Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thursday Feature - FTC Material Consideration Guidline Compliance for Blog/Design Partners

I'm not a lawyer, so I don't have a legal opinion about the new FTC guidelines. And until there's actual case law about it, there probably won't be any hard and fast rules about what's in or out of guidance. But if you're a reviewer, or blog partner for a supplier, it's better to be safe than $11,000, or more, sorry.

Seems to me there's a huge and obvious difference between someone whose blog is essentially one big paid advertisement, someone blogging about products who doesn't actually create with what they're pitching, and those of us who accept products to review or design with, and make a point of clearly noting it when we do. Now we all have to worry about whether or not we're complying with rather vaguely defined rules because of those other bloggers.

I do try to be honest and transparent about any benefits I may get from writing about products sent to me for review for, or as a design partner of, a supplier. I have had a sidebar disclosure for some time now about where I get my promotional considerations, and as of now (even though the rule does not go into effect until Dec 1) I will have a disclosure on each post that features promotional/review/design products sent to me without charge. I'm happy to share the text - I don't know if they're sufficient, and I hope I'll never have to find out they aren't. Little fish, big internet.

Any thoughts, comments, ideas are welcome. Should these be at the top of the post? Should they be part of the actual text of the post, as in "First, I strung my beading wire with which was provided for promotional consideration by ..."? I would like to know how detailed the disclosure needs to be, but that is currently unclear. I don't see celebrity endorsers saying "Nike gave me $10M to do this ad" so why would I have to say "...with worth $1.50 each..." besides, if you link to the item, which I do, you can see exactly what it's worth. It's still a bit of a head-scratcher. Well, here's what I'm using for now:

Mixed purchase and promo:

FTC compliance disclosure, notice of material connections: All items referenced in this post, with the exception of the and (insert additional as needed), were personally purchased for the express purpose of creating .

Promo design partner/consideration:

FTC compliance disclosure, notice of material connections: All items in the previous post, specifically referenced as from , were provided as promotional gifts by for review or design partnership purposes.

New FTC guidelines for disclosure of material connections

Assorted reactions, observations about the new guidelines:

Kilpatrick, Stockton, LLP (lawfirm)
- legal alert, especially read section titled Disclosure of Material Connections – Bloggers Beware
consumer reports , more consumer reports
techcrunch - this one is particularly interesting, in my opinion

smartblog on social media
cnet - FTC rules apply to Facebook fanpages, too
social media biz
Maya Reynolds

There are lots more, but most are fairly repetitious, these seemed representative. Hope this post was minimally helpful and at least pointed us to additional reading on the subject that will help us figure out what our obligations might be.

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Blogger JustATish said...

I have so much i want to say aobut this, and i can't get my words right.

it is just frustrating that we can't be 'nice guys' to each other. suppliers send design partners a few baubles in good faith they will be honest in their reviews and as a kudo for working your butt off to create a good and reliable blog, suitable for reading. it is an honor to be approached by a supplier and asked, 'hey, can you review my products?' they had to stop by your blog and give you a look-see, right...

in return design partners, spend time, and creative effort to use those components in a design that they hope will inspire someone else to create. the reviews the design partners give also inform readers where they can buy supplies, find out information about the beading/crafing community, find answers to difficult questions....

we are providing a service! it is not a me me me thing.

*falls off soap box*

October 8, 2009 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Softflexgirl said...

I have a hard time understanding why this is something that needs to be regulated.

My suggestion is to post it at the very bottom of the blog in small print. Much like a disclaimer on anything, it isn't usually a part of the text or the package design. It is small and tucked out of the way. It is there for those that want to read it but not annoying for those that don't care - which is most! :)

Good luck.

October 8, 2009 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Dawno said...

Thanks Tish and Sarah for commenting - it's the ol' 'one bad apple' thing, I guess. The people who do pay for post/pay for comment/pay for tweet stuff have poisoned the whole barrel as far as the FTC is concerned. And, based on a lot of those links, most people seem to think it's a good thing. Lets not trust anyone rather than go after the worst abusers. Sad times.

October 8, 2009 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger benbradley said...

Dawno, it seems to me you're overthinking this and you're already doing everything you need to do. You're already jumping, the FTC says jump and you're asking "How high?"

I just got a brand new book from a fellow AW'er, it's a copy with printing problems and would have otherwise been destroyed by the publisher. What's its value? Also, it's the author's first book and he also initialed the title page, and if he becomes the next Heinlein or Koontz this copy will be worth big bucks. All I'm gonna say is the author sent it to me for free with hopes I'd read it and write some (positive!) comments on it. If the FTC wants to know the value, they can go to Amazo - heck, they can figure out on their own how to determine the value!

Look for a new blogpost from me, coming up any year now...

October 8, 2009 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Dawno said...

Ben - thanks! I appreciate your input. I think that when it comes to government guidelines, however, it's better to over think and be comfortable than under think and get fined. I do agree, in principle, with "let them go to Amazon and look it up" so that's why I link to the items provided as a promotional consideration. Until I hear otherwise that it's sufficient compliance, at least.

October 9, 2009 at 10:30 AM  

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