Machine Shop: Hype Machine Team Blog

On Integrity & Advertising

Last week, we ran what’s called a “site takeover” for a new single by P. Diddy.  A site takeover, or skin allows the advertiser to customize the look of many prominent parts of a website.  Today, we are running one for the new Kid Cudi record released tomorrow.

We’ve received a variety of responses to this highly visible campaign, and one email from Taz managed to summarize most of the frequent concerns into a single message.  I’ve asked Taz if I can share his emails to us and my responses, they are reproduced below in italics with his permission.

Taz:

Puff Daddy on the page?  I understand making a profit because you are a business, but come on.  Puff Daddy has never been on hypem because he is not a good artist for your target market.  I’m offended by this advertisement.  I used to listen to Pandora until they sold out.  You need to consider what the community thinks about this.

Anthony Volodkin:

Thanks for writing about this.

We are still working out the kinks with some ad campaigns.  I agree
that the execution of this one could be better.

On the other hand, it is also clear that this is an ad and not the
normal blog content which remains unaffected.

How did Pandora sell out?

Taz:

Thanks for the response.  I appreciate that you took the time to do this.

Here is why I think it could be a concern:  Hypem is special because the community are music hunters.  Unlike the majority of the market, your community seeks music to listen to instead of being fed music.  Radio stations and TV shows typically advertise and sell the music that pays the most, so its not really “good” music anymore. Record labels can obviously write the biggest check, so they get the airtime.  This drives away music hunters because the quality is typically not as enjoyable as truly good music.  Hypem is exactly what music hunters love because it is a truer system of measurement, determined by users and not executives.

What I fear is that once these record labels start dominating an entire page, what is to stop them from appearing on the front page for music?  It is all web space in the long run.  These people have so much money that they will approach you, if they haven’t already, with this idea.  As a business, I think this is great, but I still don’t want my music experience affected by a business deal like this.  If you can assure me that the content will never be promoted or the voting system will be taken advantage of, I am ok with this.  I just understand how money can determine these types of things and I dont want to see hypem sell out this way.

Pandora sold out because selected artists have a much better chance of showing up on a listener’s playlist.  They are literally a radio station, so labels pay them money to “show up more” on playlists.

However, if you are approached with this type of thing, I would encourage you to have a different section for this.  One way to approach this have a “hypem staff favorites” page.  Your staff could list promoted songs and then list them as their personal week favorites.  No one would suspect otherwise because it would be the “opinions” of the staff.

I use Hypem everyday and love it, so if I can help maintain how it functions, I will.

Anthony:

Responses to specific paragraphs below:

> What I fear is that once these record labels start dominating and entire
> page, what is to stop them from appearing on the front page for music?

We are there to stop them.  We delineate between content and
advertising carefully. When I started the Hype Machine several years
ago, these were the exact concerns I had about how music gets through
radio and magazines.

> It is all web space in the long run.

It’s not THAT simple, the context and how things are presented is
really important.  The P. Diddy campaign was very obviously an ad and
did not come from one of our trusted blogs.

> I just understand how money can determine these types of things and I
> don’t want to see hypem sell out this way.

We work diligently to prevent all sorts of manipulation of charts, as seen here:

1: http://blog.hypem.com/2009/06/on-chart-integrity/
2: http://blog.hypem.com/2009/07/more-on-integrity-and-promotion/

> Pandora sold out because selected artists have a much better chance of
> showing up on a listeners playlist.  They are literally a radio station, so
> labels pay them money to “show up more” on play lists.

I am not familiar with this program, but I’d have to imagine they
disclose this to the listener when it takes place.  This is available
on Last.fm and I think they disclose it as well, though it has yet to
see wide adoption.  Labels with successful acts (for example, Matador
Records) don’t typically pay for this kind of stuff anyway –
they are confident enough in their work and choices to see it featured
in blogs, magazines and elsewhere.

> However, if you are approached with this type of thing, I would encourage
> you to have a different section for this.  One way to approach this have a
> “hypem staff favorites” page.  Your staff could list promoted songs and then
> list them as their personal week favorites.  No one would suspect otherwise
> because it would be the “opinions” of the staff.

Hehe, this’d be sneaky – why would we hide the promoted stuff in this
fashion?  We have personal integrity too!

You’ve asked some good questions here, would it be ok for me to post
this email thread on our blog (or on my personal blog)?

I’d love your thoughts on all this too.

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