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WorldBlogCenter Scam Update

Just a short update on the Pixel Ad Site Scam that I wrote about yesterday. On the page in question there have been a few changes. Some logos have been removed including Engadget’s, Boing Boing’s and Gizmodo’s. They’ve also added a note to that says ‘pre-approved – awaiting response’ to what pops up when you put your cursor over the logos of those who have not paid for listings (the majority of logos).

What concerns me is that some do seem to have paid for listings (a few don’t have the ‘pre-approved’ bit showing) and have probably signed up thinking they were a part of something legitimate. Also of concern is that the ‘pre-approved’ logos still give the impression that some very well known blogs are involved at a glance.

Jason Calacanis and Boing Boing have both written about it and have officially said that they were not a part of things. If I were them I’d be pretty peeved – especially Boing Boing who were featured in press releases that went out on some pretty big news services. I’m advised by friends who are in the legal business that they’d have a very good case for action against WBC for using their name in this way.

update: A few words of update….

Firstly – I’ve had emails and a comment or two from others who were targeted by this site. All were thankful for being alerted to it and some were close to signing up and paying money to be involved.

Secondly – the site in question has made some changes. They say they are not accepting applications…. that they are not charging any more for the service… (not sure how that fits with not taking applications) and that they did make some ‘mistakes’ along the way. I’m not sure how long the ‘no charge’ thing will last as they say they might start selling space again later but it seems that they’ve listened to the criticism.

Thirdly – I can’t believe the amount of criticism that this whole saga has brought. As I just commented on a site that was critical of my actions because it brought publicity to the site as some others linked to it (something I did not do):

‘Firstly – I couldn’t believe the site’s that linked to the scammer – stupid move in my opinion. I never did this in my posts.

Secondly – The reason I posted the post in the first place was that I saw what I considered to be unethical behavior that was targeting bloggers. The conundrum that I found myself in was that on one hand I didn’t want to give them any publicity that might make them bigger and on the other hand I wasn’t willing to let them rip people off by ignoring it.

What’s wrong with what they are doing?

1. They are getting cash out of bloggers by deceiving them (I’ve had emails from people who got sucked in and others who would have been sucked in if they hadn’t seen something about it on one of the sites that mentioned it). I don’t know how many people they were spamming with the offers to join but they claimed to be sending the offer to 5000 bloggers. From what I can see – what they were doing was at best ‘deceptive’ and at worst some have said it’s ‘fraudulent’. Look at the size of the page that they want to fill and you’ll see how much they stood to gain from it.

2. They were explicitly using the names and logos of companies for their own personal gain and implying that these blogs were a part of their system when they were not. I’m not sure if you’ve seen the press releases (that went out on all the major wires) but the headline of them was that Boing Boing had signed up to be a part of the network. I saw these releases on some pretty major networks.

So what’s a guy to do?

I had a few options. I guess I could have ignored it and let people get ripped off. I could have politely emailed the people behind it and complained (and gotten ignored myself), I could have emailed all the bloggers being featured and sucked in (but what could people do after the fact?) or I could use the fact that I have a blog that people read to warn them of it.

I took the last option – knowing that in doing so I risked others linking to the offending site – but at least knowing that some people would be protected.

The reaction to my post has been mixed. I’ve been thanked by some of those whose logos were being featured, thanked by some who were ripped off and by those who saw the story before signing up. On the other hand I’ve been attacked by some who see nothing wrong with the site and say I should encourage their entrepreneurial spirit and have been ridiculed for giving them publicity.

I still don’t really know what I should have done – perhaps it would have been ‘easier’ to ignore it and hope it went away – but sometimes in life you have to name things for what they are.

Lastly – all I’ll say is that the site in question has made some changes. I don’t know how long they’ll last or what it all means but they say they’ve closed applications, that they’ve made some mistakes, that they are now not going to charge for the program.

Perhaps…and I don’t know … the whole saga was worthwhile.’

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. Nick Aziz says:

    Why would boing boing link to the offending site? That has to be the dumbest thing ever!

