By on October 6, 2009

About time... (courtesy:imdb)

The Federal Trade Commission has announced revised rules guiding advertisement, endorsements and disclosure for bloggers. These new rules will particularly affect car bloggers, due to the heavy influence that advertising relationships exert in editorial decisions by auto journalists. And the seemingly undying trend in mainstream auto “journalism” towards pimpatorials. Needless to say, they also validate TTAC’s long-standing disclosure policy. From the FTC’s release:

The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization.

The only downside:

The Guides are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act; they are not binding law themselves. In any law enforcement action challenging the allegedly deceptive use of testimonials or endorsements, the Commission would have the burden of proving that the challenged conduct violates the FTC Act.

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13 Comments on “Federal Trade Commission Orders “Clear and Conspicuous” Disclosure For Blogs...”

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Good. Contrary to what some people think, laws are often required to compel decent behavior.

  • avatar

    The FTC mandate works well for the pimpatorial case – Automobile, Motor Trend, Car & Driver, etc.

    But blogs?

    No offense, but most of them are a pretty far cry from journalism. I applaud TTAC’s efforts at fair disclosure. It lends a certain amount of credibility, and helps calibrate the reader’s interpretation of a review for example. But making it illegal to NOT disclose such perks? I’m not so sure.

    Say I don’t give a shit about being unbiased, say I work for [insert car company here], and I start a generally pro-[car company] blog. Say my boss read that blog and later gives me a promotion. Why should it be illegal for me to say (or not say) whatever I damn well please?

    I just think there’s a grey area between advertising and blogging, and at a certain point a reader has to be smart enough to distinguish for her/himself. Here’s hoping the FTC doesn’t get carried away with this.

  • avatar

    Is this specific to bloggers? If so, do car mag pimpitorialists get a free pass? Is the FCC confusing the mediums and the messages?

    Is there anyone here that would buy a car on a blogger’s or C&D’s say so? What about the weekly car sections in the papers? Many non-enthusiasts are smart enough to peruse CR, and wow, without any help from nanny government!

    We have an expensive and overly intrusive government that could screw up a two car funeral. How many non-productive sinecures are going to be created to monitor the blogs?

  • avatar

    Wow, I’ve been reading and writing to this site for a few weeks now and I don’t think I would be comfortable trusting any of our opinions for an auto purchase decision – including mine!~

  • avatar

    You all are missing the big sharp point. I’m just a humble blogger. I used to have the right to say what ever I pleased about cars, stocks, bonds, consumer electronics, cameras, power tools, any thing at all. Now the FTC says I can’t say what I like when ever THEY decide I’m getting paid by, have climbed into bed with, or just offend them. This is the end of freedom of the press and freedom of speech.
    The feds have no right to say what I can or cannot say on my blog, be it a personal blog or a company blog. Free speech means I can say what I want to say. No limits.
    The FTC is planning to stick it to all of us.
    And you all can’t see it coming.

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    dstarrboston: If I thought these guidelines would result in FTC agents showing up at personal blogs parsing every possible implicit endorsement, I’d agree with you. In reality, the guidelines are unenforceable. Does anyone really expect the stricture celebrities have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media is going to make a lasting impact? Besides, how many advertisers are making quid-pro-quo offers at you as a “humble blogger? What would you have to disclose?

    These are just guidelines, but for those of us who consume a lot of car-related media, they’re a welcome sign. Browse through the “media” category in our news blog and you’ll see why. Or just pick up a copy of Motor Trend. As far as I can tell, the label “automotive journalist” is a contradiction in terms.

    Any ethical compass that encourages transparency and disclosure is another reminder of how far behind the times much of the automotive media really is.

  • avatar

    The FTC isn’t telling people what they can and cannot write. They’re saying that paid placements and such much be disclosed. I’m all in favor of this, as it will lend additional credibility to sites that don’t accept such payments.

  • avatar

    This is generally toothless. The honest folks will stay honest and the charlatans will still do the same. The FTC will NOT be “monitoring” blogs and will be waiting for a complaint to materialize. Since a blog post has the longevity of fresh seafood in the sunshine I doubt anyone will bother.

  • avatar

    What about the weekly car sections in the papers?

    It’ll be interesting to see how “car reviews” in such so-called newspapers are handled. While I’d enjoy the FTC twisting a few regulatory bayonets into a wounded newspaper or ten, this administration has too many allies in such media. They’ll be ignored.

  • avatar

    Agree with M. Karesh; the FTC isn’t restricting freedom of speech it is simply saying if that a “blogger” must revealed if he is being paid for that speech. We think it is a good move.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    oh man-I have to turn myself in right away in a desperate attempt to be proactive.
    As soon as a 58 Fury recreation becomes a consumer fact I’m going to endorse it to the point of taking a blood oath-even if it comes with a Lada motor.

  • avatar

    Isn’t this what TTAC was suppossed to be about anyway?

    You did it RF!

  • avatar

    Why would anyone in their right mind believe a blog festooned with “Google ads” and affiliate click through links be run by fair minded and detached philosopher kings (and queens) vs.. someone pursuing the almighty dollar financial benefit.

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