Downtown Magazine

Ideas and innovations for business and internet users, focusing on high-tech and social trends.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Blogging for Dollars Hits a Wall

There's been an ongoing debate over the value and ethical merits of blogging for pay over the past two years, and the one company smack in the middle of it has been pioneering startup Pay-per-Post (now IZEA) and their bizarre founder and lampoonish leader, Ted Murphy (right).

I've looked into the company's brief history, (here's a good summation) and actually was involved as a blogger for a while.

The company has gone through a number of grinding make-overs, each typified by failure to deliver on-time or on -promise. Somehow, I feel vindicated, having completely divorced myself from their services and removing most of the posts I did (and for which I earned money - small sums, totaling less than $1000).

What finally led me to separate my sites and blogs from them was the Google PR spanking which liberally rocked blogs - and in my case, my entire site - down to ZERO PR. While the beating by Google, led by their sometimes spokesperson, Matt Cutts, resulted in dropping my site from a 5 to a 0, I am happy to have found that the change was largely cosmetic, my site still passes Google juice, and is still indexed and slurped by all of the major engines, the Big G included.

Since then, I've taken a closer look at what IZEA does and have come to two unmistakable conclusions:

  1. The company will fail, eventually. Various VC firms have ponied up $10 in funding thus far and the IZEA staff has lost advertisers and bloggers galore, but with all that money, it may take some time before the firm eventually collapses.

  2. Ted Murphy is a complete fraud, a poser who has failed upward all of his life, though time seems to be running out on him.

All of this makes perfect sense. After having Google wreck their business, Murphy and his team did absolutely nothing to help out loyal bloggers, of whom Murphy himself always says, "I love our posties." When the Google crackdown became obvious to all (Murphy and his inner staff knew of potential problems months prior), Murphy's response was along the lines of "sorry, there's nothing I can do."

That was posted in one of IZEA's numerous blog posts, something I'm not about to waste time looking up. It's there, believe me. Murphy kicked thousands of bloggers who had (mis)placed their faith in him, unceremoniously, to the curb.

So, Murphy then went on his own PR campaign, responding to posts by Cutts, Andy Beard, TechCrunch and others, extolling the virtues of paid posting and bowing all the way to the wishes of Google, agreeing to use "rel=nofollow" tags, disclosure, and setting up a new system called SocialSpark, complete with its own ranking system, RealRank.

Those changes were announced to the little group assembled at PostieCon in Las Vegas last November, with a planned rollout date of mid-Janaury.

That passed, as did February, and now well into March, the whole shooting match seems to be bleeding cash, losing credibility and generally blowing through $10 million as quickly as a dotcom 2.0 can.

Meanwhile, the Tedster has reworked the discussion boards, largely abandoned SocialSpark, but managed to announce plans for another convention, PostieCon 2, I guess, September in Orlando.

That's the one thing Murphy and his team has been able to do in a less-than-half-assed manner, hold conventions, though this one surely will be sparely attended, though I may get down there as an advance on the much-anticipated wake.

It would give me a chance to call Murphy a loser, poser, liar and a cheat to his face, which I would have no problem doing.

Should we feel bad for the venture capitalists who are going to be out $10 mil? Not really. Take a look at some of the garbage Village Ventures, Inflexion Partners and Draper Fisher Jurvetson have funded. These guys burn millions for lunch.

Paid posting is not dead, but basing a company on a questionable practice as a business model, and then changing your focus every six months, is a certain sign of mismanagement.

IZEA is circling the drain. With any luck, Ted Murphy will get flushed along with it. The internet doesn't really want or need fake "revolutionaries 2.0" and deceitful operators like Murphy should be made to suffer severe financial pain.

Sorry to spread bad karma, but I'm just throwing it back at them.