Times Online is in hot water with social media fans for secretly “spamming” dozens of said sites with links to the online newspaper. Blogger Andy Baio uncovered rafts of story links posted to sites like Mahalo, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Answers, Ma.gnolia and AOL’s (NYSE: TWX) Propeller by Piotr Wyspianski, a manager at Shoreditch search engine optimisation outfit Sitelynx, a contractor to Times Online. At issue – the fact Wyspianski posted without disclosure, and often in his wife’s name. MetaFilter and Propeller, AOL’s Digg clone that had until recently occupied the “Netscape” name, have now disabled his user account. The Times was known to have been buying keyword search advertising for some of its stories, but, as UK online papers scrap for traffic and overseas eyeballs, social media persuasion is far murkier territory. Times Online reached a high of 12.5 million visitors in September before slipping back to 11.1 million in the Christmas month (ABCe figs). The site was redesigned in a £10 million overhaul last February. We asked The Times for comment early this morning but, so far, nothing.
Update: Times Online editor Anne Spackman’s response shows it was a rogue operation: “What happened what as much of a surprise to us as it was to the Sitelynx guys. They apologised straight away. (Piotr) was working on the Times account but not on link building, and he had no authority to do this. And we don’t do link spamming anyway.” Via Grauniad.