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Pixel Ad Site Targeting Bloggers with Deception

This morning I received an email from someone promoting his pixel advertising site which is targeting bloggers to buy space by deception.

The email was actually reasonably well written and outlined an opportunity to buy pixel squares along side other prestige blogs. It mentioned by name some very large blogs and pointed to it’s pixel map at www.worldblogcenter.com (I’m not linking up).

Here’s a screen capture (click to enlarge):

Picture 5-2

As you’ll see when you head there they’ve already signed on some very well known blogs – it’s very impressive.

Of course when you dig a little deeper you find that at least some of the more well known blogs that have ‘bought’ space have never heard of it before. I just spoke with Jason Calacanis who says he and his team at Engadget and The Cancer blog (both featured at present prominently) have not bought space and had no knowledge of their logos being used in this way. I’ve also talked to numerous others whose logo is being used and have had a similar response.

Those included presently on the page include:

They have grouped together a number of blogs of similar genres including SEO, sports, travel, tech, blogging etc obviously in the hope of trying to attract other unsuspecting bloggers to join up.

In my book this is deception.

Now perhaps some of these large blogs have signed up and I’m making a big deal over nothing – but I’m yet to find an ‘advertiser’ on the list who knows that their logo is being used although I worry that some might have already signed up under false pretenses. I have however had email from a few people who have been approached to join the program who were about to do so on the basis that other prominent blogs have (obviously the intention of the people behind the program).

In and of itself I have nothing against pixel ad programs (although apart from the first one I’ve not seen any that have worked) – what I do take issue with is when they try to gain momentum by dubious means that obviously prey on people’s desire to be seen next to prominent blogs who have not consented to be used in this way.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this site isn’t there in a few hours – if I was behind it I’d be worried about the reaction of those that it’s using the logos of in this way.

update: Digging a little deeper – their ‘press page’ also ‘looks’ quite impressive at a glance but just points to 9 places where the same press release have been published – example.

update 2: I’ve written an update on this story with further developments here.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Rachel says:

    Darren, do you know if it’s legal or not to reuse someone’s logo without their permission?

  2. Darren Rowse says:

    I’ve heard people argue the case both ways. I know that some companies are very guarded on where their logo appears and will enforce abuses of it – others are less concerned.

    I think what is probably worse here is that the people behind this site are actively promoting it (a money making venture) by using the name of Boing Boing both in their emails, in press releases and on their site.

    I’ve just had it confirmed that BB have no knowledge of this and are not connected to it.

    I was hesitant to call it a scam earlier but looking at the emails I just got from three of the advertisers in the above list I think it is one. None had heard of this before and all are going to ‘take action’.

  3. Rachel says:

    Right – they’re implying their scheme is endorsed by people it’s not endorsed by. It’s incredibly misleading – in fact, it could be outright lying (I haven’t seen the site and I’m glad you don’t link to it!).

    Now for a tougher question: do you ever find the ads you display on your sites are misleading and have ethical issues with that? Not meaning to get at you directly, but it’s a question I think all people publishing ads could take from this post.

    Even the seemingly harmless “You’re the millionth person to visit this site! Click here to collect you prize” or “Your computer is infected with a virus, click here to scan your computer” ads seem to fall under this category to me. What do you think?

  4. Steve says:

    I would think that using another company’s logo is a copyright violation. I’m pretty sure that any image placed online is automatically under copyright porotection though I admit I’m hardly a legal expert. And it’s not like it’s stopped anyone before.

    One thing about those pixel sites. I can’t see how they could work. There’s really no reason for a person to visit one unless they’re actively looking for advertisements. And for the most part they just present a random mix of sites so any traffic isn’t likely to be targeted.

    I think the first site made money because the idea was clever and orignal. And just because the owner of that site made money I’m not sure anyone who advertised on the site did.

    Pixel advertising comes across to me as the latest fad in get rich quick ideas.

  5. David says:

    I am working on something similar, but I am more upfront. I ask for people to buy a link, if they don’t and I really want them on the site, I ask if they’d be willing to let me put their link up anyways as a show of support.

    Its one thing to give away free links or spaces…its completely another to trick people into thinking someone supports their project when they dont.

  6. Darren Rowse says:

    the link is in the post above (not a live link).

    I’ve found a few ads that I’m not happy with in my AdSense ads from time to time that I’ve blocked in my ad filter. Unfortunately its difficult to tell what ads are appearing overseas.

    with systems like Fastclick I do block some ads (although its difficult to keep you head around all of them) but if I see one that I’m not happy with I block them.

    with blogads/adbrite/text ads/sponsorships there is obviously more control with a moderation system in place which is nice.

    It’s hard to keep across everything (especially with contextual ads) but I do attempt to do so (with mixed success I’m sure).