  2. Russ says:

    It seems that the sites that have bought space are getting their moneys worth. With all the controversy surrounding this pixel site they would probably be getting a lot of traffic and the sites that have bought pixels will probably be getting clicks as well.

  3. I have to say that this feels a little more gradiose than it deserves. Big deal. It’s some rinky-dink operation in a college dorm room.
    My money’s on http://www.VIPBloggers.com for the bogger pixel sell-off.
    (Note: I do not own or work for them.)

    Com’on guys. Doesn’t this feel a little like picking on the red-headed kid in grade 3 after he wet his pants?

  4. Oops. Spoke too soon. Haden’t read how much Boing Boing hates them. Ok… Lynch-em.

  5. Rachel says:

    Here’s the company which appears to be behind the site.

  6. Jeremy says:

    Okay, so I’m sure I’ll be semi attacked for this, but let me play devil’s advocate here…

    What is wrong with the site putting up a banner to sites that have not paid for them? Problogger posts MANY links ALL the time to sites that haven’t paid him, we ALL post links and sometimes even banners to places that haven’t paid us. Nobody ever questions that, actually, it would be quite laughable to criticize a site for deciding a link to another site before getting money for that link right? Well, why are we moaning about this pixel ad site doing it? Hmm..

    Ok, I do agree it does have some problems with it, since it isn’t the actual putting up a banner to another site that is the problem, it’s more that it came off (at first) as though the ad system was so good that big name sites were using it, when in fact, they weren’t. Now, I doubt there is anything legally wrong with this, and now with there being a notice on the ones that haven’t paid, I personally see nothing morally wrong with it either.

    It just seems like everybody jumped all over the pixel ad site VERY quickly when in my opinion, it wasn’t THAT bad and now that there are disclaimers on the non paid ones, it isn’t bad at all. I doubt you all think you need to have ALL your links and banners be paid ones on your site do you?

  7. Duncan says:

    I’ll tell you what’s wrong Jeremy, Darren and other sites post links to sites they like, in support of those sites, we all do. What we don’t do is present those sites just for commercial gain, to try and leverage their credibility in an attempt to make money, which is what these guys are doing. You’ll also see from the early post from Darren that the guy running this site is also just a plain out and out liar as well.

    As for it being better now? Complete and utter rubbish. He’s still trying to trade on the credibility of the sites he has listed. “pre-approval” is just crap. It’s a scam, plain and simple.

  8. Darren Rowse says:

    Yeah Jeremy – these guys are signing up paying customers by telling people that Boing Boing have agreed to be a part of it and by featuring other peoples logos who have no idea that they are being used. So people are going to the site and thinking ‘wow – engadget and slashdot are in this – I might buy an ad too’. This is deception and is not what the web needs any more of.

  9. Nick Aziz says:

    This topic isn’t even open to debate. As Darren says it’s a deception. If you disagree, then you simply lack intelligence.

  10. A.B. Dada says:

    This is ridiculous. I am quickly losing my respect for bloggers who have the “holier than thou” attitude about who links to whom and what is considered a scam and what isn’t. That site is no scam, and I don’t see anything wrong with what the guy did — although I do think pixel sites are a waste of time and money.

    Anyone’s link is publicly available and most people want to be linked. The majority of blogs base their existance on a scam called blogrolling — used mostly to try to increase pagerank. The entire blogosphere is built around what I would consider “scams.” Look at most advertising, what is the #1 rule for ads? Blend them. That’s not “scammish”?

    I think this guy found a way to snag people into his program, and I think what he did is fine. I think those pixel sites are lame, but people do what they do. That’s freedom. If people wanted to know if the big names paid, they should have asked. Did he say they paid? No. Did his press releases lie? Not from what I can see.

    The lawyer friends Mr. ProBlogger is talking about are part of the problem — rather than just ignoring this guy’s lame pixel site, he’s talking about bringing in the law! The last people we want in the Internet is the lawyers and the regulators, and by crying “poor me” all its doing is bringing more attention to the courts as well as more attention to the guy who is running the lame site.

    Don’t cry just because someone else is trying to make money on the web — the majority of people trying something new always seem to be spit on by those who were there before them, maybe unwilling to share in the wealth.

