Join Blog Rush, for free! Get an iPhone, for free!

Have you ever received an email or seen a model which promises you a free (or more often, cheap) product simply by getting your friends to sign up to the program? It'll typically go something like this:

Sign up today for just £20, and you can start straight away! All you need to do is get 20 friends to sign up to our program and we'll ship you a free iPhone! (replace iPhone with other highly desirable item)
Now, while undoubtedly a lot of people fall for this it's not a sensible model and CANNOT work long term. While it's fine for the early adopters, (i.e. those at the top of the food chain) very very quickly you need the entire population of the planet to sign up before everyone is satisfied. This kind of scam is called a pyramid scheme and is typically illegal (wiki).

If you take away the up-front payment to join, it becomes more like a multi-level-marketing (wiki) system. These are not illegal if run correctly, but their success is heavily biased towards the people at the top of the pyramid. Blogrush is just such a scheme . Sure, the early adopters (Shoemoney, Andy Beal, John Chow, Problogger, etc etc) will benefit from the scheme as it has it's initial popularity and everyone thinks it's a cool idea.

Very quickly, however, the model falls apart. Let's see why:

Let's say I see Shoemoney's article on Blogrush, think it's a great idea and install the widget on my blog. Now, after a small amount of time (and a little self promotion) some of my friends install Blogrush on their sites.

Let's say Shoemoney is Blog A, Distilled is Blog B, and my friend's blog is blog C.

A very simple equation emerges.

1 page view on blog C => 1 blogrush display for blog C + 1 blogrush display for blog B + 1 blogrush display for blog A.

So, when you take this 10 levels deep (which is as far as the affiliate nature continues):

1 display of a blogrush widget => need for 10 links from blogrush widgets

Now, each widget can display 5 links, but that still means we need more links from blogrush widgets than there are widgets to display widgets on.

However, I have been a bit sneaky in the analysis above - assuming that everyone with a blogrush widget signed up as an affiliate to someone higher up the pyramid. This may well be (close to) true once you get a bit further down the list, but early on, it's certainly not true - some of the early sign-ups with the largest traffic may not have signed up via an affiliate (or at least, they are within 10 links of the top of the tree). So, while we can assume that there are very high-traffic blogs within 10 links of your blog, the system should work (it can use excess inventory from them to display lower affiliates' blogrush views), but once you get below that level, these assumptions go out the window, and what happens then is anyone's guess.

Now, I've no idea how quickly the system reaches this tipping point but I suspect it won't be long. Especially given the sheer volume of hits across this network (which is going to grow now that this widget is in place!).

So my prediction? I'm staying away from Blogrush. I see a flaw in their model which they take no steps to address (their FAQ and about pages are pretty bare at the moment) and I can't see this network becoming a long term thing. The big boys will use it, they'll profit from it and then all the smaller blogs and people who sign up through affiliate links won't get their share of views on the Blogrush network and they'll uninstall the widget which in turn will severely limit the network and will cause the whole thing to fall apart.

Maybe I'll be wrong, maybe it'll be a successful but until I'm proved otherwise or until someone gives me a convincing argument dispelling my MLM concerns I'm not adopting.

As a footnote, this is a classic case of poor reputation mangement for Blogrush. Not only because I'm blogging about it but more importantly because there is a fundamental issue with their product which they have not addressed. By not addressing the issue they look shady in my eyes and hence I'm not adopting and there will be plenty of people like me.

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