  7. Darren Rowse says:

    Steve I agree. The only reason the milliondollarpage one did well was because of novelty value. It was the first to get massive exposure and people only went to it to see how some young guy was getting rich. This traffic then gave advertisers a reason to join.

    Since then literally thousands of pixel ad sites have sprung up (check out the hundreds of them listed in the comments of this page) – very few of which (if any) have had any success largely because there is no reason to go to them.

    People surf to pages that fulfil some need (for information, entertainment, conversation, community etc) – they DON’T just go to a page because it’s got lots of ads on it. I really don’t understand why people don’t get this.

    Of course if they want to waste their time on it that’s their perogative – the more time they give the rest of us to produce quality sites the further ahead we get :-)

  8. Brian says:

    I got the same email. I considered messing with them a bit, since it only took one email to confirm that none of those “featured” bloggers had bought space. Of course, the email was only for insurance, since I knew the answer as soon as I looked at the site.

    It’s so sad to see people invest so much effort into copying a one shot concept (Million Dollar Home Page). It’s even sadder to see the deception they will use to try to sell a that loser knock-off concept.

  9. M Freitas says:

    I received a similar e-mail, but instead of blogs they had Google, Yahoo!, MSN and similar other players in the search engine market… Creep stuff…

  10. Legal or not, this is clearly deception…and just not right.

  11. Amja says:

    Hello, I am the person who sent Darren the email.

    Firstly I’d like to thank Darren for the concern he has shown in his blog post. I really rate his blog and it is one of the best on this subject. However, I am a bit dismayed at how hastily Darren has jumped to conclusions and posted publicly on this issue without first seeking clarification. I’d like to take this opportunity to explain:

    Firstly, we have a list of blog owners, publishers etc. that we have shortlisted based upon a number of quality factors. We have emailed every individual blog owner, publisher etc. that is currently on worldblogcenter.com with an email outlining our proposition, and indicating that a temporary graphic has been placed for their approval. This has been done with every single company. We have a policy of waiting for 10 days to receive a response from those people we have shortlisted before removing them from the shortlist. To date, we are still waiting for some of those companies to respond and have sent reminder emails after 2-3 days, or reposted in their contact forms. We tried to contact Weblogs Inc. through the main weblogsinc.com website, but unfortunately their “contact us” link always reverts back to the main page. Hence, we used the individual contact pages for Engadget and the Cancer Blog separately.

    Secondly, every single company we have listed in our news section has taken up space, and we have the emails to prove it. The latest company is Business Week Online who came on board today.

    Thirdly, our press page is for press, media and Internet coverage. Five different press releases have been made so far, and each of them differs in the details it contains. So it is not the same press release 9 times over.

    Now, you may not like our approach of selling our idea by giving blog owners a visual representation of what they will get before agreeing to it – this is just how we have chosen to sell the idea – but it is straight out of order for you Darren to make such accusations without seeking clarification first. I believe that you need to be more careful in future, especially as you run a respected and well read blog, where such accusations can spread far and wide, without having any basis.

    In any case, I know you have not posted this maliciously so I have no hard feelings. I hope I have clarified this matter. Hey, I was just about to go to sleep, when I came across your post doing some general searching on Google, and you gave me a whopping surprise!

    Best regards

    Amjad

  12. Darren Rowse says:

    Amjad – so you’re telling me that the owners of Boing Boing, Engadget and Gizmodo have all taken up listings?

    I’ve heard explicit denials of them ever having heard of you or accepting such an offer.

    Sorry but even if you have emailed them all telling them about it I don’t think it’s ethical for you to display their logos on a site that you’d trying to get people to sign up to join. No where on the site does it say that these prominent blogs have not yet signed up.

    To the first time visitor it seems like they are participants and some unsuspecting bloggers will sign up to be a part of this.

    This is a deceptive practice at best.

  13. Paolo says:

    I think if problogger did not publish the site, I would have never heard of it. But its good you did published it so no ones crazy enough to buying.

  14. brem says:

    it’s more than deception, it’s fraud.

  15. derek says:

    so amjad is saying that the logo’s of prominent blogs / networks that are on display as paid advertising spots are merely “placeholders”? that’s wrong. that’s unethical and doing so is a means of advertising in itself by attempting to lure other blogs into adding their own presence. if anything, amjad and worldblogcenter should be paying to use popular “brands” on their site.

    personally, i’m not a great fan of “pixel advertising”. something about the possibility of being listed right next 1800casino or boobland just doesn’t cut it for me. if i owned a high traffic network, i would not want my logo being misused or have any association with a service in which i do not believe in.

  16. MikeGR says:

    We, at Treehugger.com, were recently baited in the same way. I don’t remember if it was from that site or another one, though.

  17. aaron wall says:

    >what I do take issue with is when they try to gain momentum by dubious means that obviously prey on people’s desire to be seen next to prominent blogs who have not consented to be used in this way.

