Yesterday, Joel Comm published a post titled Where is the Integrity in Internet Marketing on his blog. I feel compelled to respond.

Joel recently announced that he’s stepping back a bit from the “guru” role. I sense some of his reason for reduced involvement in this post. He writes:

It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I began to see some very disturbing trends in the Internet marketing realm and began coming to terms with them.

My team evaluates everything we would even remotely consider promoting. Ninety-five percent of the evaluations receive a thumbs-down from my team. That means we won’t touch them with a ten-foot pole.

This reminded me of something I wrote about Joel a few years ago:

…from time to time, I have seen Joel’s name attached to things that I would not want mine associated with.

I get the distinct impression that I wouldn’t see Joel promoting the things today that I was disappointed to see him promote back then. As more and more of the people I used to respect are going the other direction and promoting more product that lack either value or ethics, it’s encouraging to see some moving in the right direction.

Joes goes on, speaking of customers, to say:

Unfortunately, the majority of these people will never achieve the financial goals they desire from these products. The dirty secret amongst many marketers is this. They KNOW that most people won’t consume the product. This has always disturbed me. But I’ve witnessed many marketers laugh at this fact.

If he’d said “I’ve witnessed a few marketers laugh at this fact,” that’d be one thing. But no, it’s “many marketers.”

Joesl continues:

Another marketer told me he directed his employees to mail his list EVERY DAY in order to make as much money selling whatever he could. There was absolutely no concern for the customer.

This is taught as standard practice: offer an “ethical bribe” to get people on your list, and then send them affiliate offers. The average subscriber is worth $1/month.

On it’s face, it’s a great idea. But the problem is that it’s lead to hundreds of thousands of people building their lists and promoting anything and everything in hopes of getting their $1 per subscriber per month.

If you’re selective about what you promote, what are the odds, honestly, that you’ll have something worthwhile to offer every single day?

Joel continues:

Just when I thought marketers were starting to get it, I was pointed to a new product that is selling like crazy. I had to take a look and had my team evaluate the sales process and the product. It didn’t take them long to tell me that I couldn’t run from it fast enough!

This product is from a big name marketer. The sales letter is packed with hype. The false scarcity oozes off the page.

I have a sneaking suspicion I know which product he’s talking about. If I’m right, it’s from someone I used to respect. But I’m afraid the blatant lies on the sale page (the “false scarcity” Joel mentions) have shot down another person who used to stand for something in my eyes.

What I’m afraid of is that the whole Internet Marketing A-List has been chatting it up with each other in their own little echo chamber for so long that they’re no longer even aware when they’re doing something that the rest of the world would instantly recognize as blatantly unethical — even illegal.

Is there room in such an environment for an honest guru? Can an alternative A-List rise up and show the market a better way? I hope that those who are waking up to the rot don’t all give up and abandon the customer to pied pipers who’ll lead them off and turn them into smaller versions of themselves.

At the end of Joel’s post, he opens a little window of hope:

But I believe there are many ETHICAL Internet marketers out there. I want to recognize them and applaud them for doing right by their customers.

I am in the process of putting together a list of best practices for ethical Internet marketing. My list is pretty long already, but I would be interested in receiving your input.

So again, I ask: Can an alternative A-List rise up and show the market a better way? Hopefully this won’t be just another ethical best practices special report that has its impact, and then fades into memory as most of the market resumes its march on down to hell.