  11. Darren Rowse says:

    A.B Dada – I’m not going to go on with this much more but I’ll say it again. I’ve nothing against the idea of the site EXCEPT that they sent out press releases claiming the involvement of one of the biggest blogs going around when that blog had never agreed for their name to be used in that way. They also placed the logos of companies that had not bought advertising space in the hope that others would give them money to be seen next to them.

    What’s wrong with that? It’s a lie and it was a lie that had the sole purpose of getting people to give him money. That is not good business practice – that is not ethical – that should not be encouraged.

    This type of action not only rips people off but it brings down the medium that many of us attempt to make a legitimate income from.

    I don’t cry because someone makes money on the web – in fact the whole purpose of this site is to help people do it. I’m more than happy to highlight creative, ethical examples of people making money in ways that don’t involve ripping off others.

    I’m stunned that people can’t see this for what it is.

  12. Andy Merrett says:

    It’s interesting that I obviously just read the wrong material, but in the last few articles: ‘scams’, ‘lack of attribution’, ‘negative web’: I had not seen any of this until everyone started publicising it.

    In all cases, regardless of the credibility of everyone involved, all have received a lot more exposure because of it.

    This is what really bugs me. A handful of people can make what would be a ‘real world’ non-entity an online showcase. At least, in particular spheres of the blogo.

    At one level they’re big deals, sure, but I’m off to find the spheres that shout and fuss about the issues that really matter to me. I am getting tired of reading about Mr A and Mr A jr and Mr A Wannabee, and a whole stack of Mr Zs, churning it all over.

    Seriously, I am increasingly needing to find new neighbourhoods where people are looking at human issues. Given that I never know about this stuff until it ‘breaks’ on a big site, I doubt I’ll be missed.

    All this energy debating a few crappy pixels could’ve been devoted to content about (shudder) politics, poverty, good news, cool gadgets, music, love…

    Yeah well anyway…

  13. Jeremy says:

    If the site actually tells people that Boing Boing and other big name sites are in fact paying for advertisement or that those sites are in any way approving of the site, then 100% yes it is wrong and it actually is illegal as well.

    I was only saying that it seemed like everybody jumped all over it just because there were banners displayed without the knowledge of the sites, which in and of itself isn’t that bad. However, like I said before, it was bad until they put a disclaimer saying which ones haven’t paid.

    In all honesty, this seems to fall along the lines of link baiting to me. At least some major sites have turned it into a form of link bait by posting about the fiasco, thus driving a ton of traffic to the site like others have already said.

    Ok, so to sum up my opionion. Putting the banners on the site alone with no disclaimer is slightly bad. putting the banners on the site with a disclaimer not bad at all. Telling people that those banners were paid for when they weren’t or that those sites approved of the ads is very bad AND illegal AND should have the law involved.

  14. Alina says:

    Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

  15. Jeremy says:

    “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    Yeah, that old quote sounds good on paper, but makes no practical sense unfortunately.

    If somebody came and killed a family member, would you not be allowed to do anything about it if you had ever illegally downloaded an mp3?

    Sorry for the metaphor, but for some reason I’m feeling very confrontational :)

  16. Yep… It’s as I feared.
    The holier than thou crowd won’t be satisfied just picking on the red-headed kid for pissing his pants, blood must be had.

    Ill agree with Jeremy and Andy though… tempest in a tea pot. Why don’t we track down the phishers instead. Now there’s a problem.

  17. Grant says:

    I wrote this on your other post but I wanted to say it again…

    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

  18. Leon says:

    You did the right thing Darren.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] WorldBlogCenter Scam Update by Darren Rowse [...]

  2. [...] [Edit] When writing this post, I couldn’t connect to Darren Rowse’s site. Now managed to – and you should read the comments to his post. Plus Darren’s update post. So the title of my post should probably now read something like ‘Beware: advertising scam.’ [...]

  3. [...] There are recent examples of posts that paint a picture of negativity, content theft and fraud. [...]

  4. [...] Darin Rowse of ProBlogger alerted BoingBoing and others to discover many had not even paid for space. [...]

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