    Leveraging real brands or names and then using that to sell ad space or a magazine is done in the publishing world often as well, by well known “prestigious” companies like Eli Research.

    They contacted me to ask me if I wanted to be on their advisory panel for
    elifinancial [dot] com/search_engine_marketing.htm

    After they talked it up they never contacted me again and started mailing people things that sorta looked like bills. Some of those people later bitched me out for it, as if I knew they really didn’t want my opinion, just my name to throw on aggressive marketing.

    You need only look at their page title on their sales letter to know I was not involved with it. I did give them my name though. And that was a mistake.

    >This morning I received an email from someone promoting his pixel advertising site

    I get about 3 spam emails a day telling me I am already listed, probably trying to get me to write about it, but I wasn’t dumb enough to.

  18. Dave says:

    Ironicly if his site took off he would be providing free traffic to all of the peoples sites that he violated with the graphics…

    Win/WIn, Loose/Win…..Loose/Loose….

    I’m no lawyer.

    -Dave

  19. Darren Rowse says:

    even if it did take off – the ends wouldn’t justify the means in my books. They are using the hard work of others to launch their own business off.

  20. Kevin says:

    I’ve seen hundreds of these sites lately, all are cheap and tatty and some are outright disgusting. All of them play on the “milliondollar” thing. Come on, do people not have brains to come up with something original? While I might not agree entirely with this approach, I’ve gotta give it to him / them, at least its not crap. its done fairly well, looks professional and the concept is good. I might even get a listing! :) If the model is good and provides value in the long term who cares? Ethics and business is a funny thing, even in big corporate business. Don’t give these sites any publicity if you are opposed to them. Controversy creates interest and then the interest gets so big it overrides the controversy.

  21. Adam says:

    Somebody listed one of my sites on one of these pixel pages recently (for free, and to populate the page), but they were honest and wrote and told me about it incase I wanted to object. Because of that email I was quite happy for them to go ahead but if they hadn’t contacted me at all I may have felt a little mad that they were using my logo to help generate business for themselves.
    I personally would never pay good money to be included in one of these pages. I doubt that the owners will ever recoup the time or money they spent developing them and most will probably disappear when their domain comes up for renewal.

  22. Tim Houghton says:

    This is clearly fraudulent. Someone should email all the suckers who’ve signed up.

  23. Mark Wade says:

    Thanks Darren…

    Amjad -

    “Now, you may not like our approach of selling our idea by giving blog owners a visual representation of what they will get before agreeing to it – this is just how we have chosen to sell the idea”

    No, we don’t like your methods and you’ve chosen wrongly.

    “but it is straight out of order for you Darren to make such accusations without seeking clarification first.”

    You were straight out of order first and foremost. Darren did his usual darn good job.

    “I believe that you need to be more careful in future, especially as you run a respected and well read blog, where such accusations can spread far and wide, without having any basis.”

    A useless attempt to turn it around on Darren. Irregardless of how you try to rationalize/justify/spin your actions – you’re wrong and what Darren has done is in everyone’s best interest. YOU ought to have given this MUCH more thought than YOU did…

    Mark

  24. Interesting. Now when you go mouse over, the description says… “Pre-approved – Waiting Response” and gizmodo, engadget and boing-boing logos removed .. since I started to read this article.. Power of blogging.

  25. Doug says:

    If those are/were in fact placeholders, did you see a placeholder for ProBlogger when he contacted you?

  26. Leon says:

    Wow, nice reply by Amjad. Almost had me fooled there. Slick guys like him are the ones that manage to con people. What he’s doing is low.

  27. Darren Rowse says:

    Doug – no, PB wasn’t a placeholder – we were approached to join it (at a cost). They were targetting us as a ‘sucker’.

  28. aaron wall says:

    >They are using the hard work of others to launch their own business off.

    As opposed to search engines which build an ad system over the top of others contents? Or bloggers who heavily cut and past content, and then scatter AdSense ads around the content to where it is hard to find the content?

    When speaking in absolutes and ethics it is easy to come across as being hypocritical.

  29. Mike Rundle says:

    Haha, it looks like you guys scared Amja away…. with the truth :)

    I realize that good morals and ethics are interpreted differently across cultures (so many times have I seen sites ripped off by other cultures, but they saw nothing wrong with what they did because it’s not bad form in their neck of the Earth) so does this lack of ethics fall under the same umbrella?

    Great catch though Darren, and congrats on being the muckraker to whom everybody linked. I love digging up the dirt before everybody else ;)

  30. Speaker for the Devil says:

    Amjad isn’t saying Boing Boing paid for space.

    What’s he’s done is set up a milliondollarhomepage ripoff with the intent that blogs buy advertising there, and in order to do that he’s put a dozen famous blogs, either to show what an ad looks like, or to fool them into believing that all the big blogs advertise here.

