Blogging Bucks & Bias: The Case for Disclosure
Should there be laws regulating bloggers to disclose any payments or benefits theyreceive for endorsing a certain product in the blogosphere?
As blogs become more popular, many people are turning to them for advice or suggestions on which products and services to buy. This gives the bloggers great influence over people¶s commercial actions, attracting the interest of marketers. Often, successful bloggers areoffered payments or gifts in exchange for writing positive reviews. Even smaller blogs can getinvolved by suggesting products with ³affiliate links´, where the blogger gets paid a commissionfor sales generated from his link. These widespread practices
benefit both the marketer, who canreach new audiences, and the blogger, who can generate additional income from his blog. Theside that may lose is the reader of the blog, who may not be aware of the deal, and not know thatthe reviews¶ impartiality may have been compromised. Recently, the FTC implemented newguidelines
that require bloggers to disclose any payments of gifts received for their reviews.Some have praised this measure for protecting the consumer, while others have criticized it for interfering unjustly in the blogosphere. Are the new guidelines justified?
The Arguments Against
Opponents of the new laws give various reasons to support their argument. Some claimthat there is nothing unethical about failing to disclose payments received for endorsements.They claim they will only endorse products they like, and turn down other endorsement offers
.Some admit it may be recommended for bloggers to disclose any payments, but argue that the
Affiliate marketing is widespread, as a Google search will demonstrate. Direct payments to bloggers isgrowing, but is mostly among large blogs.
The full guidelines can be viewed at the FTC website at:http://ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005endorsementguidesfnnotice.pdf . The shorter press release is availablehere:http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm.
See, for example, the end of this New York Times article:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/13/technology/internet/13blog.html?_r=2