Full Disclosure

The Cut

Picture courtesy of channel.com

reported on FTC’s inability to explain the crackdown on bloggers receiving freebie’s that began in 2009. According to FTC regulations, bloggers must disclose to their readers when they’re writing about free stuff.  Since fashion bloggers have become so influential it would make sense that companies throw things at them.  I always wonder how bloggers get the stuff they write about did they buy it or was it free. Well, thankfully Amy Odell of The Cut with the help of Racked got to the bottom of it all.

The Cut covered Racked’s findings; the FTC’s social-media expert e-mailed them the following:

As an FYI, I’ve been in contact with Danica since the article was released to clarify our Endorsement Guides. I’ve explained to her that the Endorsement Guides apply across the board. We’re not as concerned with the medium, rather, whether or not readers understand the relationship between the writer and the company. If there’s a blogger out there who gets freebies all the time and the readers understand that, then they wouldn’t necessarily have to disclose. Conversely, if there’s a print writer out there where the relationship isn’t obvious that they’re being compensated in some way, then they are required to disclose. As it is, in most cases people understand in print what the relationship is. That isn’t the same for blogs at this time.

This social media expert assumes that people know the relationship between print writers and the company, but I don’t think that true. What is the relationship? After some unanswerable questions the social media expert transferred Ms. Odell  to Mary Engle, a lawyer who tries to further explain:

“Where you have a movie critic or a book reviewer or a travel reviewer, those people are clearly employed by that media company, so of course they’re not paying for every movie they go see, or every book they receive or every computer gizmo they test,” Engle explained. “Now it’s murkier because there are clearly bloggers who have review blogs and they’re reviewing things they get for free.”

The FTC regulates advertising, which must be “truthful and not misleading,” Engle continued. “So that’s all we’re getting at — is when a marketer is reaching out to consumers through reviews and that’s part of the marketing plan.”

Engle says that these guidelines were updated to include online media and social media. That they are not trying to single out bloggers but that is exactly what they seems to be doing. Although, the FTC want to bring guidelines up to the 21st century that aren’t taking in to account the strength of online and social media.  Companies do target the most influential bloggers to review products and in fact they are apart of marketing plans.  So then shouldn’t bloggers be treated like magazines?