In a move that strikes me as fascinating, the Federal Trade Commission will now be regulating bloggers who accept free goods: They have to openly declare them like they’re going through Customs.
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.
Much like the I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV commercials, the move is an attempt to curb the paid endorsement trend that is becoming rampant on the Internet. For wine bloggers, this is especially troublesome since so many writers/bloggers receive samples. I accept them and am trying to figure out how I’m going to incorporate the news into a wine review (This merlot, brought to you by Flora Springs, tastes like fresh blackberries picked off the bush.) But probably only 20 percent of my wine recs come from samples… the rest are from wine bars, retail shops, restaurants, etc. that I paid for. So maybe that’s why I support the new guidelines. And somehow I doubt I’ll ever get a knock on my door about it.
It applies to all content arenas, from tires and famous racecar drivers to Suzy Homemaker blogging about Dawn dishwashing liquid. It’s supposed to protect us. But I can see the other side of the coin… is this an end run around the First Amendment or a way to protect unsuspecting consumers? Your thoughts?
I thank Alder Yarrow’s Vinography blog for alerting me to this potentially trend-changing news.
Read the FTC press release here.
Here’s the full FTC guidelines.