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.