    Luckily he will not sell anything anyway, because these sites have no business model.

    Advice to Amjad: Keep your day job.

  31. Grant says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I had an email from this group also, in fact I got it three times through three of my blogs, inviting me to participate and I was actually very close to shelling out $100 to buy space because I saw that other big blogs had taken up the offer. I thought it would be amazing to occupy a space next to slashdot and engadget!

    Luckily I saw the post on boing boing which led me to your blog which made me look twice at what they were doing.

    $100 might not sound like much for some but for me it is crucial as I’m a new blogger attempting to find readers.

    Thanks

  32. Phillip Winn says:

    I dropped back by to check up on this, and found Blogcritics.org still listed, though we haven’t paid a dime. While most of the sites are now marked as “pre-approved” — meaning listed without permission — ours isn’t.

    Then I found a press release which is an utter fabrication. I suspect that when I email them, it will disappear, but right now it says:

    Again, and for the record, we have not paid anything, and were quite surprised to find ourselves listed here, and even more surprised to find ourselves still listed here. Given the similarity in wording to the more recent Business Week press release, I’d be very surprised to learn that Business Week had paid anything, despite the claims from Amja above.

  33. Tony Hill says:

    It looks like they updated their news page in reference to the controversey that has arised. Too bad they are not accepting applications anymore; it seems they are getting a bit of traffic from this negative publicity and it could possibly send a descent amount of traffic. Sorry to all those who’s brand is being abused and falsely misrepresented.

  34. Mark says:

    Something like this would have never crossed my mind. I agree with you that this is ‘deception’, to say the least.

    It was very smart of you to take that screen capture of their page, as currently, some of those larger well known blogs are conspicuously absent!

    Thanks for the heads up. I will certainly look for these and other similar deceptive techniques when considering spending some of my hard earned money.

    Mark

  35. David says:

    Yes I also agree, that is a fraud, a scam. I also have 3 pixel ad sites but did not put false ads on my sites.

    Is it possible to delete the last 4 comments above? It’s a spam… I hate spams.

  36. jack says:

    I think you are all being slightly petty. Pixel sites are a good form of advertising IF the site is promoted properly.
    Where can you get space for the kind of money they charge….your local paper?
    Some of these sites offer 4 years of advertising for a 1 off feee.
    Its cheap its good for your google ranking and its a page thats filled with ads, if its a genra based site it gives search engines a run for their money.
    Does anyone really care that this guy put these big names on….and i really think they would sit there and go hey why not its a link our names getting around blah blah.
    Sounds like you care more than the big names somehow.

Trackbacks

  1. Boing Boing says:

    worldblogcenter.com: lying turdmongers

    BoingBoing reader Darren Rowse just pointed us to a shady site called World Blog Center, which touts itself as “prestigious virtual real estate location in which blogs from a variety of industry sectors are housed.” I prefer to think of them as lyin…

  2. [...] Darren Rowse tracked this site down, and based on what I’ve read at Darren’s site and at BoingBoing, I’d be surprised if any of the listed sites even knew this site existed. [...]

  3. [...] Pixel Ad Site Targeting Bloggers with Deception [...]

  4. [...] Then I read what BoingBoing’s Xeni Jardin had to say about it: BoingBoing reader Darren Rowse just pointed us to a shady site called World Blog Center, which touts itself as “prestigious virtual real estate location in which blogs from a variety of industry sectors are housed.” I prefer to think of them as lying assholes, because they’re claiming that BoingBoing is a “tenant,” and exploiting the BoingBoing logo and name without our permission in their press releases, on their website, and — according to folks they’ve hit up for cash — in spam emailings soliciting paid membership. [...]

  5. [...] If you create a cause and get that story syndicated on Boing Boing you will get a lot of links out of it. Ironically, Boing Boing even linked to the site that was being hated on. Silly move for how tech savvy they are supposed to be over there. [...]

  6. [...] Pixel Ad Site Targeting Bloggers with Deception: ProBlogger Blog Tips Helping Bloggers earn Money Recently Posted Ask a Blogging Question and/or Tell your Blogging Story How to Write for Busy People [...]

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  8. [...] Pixel Ad Site Targeting Bloggers with Deception: ProBlogger Blog Tips ProBlogger Blog Tips Free Software Downloads – $4700 worth of software and ebooks – Make Money Online Links Says: March 31st, 2006 at 12:57 am [ ] Pixel Ad Site Targeting Bloggers with Deception: [...]

  9. [...] Pixel Ad Site Targeting Bloggers with Deception: ProBlogger Blog Tips ProBlogger Blog Tips Free Software Downloads – $4700 worth of software and ebooks – Make Money Online Links Says: March 31st, 2006 at 12:57 am [ ] Pixel Ad Site Targeting Bloggers with Deception: [...]