It’s Official: Bloggers Are Recognized by the FTC

ftcAs I have been discussing here in the past few months, the issue of payola, pay-per-post, freebies, and other incentives by marketers to entice blog coverage has come under review of the Federal Trade Commission. They have published new rules covering paid reviews and celebrity endorsements. The vote was 4-0 in favor.

Keep in mind, that just about all of us can be defined as “celebrities” when it comes to the internet. (Insert smiley face here.) In case you want to catch up on the back story:
Paid Bloggers Get Google Downgrades
Mahalo Mr. Solis (for talking about blogger payola)
Social Media Ethics: A Glossary

From the FTC Filing:

The Federal Trade Commission today announced that it has approved final revisions to the guidance it gives to advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with the FTC Act. The notice incorporates several changes to the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, which address endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of important connections between advertisers and endorsers. The Guides were last updated in 1980.

I’ve posted a link to the actual filing after the jump so you can read it for yourself.

It will no doubt be a challenge to enforce this but the FTC recognizes what many of my blogger associates resist: that receiving compensation does affect coverage. At the very least, without compensation or freebies there is far less likelihood that said blogger would be paying attention to said marketer. And in today’s Attention Economy, attention is a most valuable commodity.

I am all for co-creative collaborations between brands and bloggers. I have a long record of encouraging brands to work with new media creators for the better bang for their buck than with traditional media. But we’ve got to stop thinking that just because many of us brought ourselves up by our boot straps, that we are somehow immune to influence. If anything, all of our free contributions to brand awareness makes us more vulnerable to seeking compensation and creating blurred lines of coverage IMO.

View the FTC legal filing on Scribd. I think it is up to both bloggers and marketers to develop their policies and share them publicly as applicable. What do you think?