Wed, May 20th 2009 12:27am
The Federal Trade Commission is mulling over guidelines that would require bloggers to disclose when they're writing about products they've been given, sponsor's products, or are getting paid to write about a particular product. The FTC says the new rules are necessary because people are increasingly turning to blogs for product information, and their unregulated nature makes them ripe for abuse. But the things the FTC proposes, like mandated disclosure when a company has given a blogger a product, are things that most reasonable bloggers already do. Meanwhile, those who accept payment for posts -- as well as the companies doing the paying aren't likely to have much credibility with their audiences anyway. It's as if the FTC is trying to mandate credibility, and this raises a couple of interesting points. First, audiences generally seem pretty adept at rooting out when people are being paid to talk nice about a company or product, and there are plenty of examples of company's payola schemes getting found out and causing a backlash against them. Second, why do bloggers get singled out for special treatment? Plenty of old-media reporters get freebies tossed their way, but the FTC doesn't seem to think they deserve the same level of attention. That's not to say that newspapers are full of paid-placement articles or reports based on free products, but to think there's more scope for deception and advertiser influence on blogs than in any sort of print or other media is fallacious.
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