Another day, another reaction to the new FTC rule.
This time from the Wall St. Journal: “Save Us From the Swag-Takers” by Eric Felton, who summarizes the situation this way:
“The agency declared that ‘a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement.’ Sounds reasonable enough, until it becomes clear just how expansive the FTC’s concept of an ‘in-kind payment’ is. The blogger who gets a free review copy of a book and writes up his opinion of it is now being labeled by the government a commercial endorser of the book—even if he pans it. This is not how traditional media are treated, which is what makes the new rules so significant: The government has weighed in on the contentious topic of whether bloggers are journalists—and delivered a resounding No.
What’s more, Felton says”
“Even newspapers with the strictest of ethics rules accept free copies of books for review. Movie, music and theater reviewers get their tickets comped. The scribblers covering sports aren’t in the habit of paying skybox rates for their privileged perches at the stadium. While newspapers make no secret of these common practices, they don’t plaster warnings on every book review or description of a football game. But that’s exactly what the FTC is requiring of bloggers.”
Felton concludes his article with an important disclosure:
“FULL DISCLOSURE NOTICE: In preparing this column, I downloaded a free copy of the new FTC regulatory guidelines. Thanks, guys!”
I agree that this is a complicated issue, and that the FTC needs a more nuanced approach. In the meantime, we prefer to work with bloggers who do disclose their policies and potential conflicts.