Wal-Marting Across America or RVs parking their blog ethics at the door?

I’m still confused about what seems like a significant overreaction in the blogosphere to Wal Mart’s PR agency Edelman’s decision to sponsor a couple in their RV trip across America. The blog, now called a “fake” by many but not the authors, is WalMartingAcrossAmerica

Onliners, especially bloggers, get more pissed about this type of thing than about, for example, thousands of far, far more significant issues of global significance and ethics, death and destruction and I find that upsetting, intellectually narrow minded, obsessive, and superficial.

So, a big PR firm sponsors a blog that they see will wind up being favorable to Wal Mart? This is surprising? Unethical? If they’d set up the whole thing I’d see it differently, but that does not appear to be the case. They simply were not transparent *enough*, failing to have the bloggers disclose their financial relationship to Wal Mart.

Sure, they deserved to be chastised and called out on this as a breech of transparency, but is this more of a breech than, say, downloading illegal music and videos? Or, for that matter, building entire companies around concepts of illegal downloading? Those guys get cheers and applause and hundred-million dollar paydays.

That said maybe I’m just not reading this right and it was some major ethical breech by Wal Mart/ Edelman.

Here’s my reply to Edelman’s (too thin) apology about all this even as it becomes the top online story by far:

With all due respect this apology seems too thin, and ironically itself sounds like part of the PR-driven rather than the “blog community” approach to the issue which would outline the scoop for everybody and explain how this got so out of hand.

It’s not even clear to me that you seriously defied WOMMA guidelines assuming that things are exactly as described over at the WalMarting Across America blog. Rather it looks like somebody at Edelman saw an excellent and legitimate opportunity and then chose to fund it in a way that turned this into a blog that was too sponsored to retain credibility.

Sheesh – I think I’m articulating your position at greater length than you are?!

Online Sheep get the revenue shaft. Hey Google, when you gonna show *Average Joe’s* the money rather than Rupert Murdoch?

Business week is fretting over how Google will monetize the YouTube content and whether they’ll share with Myspace owners News Corp. Myspace users have embedded tons of YouTube video content in their personal pages so this is potentially a big stream of cash for somebody. Poor Rupert Murdoch doesn’t have enough money as it is, so heaven forbid that the content producers or the users would be put first in line for a piece of the action that *they generate*.

Business Week:
Google could soon have the ability to stream ads to MySpace users who are viewing YouTube videos embedded onto their MySpace pages. The question is whether News Corp. will get a slice of that revenue, and if so, how much …

I think a more relevant question is how much of that revenue should go to those generating the content and the billion daily page views.

Sites (like Google) are doing a fine job of making it possible for Average Joe’s to find the web pages of other Average Joe’s over at Myspace who in turn does a fine job helping people build silly pages filled with videos and images from other infrastructure sites like Flickr and Youtube. They should be well compensated for this and I think 25% is a good number, with 75% of the total revenue generated going to the “users” who are generating all that content and all those page views.

“Professional” users like me already get a piece of the action from Google – about 60-70% of the ad revenue I generate at my websites comes back to me via Google Adsense payments, and I think that’s probably a fine relationship. At least until Yahoo or MSN wake up to the fact they can jump start their contextual advertising services with a temporary 100% revenue share with publishers. Then I, and a large chunk of the 43% of Google’s Adsense Revenue, will be jumping ship. Booking services only give me about 50% of the commissions I generate but that’ll trend upwards over time (ha – it used to be only 20% revenue sharing).

However it’s very intriguing how the big players in the mega money deals leave out the key people in the equation – the Average Joe user. Part of that is simply scale. An average myspace user is only generating nickels and dimes (literally) per month in ad revenue. Collectively it’s a truckload of money but individually not much and Myspace does provide a good service to the user. Win Win? Maybe, but I think the trend will be towards people valuing their own content and their eyeball time more selfishly than they do right now.

The problem with all this great people-generated content — clearly the heart and soul of the new internet — is that the people generating it are getting left in the revenue dust. There are exceptions who manage to turn a few bucks here and there from the crumbs dropped by the mega monetizers like Google, but the average Joe who blogs and posts pictures and has a Myspace page with his Youtube videos gets nothing but the use of the online tools. That searchability and infrastructure is worth something. Arguably it’s worth a lot and clearly Average Joe is happy so far getting sh** for all his content effort.

However, I think over time Average Joe will become more demanding, perhaps even having the audacity to suggest that the collective fruits of all that online labor should be shared not just among Google and friends, but shared with those who watch it all and who make it all worth watching.