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Monday, October 19, 2009

Blogging and the New Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Guidelines

In a nut shell, 1980 was the last time the the Federal Trade Commission revised its guidelines regarding endorsements and testimonials. So new revisions, set to take effect on December 1, 2009, are a sign of the times and stem from the fact that some bloggers, Twitterers, and web writers, receive compensation to review products and services online.

The FTC believes compensation can create a conflict of interest if a blogger gives a favorable review to a less then favorable product or company simply because they are receiving an incentive in the form of money or a freebie sample. One exception is if free samples are offered to the general public. Disclosure is not required so long as the writer wasn't specifically identified and approached by the company offering the promotion.

When you read my blog do you think of me as a friend?

If you take everything you read with a grain of salt these new guidelines might seem unnecessary. But some readers feel like a blog is to know and trust the author the same way they might a friend. There is a different type of familiarity that occurs with those who blog and tweet because we aren't always perceived the same way as "news, media or press." This more personal familiarity can leave some readers vulnerable to being misled because they may fail to recognize that some writers may have reasons to put an advertisers interests before the interests of their readers.

Or do you think of me as Press?

To be clear, the FTC isn't proposing that compensation can't happen, they're simply saying that if it does happen it needs to be "conspicuously" disclosed to the blog's readers. My understanding is that the guidelines are not law but are interpretations of law. If compensation for a particular post was received but not disclosed the blogger could face legal action by the FTC.

To be honest I'm not certain where the majority and minority of public opinion rests on this topic but my feeling is that I personally don't have a problem with disclosing if I'm being compensated, how and by whom. In fact I already do.

I did receive this Dyson vacuum to review for the company. The instructions given when reviewing the product were:
"Dyson wants genuine feedback based on your experience, so feel free to post what you don't like, as well as what you like."
Also noteworthy was that it was my membership and participation on the Dogster.com website, and a request to post my review publicly there, that led to my being selected to review the vacuum. This was also fully disclosed in the post.

On this blog it's obvious when I'm blogging about one of the Flirty Guide advertisers as their name will link over to their Flirty Guide profile. I had already included the following information on my Blog Policies page so I think I'm in the clear:
Advertisers of The Flirty Guide are blogged about when warranted. However, simply being an advertiser of The Flirty Guide does not guarantee a post upon demand. The information has to be useful to the blog's readers by being unique and/or informative or helpful.

For all others if Stacie mentions a company by name she does so voluntarily.

At this time the Flirty Guide Blog does not perform pay-for-post reviews.
CLICK HERE to view the FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 16 C.F.R. Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising" PDF.

1 comment:

  1. I think this is a good thing to have to disclose, it keeps things transparent and I don't think it does any harm.
    And I like your media pass, I think I need to create one of those for myself :)


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