companies selling sponsored reviews, but if you start to prohibit their ads from being in the location that they recommend for highest conversions then they might not be so friendly to PPP.

Thanks,
Brett

Third Response coupled with a rejection fm PPP

(note the senders name changed from SG to Ashley, I did not notice this initially and do not know what that signifies.  )

 

Hello Brett,

You are correct, PayPerPost does not prevent you from using Google Ads, but they are still not allowed within the post. As per our Terms of Service, “There are to be no third party links, ads or other detractors located within the sponsored post.”

You may move the ads to any where else on the page, as long as they are not within the post.

Thank you,
Ashley

My response to the third rejection

Its not in the post, it is in the blog template. That was defined last fall to cover things like pop up text link ads from places like Ontok.

PayPerPost’s fourth response, rejection and threat of a Suspension

 

Hello again,

The TOS does state that Ads are not allowed within sponsored posts. There are no exceptions to what type of ad they are. In text links, Google Ad blocks, and any other way of putting an ad within the post is not allowed.

“There are to be no third party links, ads or other detractors located within the sponsored post.”

Your Ads are located within a sponsored post, so this post will not be approved if they are not moved. If you continue to resubmit this opportunity without moving the Ads, you are choosing to not follow the Terms Of Service which may lead to suspension.

If you have any questions regarding this, I recommend starting a support ticket before resubmitting this post again.

Thanks,
Ashley

My Final response

Sent after I spent about an hour updating my CSS template, updating colors and several other items to make my blog conform to PayPerPost to the detriment of my Adsense earnings and Google’s revenue.

 

Ashley,

I will not argue the issue any longer. I do not think your terms of service are clear on this point and past reviewers have specifically stated that the blog was acceptable. This blog was originally accepted by Karen back in January.

It seems like a case of selective application of the rules. Regardless, I’ll won’t argue it with you now that PPP has specified the rules as you have.

Best Regards,
Brett

Bloggers Goals

In general bloggers are essentially finding themselves batted around between large companies that are attempting to control the market of their services. 

  1. As a blogger, I want to be able to operate in a market where I can freely work with both companies.  Their products do not compete and are not similar.  In fact PayPerPost would not exist without Google.
  2. I want to have the right to earn advertising from my blog without having to change the look, design, or layout of my blog.
  3. I want to be able to write what I want however I like, when I want to write it.
  4. I do not want to be threatened every time a company changes an interpretation of their Terms of Service.
  5. If I have an advertising partner, I want to be able to talk with them on the phone to work through issues like this that do not lend themselves to automated email response systems. 

Note PayPerPost has previously disallowed me from contacting them by phone.  In that situation I was calling as a customer not a blogger, trying to get help with an advertising campaign that I was sponsoring through PayPerPost.  They did not like to receive phone calls and I was heavily chastised, ridiculed and threatened with suspension at that time as well.  Despite the fact that I was regularly receiving phone calls and holding discussions with PayPerPost’s investors at the time.  It was OK to talk with their investors but not with their customer support team.

Resources on Anti-Trust and Anti-Competitive Policies from the FTC

Maintaining or Creating a Monopoly – While it is not illegal to have
a monopoly position in a market, the antitrust laws make it unlawful to maintain or attempt to create a monopoly through tactics that either unreasonably exclude firms from the market or significantly impair their ability to compete. A single firm may commit a violation through its unilateral actions, or a violation may result if a group of firms work together to monopolize a market.

The FTC on exclusionary Practices in Networks on the Internet

Here is an excerpt from the FTC site discussing some of the new challenges presented to competition on the internet.

In analyzing whether anti-competitive effects resulted from exclusion from the e-marketplace, many factors could come under consideration. Can the excluded firm acquire the same inputs or adequate substitutes at a comparable cost through other means? For example, if the excluded firm could readily form or join an alternative e-marketplace, or if the evidence demonstrated that participation in an e-marketplace was not necessary for acquiring comparably-priced inputs, it is less likely that there would be a competitive harm. Assuming that exclusion from the B2B e-marketplace precluded the firm from accessing necessary inputs at comparable cost, an examination of the competitive consequences in the relevant retail market might then become warranted. For example, what is the nature of the competition to be experienced among the non-excluded firms in the relevant market? How, if at all, did the excluded firm uniquely contribute to the market’s competitive dynamics? At bottom, only exclusionary conduct that harmed competition rather than harming the excluded competitor alone would be challenged.

