Did The FTC's New 'Blogger' Guidelines Just Change The Way All Book/Music Reviews Must Be Conducted?
from the just-wondering dept
The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that "material connections" (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers -- connections that consumers would not expect -- must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other "word-of-mouth" marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.Again, the concept is definitely admirable. There's long been a fear that companies are effectively bribing people with free stuff in order to get good reviews, and the FTC wants people to reveal that info. But... does that really make sense? It seems to me like this could just create a totally unnecessary minefield for anyone who blogs. And why is this focused on bloggers and word-of-mouth marketers? Almost all book and music reviews in the mainstream press involve the books and music being sent for free - and there's never been any question of impartiality of most of those reviews -- but why are they now left out of these rules? Is every blogger who reviews a book going to have to disclose where they got it? What about music? Many music bloggers are sent mp3s by the record labels. Do they need to reveal who sent them stuff? Does that really matter?
The real question, from my standpoint, is whether or not the FTC is really needed here. If someone is constantly blogging positively about stuff they get for free, they put their own credibility at risk, as people realize that the products aren't actually very good. It seems like the type of situation that sorts itself out. Those who are constantly pushing products for questionable reasons hurt themselves and soon no one trusts them. Does the FTC really need to be involved in that process? In the meantime, I'm suddenly glad that we don't do reviews on this site for the most part. I do occasionally mention or review books, but I guess I'll have to mention when I buy those books vs. when I'm sent them for free (it's about 50/50), which seems pretty pointless.