Yesterday Liberty London Girl broke down what the FTC actually means by ‘disclosure.’ Bloggers have gained enough followers so their positive reviews are now deemed ‘endorsements’ therefore we must disclose if a product or payment was received for free. But why is it that when a you write nice things about a product you got for free on a blog it’s called an ‘endorsement’ and when you write it in a magazine it’s called ‘journalism’?
It’s not the disclosure…
Now, I’m all about disclosure. I recommended that back in January, before it was regulated and when word came out in June that the FTC was planning on regulating this… at first I thought it wasn’t really going to be a big deal. But I was wrong. After months of sitting with this, not that I think I should not disclose items Sonja (The Coveted’s Beauty Editor) and I get ‘free’ for review. I still and always will believe in disclosure. As far as sponsored content (posts) go, or paid reviews, that’s a whole other post. For a while I believed they sponsored posts offered a valuable way to monetize your blog if done properly, after all it’s a vital part of a magazine’s business model. But my experience with sponsored posts have been mixed, and I’m still sifting through my feelings on that. Either way, sponsored posts should always be disclosed, whether it is law or not, whether your a blog, a TV show, a magazine…or whatever.
It’s the Double Standard.
My problem is that the traditional media receives product and gifts on a regular basis, and never, ever have I seen a disclosure in a magazine, television report, newspaper article or radio broadcast.
In an email conversation with Sonja, she recalls reading in the book Beauty Confidential by Nadine Jolie… “Which talks about all the perks beauty editors get. Along with product samples, they get Marc Jacobs bags, clothes, and gift cards as “thank you’s” for nice write-ups. And that doesn’t even cover what happens with preferential treatment companies get when they buy ad space and ads right next to so-called reviews.” Jolie herself even mentions in her own FTC post that ‘But does swag still happen? You bet…and much more with editors than with bloggers. Cover that, FTC.’
Now, I’m not a traditional journalist. I have no desire to be a journalist whatsoever. I like writing, what I like to write about and that’s about it. I love being a blogger. I work hard to get the traffic I do on my blog. It never came easy and it’s vitally important. So, how is it that the trust I built with my readers needs to be regulated and someone who works for a magazine does not? If anything, bloggers have a much closer relationship to their readers than do the traditional media, therefore they are ultimately held more accountable. Not only that, many bloggers write about the things that inspire them, not because they have deadlines to reach. Most bloggers I know of do not post about something merely because it’s free. And the ones that do…well, I don’t think many of them have loyal followings.
Bloggers Need to Organize
All the sudden I understand how Unions are born, because collectively bloggers have the power, we’re just not organized to make a stand against what is obviously a double standard. We don’t have teams of lawyers filing and lobbyists for our cause. And we’re not getting much help from the traditional media, or even established ‘blogs.’ Wired Magazine is one of the few who noted the discrepancy, and interpreted the new ruling to mean that established media sites do not need disclosure (thanks grechen).
The Commission acknowledges that bloggers may be subject to different disclosure requirements than reviewers in traditional media. In general, under usual circumstances, the Commission does not consider reviews published in traditional media to be sponsored advertising messages. [K]nowing whether the media entity that published the review paid for the item in question would not affect the weight consumers give to the reviewer’s statements….
In contrast, if a blogger’s statement on his personal blog or elsewhere (e.g., the site of an online retailer of electronic products) qualifies as an “endorsement” – i.e., as a sponsored message – due to the blogger’s relationship with the advertiser or the value of the merchandise he has received and has been asked to review by that advertiser, knowing these facts might affect the weight consumers give to his review.
So basically, the FTC and traditional media think bloggers need Big Brother to show us the way. It’s insulting, but aside from writing posts about it, there’s not much else we can do. It’s not enough that the best bloggers are ethical, and hold value the relationship with their readers more than a free lipstick. The thought that bloggers can’t handle freebies and magazine editors can is laughable, I love magazine articles about buying Chanel boots and going to spas in Bali, and the bloggers I’ve heard about who act ‘greedy’ according to PR’s have about 3 subscribers.
I’m not sure what’s going on here, or why they’ve picked on bloggers, but it’s not right. The problem can’t be that rampant, because I’ve never heard of any real instance of that occurring and I know a few bloggers. Granted it is a bit of the wild west, and it is a bit chaotic, but it really should be up to BLOGGERS to ‘level the playing field’ not the FTC. I do not believe they are acting in the best interest of the consumers because if they were, then they’d enforce the same rules on every other media outlet.
Image by bu5h/ / CC BY 2.0