Damn, Andy Wishes He Thought of That!
When I launched PPP two years ago I realize that we missed the mark a bit on the whole transparency and disclosure issue. I took a considerable amount of heat because we didn’t force companies and bloggers to disclose their financial relationship in a uniform manner. It was a mistake. I have openly admitted that. However, we listened to feedback from bloggers and advertisers and made some considerable changes to the way we operate, creating what I believe to be the highest standards in disclosure.
Today The Blog Council, an organization backed by Andy Sernovitz, announced a Disclosure Best Practices Toolkit – prompting every company and employee to create a “Disclosure Policy” for blogging. In one way I am happy, the more people that disclose the better. However, I feel people need to know the history of the Disclosure Policy as it relates to social media and the man behind this effort.
Anyone who knows me knows I face my critics and favor creating solutions to legitimate concerns. For the past two years I have been trying to have an open dialog with Andy Sernovitz. For the same two years Andy has dodged my calls, attacked me and my company behind my back and deceived many people. It is a sheepish cowardliness I simply can’t respect.
On October 23, 2006 I sent Andy this email:
I am planning on releasing a press release on our approach to disclosure on Wednesday. We plan on incenting our bloggers with cash to adopt a disclosure policy, we are really making a hard push. I have talked to many of the A-List bloggers who came out strongly against us and they plan to support this movement. We all believe this is a step in the right direction.
The site is here:
We are still making some revisions, but it is nearly complete.
I think this is surprisingly good.
Yes. That was the entire response.
Andy was president of another non-profit organization at the time. On disclosurepolicy.org we encouraged people to read his organization’s policy about ethical blogging and the FTC guidelines about disclosure. Seven days later I received an email threatening legal action if every reference to that organization wasn’t removed.
Huh? Really? You are going to sue me if I encourage people to abide by the guidelines of your organization? Guidelines designed to encourage transparency? That didn’t make sense to me at all. In the same email Andy said “once that happens, we can continue discussions about working together”. Ok, I thought and we removed the reference.
In a series of phone calls I then offered Andy and his organization ownership of disclsourepolicy.org, the concept he called “surprisingly good”. I stated that I wanted to collaborate on the effort and create a policy that everyone could adopt.
The next email I received on November 3, 2006 said “You are making a mockery of disclosure.” I was not sure how we went from surprisingly good to a mockery in one week. I found out about a month later when his organization released their own new standards. I was both baffled and frustrated. I am sure the members of the organization had no idea what was going on, but Andy sure did.
Still, we charged on… making significant changes to our policies over time. Here are some notable milestones:
- October 2006 : Created the industries industry’s first universal disclosure policy, available to all bloggers and advertisers at disclosurepolicy.org.
- October 2006 : PPP began requiring disclosure by all bloggers.
- February 2007 : PPP introduced the Disclosure Badge. The industry’s first standard for in-post disclosure.
- April 2008 : SocialSpark launches, creating the industry’s most transparent WOM platform.
– Mandatory Disclosure Badges in every post
– The only machine-readable and fully audit-able disclosure in word of mouth marketing (WOM).
– Transparent marketplace with all campaigns displayed to the public
– No-follow tags on all links
– 100% Real opinions. Advertisers cannot stipulate tone.
Was I surprised today when The Blog Council announced their Disclosure Policy? No. A little offended, but not really surprised. Still, I tried to take the high road. I went to Andy’s blog and posted a comment, once again offering up DisclosurePolicy.org for use by his new council
What happened? It was deleted. Like every single one of my posts in the past (this one lasted about 30 seconds, just long enough to get a screen shot). The man who beats the drum of transparency, disclosure and open conversation dodges phone calls, has closed meetings and deletes comments. He wouldn’t allow us to join The Blog Council, even though we are clearly one of the biggest players in the space. Why? What is he so afraid of? The truth? He wants nothing to do with anyone who challenges him—or even offers to help him. It’s not about dialogue or finding an answer.
It’s about Andy. It’s always been about Andy.
I hope the members of The Blog Council don’t let one man dictate their future. If anyone ever wants to talk about how we can work together to make things better I am all ears. Just remember that the Blog Council is FOR-PROFIT and run by Andy’s company.
I posted a comment to the Blog Council website. Surprise, surprise. The comment was deleted. Gotta love that transparency and conversation. At least Andy is consistent : )