The New FTC Guidelines for Bloggers

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New FTC Guidelines for BloggersThe new guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) relating to product endorsements went into effect on December 1st.  These guidelines now cover people, like myself, who blog about products or services and receive compensation in return.

There are some who are upset about the new guidelines, but I welcome the transparency they bring.  It is an overdue update to the prior regulations that were drafted before blogs even existed.

The new guidelines relate to bloggers, in that, it requires us to disclose any financial incentives that may pose a conflict of interest when posting a blog about a product or service.  The FTC has but together some video answers to FAQs.

Why Did the FTC Update the Guidelines?

This sounds pretty reasonable to me. I am impressed that the FTC has made these short videos explaining these changes. It’s nice to see the government embrace technology in a good way.

What Do the FTC Guidelines Mean for Bloggers?

One example that the FTC gives for bloggers is someone who has a blog about gaming, and receives products from the company to review.

A college student who has earned a reputation as a video game expert maintains a personal weblog or “blog” where he posts entries about his gaming experiences. Readers of his blog frequently seek his opinions about video game hardware and software.  As it has done in the past, the manufacturer of a newly released video game system sends the student a free copy of the system and asks him to write about it on his blog. He tests the new gaming system and writes a favorable review.

Because his review is disseminated via a form of consumer-generated media in which his relationship to the advertiser is not inherently obvious, readers are unlikely to know that he has received the video game system free of charge in exchange for his review of the product, and given the value of the video game system, this fact likely would materially affect the credibility they attach to his endorsement.  Accordingly, the blogger should clearly and conspicuously disclose that he received the gaming system free of charge.

Okay, I must confess that this one seems a little far reaching.  I don’t think that requiring the disclosure is onerous, but I wonder how many kids have blogs like this who might receive something free from manufacturers. I can see why some are upset.

How Do Bloggers Follow the Guidelines?

This sounds pretty straight forward.  It sounds like the way I would open up a review about a product or service anyway.  I think most reputable bloggers already do this.

My Advertising and Endorsement Disclosure Policy

The Christian Entrepreneur is a for-profit venture.  While I do not intend to ever charge my readers for the content on this blog, it is my intention to make a profit through selling advertising space, earning commissions from affiliate programs, and through pay-per-click programs like Google AdSense.

I have not written any paid endorsements or received products/services free in exchange for a review.  I am not opposed to either of these, and am willing to consider any proposal that I think may benefit my readers.  I refrain from writing negative reviews due to legal concerns, so I will simply refuse to write a review for a product/service I cannot endorse.

You can find my advertising and endorsement disclosure at the top of the page under policies & disclosures, or you can click here.  You can find more information about the new FTC guidelines here.

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Brad's Big Feet Marketing helps people on a limited budget enlarge their online footprint using blogging & social media. His other blog, Marketplace Christianity, examines faith's role in how we earn and spend money.

Brad has written 95 awesome articles for us at Bradley A Harmon

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Rod December 3, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Thanks for posting these videos. I'm with you, I think this is a welcome change to the industry. For bloggers who have been transparent in their recommendations and how they make money, this won't affect them much. For everyone else it makes them step up their game. It's just a good move overall.

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whatawebsite December 3, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Hi Brad ,

More transparency seems like a good development to me and I welcome these FTC changes.

Cheers

Will

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jaredplittle December 3, 2009 at 5:08 pm

I agree the changes are good I need to better get my head around them. Thanks for this post. I think some of the more established people are going have to either pull or revamp their sites as one of the things that I keep hearing is case study's and must publish typical results where as you would only hear or see the best case stories.

Most of these make money online products have high failure rate not cause of the product but the work involved to make them succeed. No silver bullet however they are pitched like their is. Good opportunity for new people to create some legitimate products.

Reply

Brad Harmon December 3, 2009 at 7:05 pm

I was impressed that the FTC was proactive with this issue and made these videos. I have to give them kudos.

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Brad Harmon December 3, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Anything similar to this happening in Germany? Seems like this will be a little hard to enforce, but I support the effort.

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Brad Harmon December 3, 2009 at 7:11 pm

I think I am overly cautious when it comes to disclosure. I am starting to add text links inside my content to amazon for those who want to purchase something I've mentioned or recommended. My tendency is to scream “HEY THESE ARE AFFILIATE LINKS,” but I am hoping my posts today, and my policy pages will be transparent enough for folks.

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Dana @ Online Knowledge December 3, 2009 at 10:31 pm

So, is it enough only create one page for disclosure Brad? don't we need to put the disclosure in each our paid posting or product review?

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Brad Harmon December 3, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Yes, I think “the blogger should clearly and conspicuously disclose” definitely applies to each blog post that you do as an endorsement.

What I am struggling with is text links in normal posts that only briefly mention a product or service. I don't think I am going to put a disclosure on every page that has an affiliate link. I hope the policy page, and a periodic reminder will be enough. I'm sure there will be some cases where the FTC will crack down on bloggers soon, and that will give us better guidance. Let's hope it's not me. ;)

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whatawebsite December 4, 2009 at 1:25 am

Hi Brad
Haven't heard of anything – but it's almost certain they have ( or are developing) some similar rules/regulations. (They just love that sort of thing ;) .
Enforcement something else though – and can't see it really .
Cheers
Will
P.S. I just thought you'd like me to add a quick P.S
P.P.S Or two ( ok, will stop here :-)

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