Thursday, October 15, 2009

FTC issues formal rule regarding blogger "endorsements"


The Federal Trade Commission, on Oct. 5, 2009, published its rule regarding “endorsements” of products or services by bloggers. The title of the press release is "FTC Publishes Final Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials: Changes Affect Testimonial Advertisements, Bloggers, Celebrity Endorsements."

The link is here. And the most important paragraph seems to be this one (quoted as public domain):

“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. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, 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. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.”

Let me reiterate that I do not get paid by anyone for the reviews of movies, books, television shows, or commentary on other matters on any of these blogs. In July 2007, I did receive an unsolicited free DVD from Shell and reviewed its short film “Eureka” and that fact is disclosed on that blog posting (Movie blog, July 10, 2007). In the future, I will be willing and happy to review sample products, books or films sent to me free; but if I do so, I must disclose in the blog review that I received the material "in kind" for free.

The “Mashable Social Media Guide” has an article on the matter by Adam Ostrow, Oct. 5, 2009, “FTC to Fine Bloggers Up to $11000 for Not Disclosing Payments”.

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