Back in September, Mark Zahra published a Tweet mentioning that he had been contacted by someone in the WordPress community who was working on a post that would list some of the best plugins to use. What set this email exchange apart from others is that the author told him that in order to be included in the post, he would need to pay a fee. The folks over at WP Scan received a similar email in August and they published the exchange which shows how much each position costs.
- Position 0 or the Featured Plugin – $199
- Position 1 – $149
- Position 2, 3, and 4 – $119
- Position 5 and 6 – $99
Today, Zahra shared a link to an article published on WP Hive which lists the best RSS Feed plugins for WordPress and indicated that it was the post he would have been included in. While reading the post on WP Hive, there’s no mention of the fact that the developers of the plugins in the list paid to be included.
Being open and honest with readers is common sense but there’s also the risk of someone filing a complaint with the FCC. According to the FTC Endorsement Guides, “If there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed. For example, if an ad features an endorser who’s a relative or employee of the marketer, the ad is misleading unless the connection is made clear. The same is usually true if the endorser has been paid or given something of value to tout the product. The reason is obvious: Knowing about the connection is important information for anyone evaluating the endorsement.”
Knowing about the connection is important information for anyone evaluating the endorsement. If developers are willing to pay to be included in a post, that’s fine, but the author of the post should inform readers to make sure everyone is on the same page. Knowing that money was exchanged for plugins to be included in a post with the title of Best Plugins suddenly makes it seem like they may not be the best plugins and instead, it’s the money that’s talking.
In a bit of comical irony, Zahra saved himself some cash and commented on the post. In his comment, he linked to his plugin, WP RSS Aggregator which is a fairly popular solution. I can confirm that Zahra did not pay WP Hive to publish his comment.