FTC: Bloggers Must Disclose Payments for Reviews (USA Today)
The U.S. Government is sending a stern message to marketers and to bloggers: stop hiding your relationship. This message is contained in a new document titled "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising" (the full document can be found here) which, among other things, states bloggers who are being subsidized with money or products by a marketing company must disclose this when their blog postings offer opinions on the marketer and/or its products.
Since blogging became a lucrative activity a few years ago, marketers have sought popular bloggers and offered them incentives to review products, preferably in a positive way. In other cases, marketers have surreptitiously arranged to have blogs setup, often by employing a freelance blogger, with the sole intention of creating a positive spin for a product. According the FTC, now such activity may be viewed as "sponsored advertising" which is regulated in the United States.
Bloggers have long praised or panned products and services online. But what some consumers might not know is that many companies pay reviewers for their write-ups or give them free products such as toys or computers or trips to Disneyland. In contrast, at traditional journalism outlets, products borrowed for reviews generally have to be returned.
Is it unethical for a marketer to give a product to a blogger with the understanding that the product does not have to be returned?
Image by stevegarfield