Yesterday, Gawker.com’s Hamilton Nolan posted an article about an under-the-table offer he received from 43a, a company who claims to “take your business to the next level” with Article Marketing and Publicity. In exchange for embedding a link “in the context” of an article, Nolan would get $175.00.
When Nolan asked about his editor’s involvement, 43a’s representative Bryan Clark wrote back, “We generally meet with resistance when dealing with editors, but bloggers aren’t paid as well and most are willing to make some extra money…there is a certain ‘under the radar’ element to it.”
This is the wrong solution to a familiar issue: no one is paying for content. It makes sense that underpaid bloggers would be excited to make money for doing very little. But eventually, smart readers will notice that their report on LiLo’s latest debacle features a sentence like, “Sadly, Lindsay was forced to leave her T-mobile phone at home.” As readers grow warier, a writer’s articles will lose eyes, then ad traction.
Big businesses relying on clandestine dropped links are as foolish as fishermen who think they can catch a fish without a hook or net. They may feel like they’re up to something productive, but ultimately, without any substance to snare the reader, the activity is fruitless and cheap. Better to invest in the right equipment, which agencies should provide. In this case, that is branded content that connects with its audience and is unabashed about informing them on what they’re buying, and why they should. Then businesses won’t have to pay anyone to link to their site; writers will do it for free because they genuinely think the product is worth it.