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More debate on the FTC/Blogger Disclosure Question

Day 2 of South by Southwest brought (among other sessions) a discussion on “Measuring Blogger Credibility: FTC Regulation v. Crowdsourced Solutions.” I attended this session because I knew it would be a great opportunity to hear unbiased opinions from bloggers about the new FTC guidelines. The session certainly did not disappoint on that front, but sadly (thought not unexpectedly) I don’t think it helped lots of folks to better understand the guidelines.

It was, however, a diverse group that represented many different viewpoints; present were many bloggers, Brian Hall from Transverse Legal, a lawyer specializing in FTC guidelines, John Moore from WOMMA, one of the founders of cmp.ly, agency representatives and even an FTC lawyer that was participating via the twitter stream. Here’s the quick rundown of what came from the discussion:

  • No one felt the new FTC guidelines added additional credibility to a blogger who reviews products as part of his or her regular activities.
  • The FTC guidelines have succeeded in “putting the fear of God” in bloggers, despite the fact that the supposed $11,000 penalties are actually a myth being spread by the media
  • Most bloggers understand they need to disclose, and for their own sake, they want to in order to maintain credibility with their audience.
  • However, there is no standard for bloggers to follow, and there are many questions around how to disclose across multiple technology platforms – particularly when dealing with micro-media such as Twitter and syndication of content through RSS to multiple platforms.

An interesting parallel was drawn between the frustrations of bloggers and marketers with regard to this issue and the frustrations felt when COPPA was first released. It took time, one participant noted, for the marketing community to figure out what the regulations meant. In time, marketers and agencies did what they felt was right, and set the standard for others to follow.

 

We at Cone have established our own interpretation of the FTC guidelines, and will be putting our recommendations into action across our client programs as they roll out in 2010. Over time, all of us in the communications world will certainly learn and evolve accordingly, as the question of disclosure works itself out.

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