A newly-funded Israeli start-up that helps marketers gain visibility in social media like Digg and YouTube rankings raised a few eyebrows in the WSJ. Collactive, which has received an undisclosed amount from Sequoia, allows promoters to create an All Points Bulletin that, when passed on via email, hit on the web or shared as a widget, invites recipients to perform an action. That might be viewing a YouTube video, Digging a link or just clicking on to a news story – anything to give the content higher placement on its parent’s “most popular” list.
WSJ: “The start-up’s plans to let businesses and politicians use its service, for a fee, to promote their products and agendas could well attract criticism that it’s helping manipulate the most-popular lists and home pages of news and video sites – therefore decreasing their value.”
Gaming the system is a problem Digg, in particular, has wrestled with in recent months (CEO Jay Adelson says “there’s a difference if you’re a marketing company and you want to get something manipulated to the top” and the site bans unscrupulous users). Interestingly, for Yahoo, it’s not such a big deal – SVP news and information Scott Moore: “People using Yahoo News’ ‘most popular’ or ‘most emailed’ as a kind of grassroots marketing tool is just fine with us.” To be fair, Collactive is not getting such a big kicking – mass-mobilized potential uses, say the wagging tongues in the blogosphere, include political action, saving the rainforests and antiterrorism protest. The thing to watch will be whether media sites like YouTube and Digg, especially, move to discount hits that come via Collactive.