If you live under a rock in the United States, or if you simply don’t blog, you might have missed the news that the Federal Trade Commission has issued new regulations requiring bloggers to disclose any payments they receive in return for endorsements, or face penalties of up to $11,000 per violation.
The policy is seeing some criticism in the blogosphere. It might be sour grapes from bloggers like me, who have received very small amounts of compensation for many hours of work.
But less publicized, the guidelines also affect testimonial advertisements and celebrity endorsements. Specifically:
Under the revised Guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect. In contrast to the 1980 version of the Guides – which allowed advertisers to describe unusual results in a testimonial as long as they included a disclaimer such as “results not typical” – the revised Guides no longer contain this safe harbor.
Most importantly, their aim is to improve transparency in the blog world, which is always a good thing. As relates to a blog, the FTC states,
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. … 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.
That said, here is my site’s policy on endorsements, testimonials and reviews.
- I always strive for honesty and transparency in my blog posts.
- Regarding posts up until the date of this post (prior to Oct. 9, 2009), I have seldom received compensation for posts. I have never received compensation in cash, and have notified readers of any in-kind compensation I have received.
- In posts moving forward from this date, I will state clearly at the end of a post whether I have received compensation for a product reviewed in a post.
- My site does include advertisements and sponsorships. Those advertisements and sponsorships are marked as such.
A few of my ads do not give me control over their subject matter. Others do. I strive to have only ads on my site that go with the content. Even more importantly, I will never review or endorse a product I do not believe is of interest or value to my readers.