August 21, 2014

Why the FTC Blog Monitoring is Good

There’s a ton of fear mongering going on right now in the blogosphere about the FTC’s plans to monitor blogs for claims. A lot of bloggers are worried about what this ruling might mean for them and fearful that it could harm the industry.

I don’t think there’s anything to worry about here. If anything, this can only help the plight of many bloggers. While the article above does a great job of adding flames to the fear, it also links to the official .pdf that does a much better job of explaining things.

Quite simply, if we bloggers want to be taken as seriously as newspaper journalists we need to start following the same rules and guidelines. That doesn’t mean we all need to rush out and buy an AP style guide (although I do reccomend it) – but it does mean that I would have needed to say something if I posted an affiliate link there to Amazon. (I didn’t)

Regular banner ads are fine, the FTC is more concerned with the content of actual blog posts. That means the shady practice of paid posts without disclosure is something to worry about.

If you’re accepting free products then blogging about how awesome they are, you should worry. If you went out and bought yourself a new widget and felt like sharing how cool it is, you’re fine.

If you work at a company and blog about that company, you should disclose it. If you just really like Google and want to blog about them, that’s not a problem.

The FTC regulations are really pretty simple. If you ever find yourself asking “should I disclose this?” then the answer is yes. That’s about all there is to it. As a blogger who doesn’t do paid posts or accept free gifts, I have no problem here. Since I often blog about industry related events, I usually do a good job of letting people know where I work and what thoughts are mine vs my employer’s.

If you’re truly in doubt of what you should do, simply don’t do paid reviews or posts and don’t accept freebies. If you do, talk about it. Other than that, put up a page about yourself saying where you work and have worked, and say that the opinions on the blog are yours and not your employers (if that’s the case.)

Other than that, I think the FTC regulations are a good step in the right direction toward leveling the journalism playing field.

About Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones is an SEO from Detroit. By day he works as a manager of SEO & Analytics at SapientNitro where his team performs SEO for Fortune500 clients. By night he's either playing hockey or attempting to take over the world with his own websites - which he would have already succeeded in doing had it not been for those meddling kids and their dog. The views expressed here have not been paid for and belong only to Ryan, not any of his employers or clients. Follow Ryan on Twitter at: @RyanJones, add him on Google+ or visit his personal website: www.RyanMJones.com

Comments

  1. I agree with you about FTC intervention for review posts and blogs. I think it’s awesome that bloggers will have to provide honest disclosure.

    I haven’t had the time to read the full FTC document, but it is worrisome that the Washington Post article mentions that affiliate marketing will also come under scrutiny. If I buy a book on Amazon, and I love it, and I add an affiliate banner so that I can earn a commission on the book that I loved and paid for with my own money, that could get me in trouble? That’s ridiculous. Affiliate ads make people money. Duh! So now we have to disclose every single affiliate link even though our posts were not in any way biased by any form of compensation? It’s stupid. It’s why we have coffee cups warning us that hot coffee is hot and sleeping pills may make us drowsy. We have to play the role of Captain Obvious and tell everyone that we’re making money off of our ads.

    I’m adding a disclaimer to my blog footers. I think disclosure is a good thing, particularly when I know there are people who have been dishonest about their motivation in praising various products. But when you have to tell people that you make money from your ads, we cross the line from being responsible to being ridiculous.

  2. David Colcord Anderson says:

    And who will regulate the FTC?
    The FTC did not exist until 1914.
    Didn’t need ‘em in 1770s or 1860s.
    Not convinced we need ‘em now.
    Paid bloggers worry me less than people paid to enforce ‘truth’.
    Bloggers will no longer be able to accept bribes, unlike your elected officials.
    What immense power does a blogger, paid or not, hold over you compared to the federal government?
    Use your mind to discern and discriminate instead of foisting the burden and cost on the public at large.

  3. It’s usually pretty obvious to tell if a post is “sponsored” or not. This just makes it easier to see when somebody is really recommending something.

    I envision it really hurting the drug / diet / weight loss industry. I dare you to find an honest diet pill review that isn’t on amazon.

  4. And how, may I ask, does the FTC determine whether a relationship exists or not if I choose to write about something? This puts a risk to any blogger who writes about a product, because it makes them subject to government investigation.

    No, it’s not a good thing. It shouldn’t even be constitutional. We have a right to free speech, sorry.

  5. I thinl that blogs content should have the same guidelines as any newspaper. There is no resposability for shouting whatever idea comes to someones head. And thw worst part is that blogs come outside free of speach, and sometimes having a place to say something without guidelines may hurt someone, may guide to buying a product (when its an influenced opinion) or even may containd difamatory informations and today there is no way to stop it.
    Free speech is about ideas, not selling hurting or harrassing just for the fun, or fome hidden benefits.
    I hope the FTC sets up a guideline for blogs. Then the content will improve and the garbage on the net will diminish. Not how is happening today, that is alll the way around.

    Thabks

    Yago amat

  6. Sebastian, you do raise a good point – and that is “how does the FTC prove the relationship?”

    In reading the official version, it’s not quite clear how they’d do so. I’d say look at the tax filings, but I don’t know any bloggers who actually claim that type of income on their taxes.

    Of course I’d be greatly opposed to any sort of “checks” or “investigations” that violate privacy – which it seems to me many would do.

    I suppose this is just a “hey, if somebody outs you, you’re fucked” type ruling.

    Either way, I’m not a fan of paid reviews – and while this law may in fact be unenforceable, I nonetheless hope it cuts down on that type of garbage.