Buy This

According to the New York Times, bloggers are going to have to be more careful about disclosing connections with advertisers.

The F.T.C. said that beginning on Dec. 1, bloggers who review products
must disclose any connection with advertisers, including, in most
cases, the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid
in any way by advertisers, as occurs frequently.

The Times adds,

For bloggers who review products, this means that the days of an
unimpeded flow of giveaways may be over. More broadly, the move
suggests that the government is intent on bringing to bear on the
Internet the same sorts of regulations that have governed other forms
of media, like television or print.

Of all the stupidity.

What flow of giveaways? I've had publishers send me a couple of books. One time, I received some boxes of Mac n' Cheese. I've heard that the mommybloggers get stuff, but I'm sure it's a small group of bloggers with the biggest audiences. Dealing with thorny ethical matters about receiving free stuff is a problem that most of us would be happy to have.

Bloggers, for the most part, aren't corporate shills. If I started giving reviews of products I didn't believe in, I would very quickly have no audience. Actually, if I started reviewing products of any kind other than books, even ones I believed in, I would probably lose my audience. 

The bigger problem are publishers and corporations that try to manipulate the bloggers. Recently, a publisher tried to lure me into promoting a book by inviting me to a psuedo-conference. I was plenty pissed off. Corporations may also be posing as bloggers to sell products. My favorite are the pornographers who follow me on Twitter, but pretend to be regular people.

I do get a 6% kickback when I link to Amazon and then you buy something there. Which reminds me, if you need something at Amazon, please click here.

As a group, the blogosphere may be a powerful thing, but the individuals aren't. There are a handful of people who have made money at this thing; most aren't making a cent. They aren't receiving swag. They are providing a service with very little to zero compensation.

And then there's the impossibility of enforcing this regulation. Who is going to chase down every single blogger to check their disclosure statements? 

The latest F.T.C. regulation is ridiculous. It makes false assumptions about the profitability of blogging and the stupidity of readers. It lacks any the teeth of enforcement. It goes after the wrong bad guys.

7 thoughts on “Buy This

  1. I really dislike laws like that. There is no way they can police it, so it won’t be enforced except when somebody powerful complains. If it is enforced, there will be almost no defense as nobody is making enough to pay a lawyer to fight regardless of how right they are. Basically, it is a club to keep people’s heads down.


  2. I can’t believe you haven’t had people send you stuff. I’m such small potatoes it’s ridiculous and I’ve gotten a few things, mostly books. You should have a full mailbox.
    I didn’t review any I didn’t feel like. I did review three books. One I said was boring, one seemed like common sense stuff you didn’t need, and one I liked and was interviewed for the Washington Post about it. I rarely get a book now. They’re probably scared I’d call it boring again.


  3. It’s another example of how we make laws that are only enforced when we need an excuse to take someone down. We are all lawbreakers–there is no way to know all the laws.


  4. It’s nonsense, and unenforcable nonsense as well. Disclose to who? To their readers? Everyone already knows how book reviewers get their books; the links are put up on the blog the review is posted. Or maybe you report it on your tax returns? What if you didn’t sell the book, but you gave it away? Or you kept it? Do you need to mark down on the market price of the book? Under what category? Etc., etc.
    My wife reviews books constantly, and gets loads of books from publishers, just as any newspaper does. No money ever exchanges hands; this is simple information-sharing and promotion. Everyone knows that.
    A whole lot of nothing, is my prediction. Though no doubt it will be much discussed at the book-blogger conference Melissa is going to next week.


  5. I won’t be able to fine the cite in today’s browsing history, but one of the most interesting comments I’ve come across was that some of the sites making the most noise about these rules are the commercial places (cnet was mentioned) that review lots of products themselves. An attempt to bigfoot the competition, as it were.


  6. You have failed to list everything your wife has given you and are therefore failing to disclose potential conflicts of interest. Please remit $100,000, payable to the U.S. Treasury. The FTC. (And if your nipple was showing while you typed the comment, the FCC will be with you shortly.)


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