If we attempt to apply answers from the situation of Google Blacklisting PPP or PPP blogs, we might see the following answers:

Can the excluded firm acquire the same inputs or adequate substitutes at a comparable cost through other means? For example, if the excluded firm could readily form or join an alternative e-marketplace, or if the evidence demonstrated that participation in an e-marketplace was not necessary for acquiring comparably-priced inputs, it is less likely that there would be a competitive harm.

If PPP were blacklisted, or their links devalued or if participating blogs were blacklisted or devalued, it would have the impact of completely removing participating sites from the World Wide Web as Google maintains a monopoly position in search engine marketing.  There are competitors but Google is the clear leader.

Assuming that exclusion from the B2B e-marketplace precluded the firm from accessing necessary inputs at comparable cost, an examination of the competitive consequences in the relevant retail market might then become warranted.

For example, what is the nature of the competition to be experienced among the non-excluded firms in the relevant market?

Exclusion would enable non-excluded firms to save significant amounts of money, raise prices or continue to offer higher prices.  It would also block the flow of information about competing products and services and be a deterrent against new business.

How, if at all, did the excluded firm uniquely contribute to the market’s competitive dynamics?

If this were to happen it could be shown that PPP enabled many new companies and websites to advance successful marketing campaigns.  It also played a one third part in creating a new industry supporting many thousands of contractors and small businesses.  Blocking PPP or this industry would put thousands of people out of work.

At bottom, only exclusionary conduct that harmed competition rather than harming the excluded competitor alone would be challenged.

Excluding PPP and the network of supporting third party blogs would definitely harm competition especially of small businesses.  It would also definitely harm competitors, but the impact on competition would e very wide reaching.  Enforcement would also be subject to abuse as choices for exclusion would be based on happenstance and possibly even competitors turning each other in to be black listed.  This would create a war of rivals to blacklist each other which would result in higher prices and more competition in advertising to remain un-blacklisted and visible.  It comes very close to a blackmail like scenario.  Advertise through Google and no other or face blacklisting.

On the Flip Side if PayPerPost Continues to Exclude Google

 

Can the excluded firm acquire the same inputs or adequate substitutes at a comparable cost through other means? For example, if the excluded firm could readily form or join an alternative e-marketplace, or if the evidence demonstrated that participation in an e-marketplace was not necessary for acquiring comparably-priced inputs, it is less likely that there would be a competitive harm.

Google definitely has more recourse and many other websites that it can place its Adsense ads upon.  However the blogosphere is rapidly growing.  Many long established websites are adding blogs and many advertisers are looking to this new form of advertising.  Currently the impact would not be material, but that could change in months or years to come.

Assuming that exclusion from the B2B e-marketplace precluded the firm from accessing necessary inputs at comparable cost, an examination of the competitive consequences in the relevant retail market might then become warranted.

For example, what is the nature of the competition to be experienced among the non-excluded firms in the relevant market?

The non-excluded firms would include other sponsored article companies and many other web advertisers.  Many of those companies would be excluded as well.  In this regard the exclusion is somewhat broad an uniform, but also hints at the building of a future monopoly in this area.  Currently the industry is too small and PayPerPost is not considered dominant in the market by any means.  They are one of the most visible companies, but not dominant.

How, if at all, did the excluded firm uniquely contribute to the market’s competitive dynamics?

In this case the excluded firm has single handedly revolutionized the market’s competitive dynamics, creating the market in many ways of the firm now it excluding it from business.

At bottom, only exclusionary conduct that harmed competition rather than harming the excluded competitor alone would be challenged.

The exclusion reduces competition of Google from the prime real estate of the blogosphere.  It does exclude Google as a competitor, but narrows the offering from Google’s extensive marketplace of advertising to a much more narrow advertising marketplace of a select group of 6,500 advertisers that are early adopters of buzz marketing on the internet.