Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Federal Trade Commission Cracks Down On Bloggers

This information may have flown under the radar of most genealogy bloggers but it is important and could seriously impact the way some bloggers construct their posts. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed new guidelines which could make bloggers responsible for misleading claims when they review products.

As highlighted in The Wall Street Journal and other news services, the FTC intends to regulate a fairly common practice among bloggers: how they review products and whether or not they are paid for such reviews (either outright or through free products and services).

Personally I have not reviewed many products although back in February I did review a YDNA kit which was provided to me for free by familybuilder. At the end of the review I did include a full disclosure of how I was asked to provide a review and how the product was provided to me at no cost:

"Disclosure: familybuilder sent me their YDNA kit at no charge for purposes of reviewing the process of taking a DNA sample, using a DNA kit for genealogy purposes, and to receive and interpret results. I am disclosing this as a matter of transparency and honesty of my opinion. My intent is to give a good review (meaning a well-researched and written review) not necessarily a favorable review of all products I receive gratis."

As a rule, I don't solicit free items for review from vendors, they usually approach me based on a recent post at my blog. I am very upfront about my disclosure policies and I tell them that my intent is to provide a good review - meaning it is thorough and my opinion of my experience with the product. This is not the same as a favorable review - if the product fails in my eyes or is less than what I or an ordinary consumer would expect I will convey such information in the posted review.

I am waiting to hear from other genealogy bloggers as to their past experience with product reviews, how they are contacted by vendors, what disclosure policies they use and what the proposed FTC guidelines might mean for their future review practices.


Kiril The Mad Macedonian said...

As a BikeBlogger I was once asked to test ride, and review a $100 Beach Cruiser.

I did so, and on my Bike Blog told how I donated it to a local Fire Dept. Charity.

Another Company sent me a new model of them tight Bike Shorts, and I donated them to the Goodwill. Quickly! (Too damn tight for my tastes! Hee, hee!)

I've written several times about a website about the 3 Feet Law Campaign, and when they eventually learned of this they sent me a couple of their jerseys in thanks for my support, and would not take payment even for 1, even when I offered.

I wear them proudly to help spread the word.

I was once invited to a Screening a Cycling Documentary, and encouraged to write a review, good or bad, which I did.

I've been blogging for 7 years, and it took me 5 years to feel comfortable enough to accept such offers.

I'm a no-body, with miniscule audiences, advertising, and resources, and no ties to the Cycling Industry of a professional nature, so the benefit these folks derive from my postings is also miniscule, as is what I get out of it, even if they publicize my posts to their own audiences, and connections (which the film folks, and & 3 feet folks have done).

I've been interviewed and quoted for a book on the car free life, and have no clue how many people have come to my blog from seeing my quote, and Blog URL in the book, but can't imagine it being a lot.

I think this law could impact those Bloggers with huge audiences, advertising, and professional connecttions related to their blogs, more than the ordinary blogger who rarely would be approached with such offers.

Brian D. said...

Hi Thomas. This is totally off topic...but what do you have against MyYahoo ? You forced me to sign up for Bloglines. :-) Ok seriously now, I really do like the Bloglines. I'm stubborn about signing up for ANOTHER blog reader. I got MyYahoo, NetworkedBlogs, Firefox Live Bookmarks, Firefox Brief add-on, Blogger, MyBlogLog, and now I got Bloglines. Bloglines looks very promising from the little I've seen. I might just make it my blog reader of choice. Thanks a lot