Monday, January 4, 2010

FTC Regs And Me

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) seems to think Bloggers are just raking in the dough and all kinds of free goodies. They are? Why didn’t anyone tell me about this? Sheesh. Free lunches or dinners? Uh, where’s mine, I might ask? Health spa certificates? I want one. New car? Well hell, why didn’t anyone tell about that before I bought my new Chevy Impala LT? I’d have sung its praises. I love my car.

Federal Trade Commission is moving to regulate social-media advertising. The FTC is planning to hold marketers liable for false statements published on blogs and social networks—meaning companies or Bloggers could get sued for saying a product was good if it really wasn’t.




In other words, if you were paid to write a review, or got a product for free, or use an affiliate link in your post, you need to tell your readers. New guidelines would clarify that the agency can go after Bloggers — as well as the companies that compensate them — for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest.

However, to comply with FTC regulations I did adjust my note on the sidebar to reflect that some publishers and authors do send me ARCs to review. I don’t get compensated/paid to do them. I do have quite a few unsolicited books sent to me. Just because they’re sent, and they’re free, doesn’t guarantee a review, either positive or negative. I don’t charge a fee to people to read my blog, via a subscription.

Everything I’ve read on the FTC guidelines tells me 99% of Bloggers have no worries about the FTC. It’s those Bloggers that get paid for the reviews of products, whether it’s makeup, spas, lotions, appliances, or books. Endorsements, if you will. I have no conflicts as I’m not paid exclusively by any publisher to review their books, or by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Borders.

My blog, although well read, and this past week I celebrated having hundred followers in less than a year, is really small potatoes in the blogosphere. There are articles that have brought in 400 plus readers in a day, and others that only bring in 200. Still small when you compare it to the likes of Smart Bitches or Nathan Bransford, who can get that many comments, much less readers.

It’s been fun reading/researching various blogs that have commented on the FTC rules. Some are crying the sky is falling others are going big deal. Most I’ve read are either highly informative or funny as hell to read. I was referred to one of the latter by a friend of mine, Disclosure – The Full Monty Tim Ferris has some cute cartoons for the busy blogger to use as disclosures. I thought I’d share a few of them. They cracked me up.
  • Alas, I really have no use for them, darn it. Do you?

...if the male cover models were available...maybe.

Cartoons courtesy of Tim Ferris. See link above.

23 comments:

Sherilyn Winrose said...

ROFL - I have no use for them either Sia. The last looks interesting though.

Like I noted on my blog, I probably have nothing to worry about, but why take a chance of having to deal with FTC?

~Sia McKye~ said...

Pretty much why I added the stuff to my side bar, Sherilyn.

Yah, I loved the cartoons.

sherrie_super said...

Oh man, how funny! Great article, Sia!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Those are good! Love the last one.

Tonya Kappes said...

Well, if that's the case and my calcuations are right.....(click click of the calculator) someone owns me about $15,000. Who can I expect a check from?????

Judi Fennell said...

Big Brother is watching.

And everyone thought Orwell was being facetious. Sadly, not.

And, yes, love that last one.

Elle J Rossi said...

Absurd, Ridiculous. Hilarious. Annoying.

SueO said...

Cute cartoons; marvelous article!

Mason Canyon said...

Great post and love the cartoons, especially the last one. Can we send the FCC a bill for the books we buy to review? Just wondering since they seem to be getting so technical. :)

Kat Sheridan said...

Great article, Sia, and yeah, it's hella scary that Big Brother has nothing better to do with his time. I mean, yeah, there are some folks out there who do need this regulation, but most of the blogs I read have no need for this. And loved the cartoons!

~Sia McKye~ said...

To be honest, promotion/advertising endorsements have always been watched and monitored. Rules set in place. And yes, people find their way around them all the time.

Even when I was meeting with fortune 500 companies to get contracts and further work for my company, we had to be careful. We couldn't give any gifts--like one year one of the reps and I had developed a friendship over time and she loved chocolate chip cookies. So I baked up a few dozen for her and extra if she wanted to share. I thought nothing of it. She COULD NOT accept them. This could be considered a bribe, of a sort, to garner business from her. It forever became the chocolate chip cookie law and we laughed over it for years.

Even the IRS gets into this whole thing too.

LuAnn said...

I put a disclosure statement on my Web site, too. The way I understand it, as long as I state who gave me the book, I'm pretty much covered. I put the name of the agency as a label at the bottom of my reviews. Also, I am a freelance journalist and I understand that also covers me.
Personally, I think the rules are ridiculous in 99 percent of the cases. If I count my time for reading the book and writing the interview, that figures out to what ... a $1 an hour of less for a free $20 book? Hmmm. At this rate, I'll be rich by the time I read half a million books! That should take me just about 13,000 years to accomplish!

~Sia McKye~ said...

*snork

"...a $1 an hour of less for a free $20 book? Hmmm. At this rate, I'll be rich by the time I read half a million books! That should take me just about 13,000 years to accomplish!"

LuAnn, I love it. Writing and blogging don't make you rich, that's for sure. And you're right, 99% of bloggers have no worries and I'm betting they're the ones that have done CYA disclosures on their blogs too.

Helen Ginger said...

I do so few reviews that I just add a funny disclaimer at the end of each. The FTC is sort of nutty, if you ask me.

Helen
Straight From Hel

K. A. Laity said...

For a good guide that spells out the specifics, check out the Citizen Media Law Project's guide [h/t Electronic Frontier Foundation].

Kerrie said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the new regs. and thanks for the cartoons--too funny.

Sheila Deeth said...

Fun cartoons. I wonder how it applies to winning books on blogs. There's no commitment to review is there? (Well, if there is, no one told me.) I lose track of which books I've won and which I've bought, and just post reviews randomly. Still, it's nice to read a post that's not in panic mode.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kate, nice site on the FTC and easy to understand by the layman, or at least, this layman.

The gist of what I got from this site was this:

"...most of the FTC's examples in the Guidelines and its public statements suggest that it is primarily concerned with those getting PAID IN CASH, those participating in network marketing programs, and those receiving a STEADY STREAM of products from a company or group of companies."

Like I said, 99% of us have no worries. We talk about our lives, our thoughts, or like I do, interview, promote books and authors. In my case, I don't receive a steady stream of books and most of the books/authors I do promote on my blog, don't give me books. I usually see the author has out a new book and contact them to see if the want to be a guest, or word of mouth brings me an author.

I do appreciate the reference to double check myself. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sheila, it doesn't. Again, the key words are STEADY stream of things. A $7.99 is no big thing. Even if you won 2 books a month you wouldn't even have to declare it on taxes. IRS is interested in cash or big wins, like a car or big trip. They're more costly than books or a CDs.

Chelle Sandell said...

There are so many useless laws that just have me shaking my head. It's sad that we are expected to put disclaimers on a PERSONAL blog that tells how we obtained a book we want to discuss with our friends, a/k/a followers. Great post!

Ken Coffman said...

Laws like this, as they are written, are not political. However, in the way they are (and will be) enforced, politics will be a factor. Paraphrasing the way Ayn Rand put it: the purpose of the law is to create criminals because the state has no power over the innocent.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Interesting thought Ken. While I see the need in some cases, for personal blogs, I don't. And you're correct, politics is always a factor in applying the law. Sad, isn't it?

destrella said...

I did add a note for the books I review and don't get paid for. I haven't "cashed" in yet, so I'm safe so far. :O)