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Blogalicious 2010: What the Proposed Blogging Guidelines Mean for You

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What the Proposed Blogging Guidelines Mean for You

There has been a lot of buzz lately on how the federal government, i.e. the Federal Trade Commission, is planning to regulate bloggers writing product reviews. Although this topic isn't new, the reason for the recent discussion about it in the press is because the FTC is currently reviewing its existing guidelines for marketers and product endorsers - which were originally written in the 1980's - and the agency plans to include new media in its revised version. While blogging wasn't even a thought on anyone's minds in the 80's (who had time what with things like Cabbage Patch Dolls and Miami Vice?) now blogging has, of course, redefined how marketers promote their brands to consumers.

I'm sure all of us have been approached to try a product and write a review about it on our blog. Perhaps some of us have even been invited on a trip courtesy of a marketer. Others might even participate in one of the many "pay-to-post" programs out there available to bloggers. All of these avenues can be great ways for companies to spread the word about their brands, and a great way for bloggers to get paid (or at least enjoy free stuff!) The question is: are the marketers - and you as a potential product endorser - within the confines of advertising law when it comes to offering and doing these reviews?

The name of the game is transparency. As long as you as the product endorser is being transparent to your readers about your relationship with the marketer of the product, you should be a-ok. A simple disclosure stating that you were given the product/service/trip, etc. for free, that is clear and prominent to those reading the review, should do the trick. The key is for the consumers reading the post to know that you didn't just pick up the box of Banana Cheerios at the grocery, try it, decided you loved it and wrote a post about it. The perception of your review of that cereal might change if the reader knew up front that you were sent that box of Cheerios by General Mills and asked to review it. Getting that cereal for free might arguably be a form of payment, and merits being disclosed. Bottom line: If you are acting as a proxy for an advertiser, then that needs to be disclosed.

Some folks have been saying that mommy bloggers are the focus of the FTC's review, and that just isn't true. The agency is looking at all forms of new media, and it just so happens that mommy bloggers are "hot" right now and are being targeted by PR companies in a major way to review all sorts of things. But whether you're a mom blogger, a travel blogger, a gadget blogger or a food blogger, you most likely won't have anything to worry about as long as you use honesty as your policy.

In fact, Susan Getgood says it best in her recent post on this very issue: The FTC is focused on deceptive practices, not honest reviews.

For specific tips on how you can make sure you're on the right track, read my 2007 post on DCMetroMoms blog called "Blogging for Bucks" and we'll be discussing this topic some more in October. Which reminds me - are you registered yet?


  1. Thanks for bringing to our attention on the review of guidelines, which is very valuable and useful for us in this industry.

  2. Well stated! I like that you stated that it is not just about mommy bloggers!!

  3. Great post. I'm interested to see what they (FTC) come back with.

    Winks & Smiles,

  4. Thanks for the shout-out. Really like your paragraph on transaprency -- perfect explanation of the issue.