Parent Blogs Facing Disclosure Issues

Discussion
Apr 22, 2009

By Tom Ryan

The Federal Trade Commission
(FTC) is considering imposing new rules for parent-bloggers. The agency
is concerned that the manufacturer-blogger relationships may not be transparent
enough for endorsements in which the blogger receives
payment nor for those in which they receive free goods from manufacturers.

"The sticky issue
that is raised is what happens if a product is given for free," Richard
Cleland, a spokesman for the FTC, told ABC News. "That’s something
we’re going to have to address."

Mr. Cleland said that
similar to false advertising cases, a blogger may
face a cease-and-desist order as punishment. Procedures may also be developed
to reimburse consumers who bought a product under false circumstances. "What’s
driving the issue is one of disclosure," he said.

Many parenting magazines
also receive free samples for review and Mr. Cleland said that each situation
will be examined on a case-by-case basis. The FTC hopes to address the
issue by the summer.

The Wall Street Journal notes
the FTC’s review comes as a number of parents have turned to blogging as
a way to earn income or get free products. And it also comes as blogs have
become a critical voice for mothers to learn about and exchange information
around products.

Speaking to ABC News,
Maria Bailey, the founder of BSM Media, which specializes in marketing
to moms, was concerned that the new FTC guidelines would be too restrictive. She
noted that 80 percent of mothers buy a product on recommendation of another
mother, and 87 percent of mothers read blogs.

"From the business
side, it’s a terrible thing because that’s how much moms find out about
a product," Ms. Bailey said.

Discussion Questions:
Do you see a need for greater disclosure around parenting blogs?
Should there be different standards for endorsements based on payment
versus free products? How will any restrictions impact the marketing
opportunity around parenting blogs?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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13 Comments on "Parent Blogs Facing Disclosure Issues"


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Ralph Jacobson
Guest
13 years 1 month ago

It’s a changing world and we need to be sensitive to new ways of advertising–including blogging. In the same way we read articles, editorials, etc, we should also be cognizant of the intentions behind blogging. My concern lies with the free speech right and how that may end up getting manipulated.

Our company is blogging all over the place and we also need to be aware of even the most subliminal posts.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
13 years 1 month ago

This isn’t the real question. The critical issue here goes far beyond parenting blogs and centers around regulation of the entire blogosphere. You can’t really regulate one class of blog and not all classes of blog. I say the best rule in cyberspace is the same as it is in the physical world–caveat emptor!

Dick Seesel
Guest
13 years 1 month ago

I believe in “truth in advertising” but this sounds like a case of government overreaching. The marketplace needs to determine the success or failure of products recommended by bloggers based on the merits of the products themselves.

How, exactly, does the FTC propose to regulate a digital media phenomenon like blogging without being intrusive and potentially stepping on privacy rights? After all, most bloggers and other users of the Internet expect their confidentiality to be protected. There is an element of “herding cats” to this idea, anyway…unless the FTC proposes a practical solution to this issue, they ought to avoid intrusion in other “new media” such as Twitter, Facebook and text messaging if they can’t demonstrate a consumer benefit.

Max Goldberg
Guest
13 years 1 month ago

There should be greater disclosure. If readers are going to maintain trust in blogs, blogs should disclose when they are receiving free products or being compensated for an entry.

Ms. Bailey is absolutely wrong in saying that this would be terrible for business. Transparency should have the opposite effect, making claims in blogs more believable. I’m tired of marketers forgetting basic ethics in defense of their employers.

David Dorf
Guest
13 years 1 month ago

All bloggers, not just parents, should disclose relationships and/or benefits they receive beyond the obvious. Why should bloggers be held to a lesser standard than the press?

Anne Howe
Guest
13 years 1 month ago

I agree that transparency is the central issue, and that consumers deserve to know if a blogger is being paid to write or tweet on behalf of a brand. But, this is an issue that can and should be resolved within the trade groups, who are in fact willing to discuss and resolve and set guidelines. Government is truly over-reaching on this one.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
13 years 1 month ago
Much to my dismay, I find myself in agreement that bloggers should be held responsible to disclose in a visible manner any business relationship they have with brands or products they discuss. We’re all aware of the high value placed on peer recommendations. Marketers salivate at the thought of non-transparent paid spokesbloggers, hoping to cash in on the willingness of consumers to trust each other. In the end, this is no different than reviews-for-pay, endorsements, or any other form of product sponsorship. If a blogger is receiving any form of compensation from a brand, it should be disclosed. Or should it? In radio and TV, we don’t require a DJ or a celebrity to disclose that they were paid for the endorsement they just delivered. We sort of understand that’s the way it is. To the extent that blogging represents a digital era communication medium, why do we have different standards here? Blogs do not carry the same expectations for distinguishing between “fact” and advertising that newspapers and magazines do. The truth is that this… Read more »
Bob Phibbs
Guest
13 years 1 month ago

The whole idea of regulating a blog is ridiculous. There are over a million of them and 80% of those are abandoned.

How is this different from free product being given to a store owner to try it out? We’re not talking Case Knives paying people to say their “gut stripper special” is safe and easy to use for three year olds. Doesn’t the government have more important things to do than a PR job on “considering” such an impossible regulatory burden? I think so.

Joan Treistman
Guest
13 years 1 month ago

I’m confident that consumers will uncover the practices they don’t like and broadcast the activities via the blogs and Twitter. I agree with the concerns about too much government involvement. And I agree that the government couldn’t control it all anyway. So let the people govern themselves.

In my work with website optimization I keep hearing consumers doubting the reviews which appear on retail sites. These consumers wonder who writes the review and therefore question the credibility and truth in the review.

If the issue is to insure consumers are not misled by bloggers, I believe bloggers will eventually correct themselves. Those who are paid, influenced or otherwise insincere will be exposed. There will be no advantage for clients to pay them or give them products to promote.

And all of this will become an anecdote in the annals of the Wild Wild West of the Internet.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
13 years 1 month ago
If a person receives a product (as a gift, as a giveaway, as a sample), uses it, and then talks about it (in person, in an email, on a blog), there has never been a call for a requirement that an individual disclose that they received a product as a gift or sample. If a person receives a product from a company, uses it, and talks about it, why is that different? If the person receives a product from a company, uses it, and talks about it, how is that different from receiving a free sample at a store or in a magazine? If the person gets paid for using a product and talks about it, or gets paid for talking about it, then there is a business relationship. If the person gets paid only when making a positive blog statement then there is a business relationship. Yes, a requirement could be made that the relationship be disclosed, but how could enforcement distinguish between the two situations described above? Is it worth it? Seems to… Read more »
Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
13 years 1 month ago

“Astroturfing” (creating fake grass-roots movements) and similar practices may work in the short term, but any blogger that doesn’t disclose compensation isn’t going to last long. Responsible bloggers clearly state when they are given free product, and even point out when a link to a product in their blog is an affiliate link. There’s no shame in it–most point out that it helps them continue to spend time on the blog. But they have to then convince their readership that they remain objective. Regulation should not be necessary.

Ken Yee
Guest
Ken Yee
13 years 1 month ago
I’m against government interaction. Let the reader and web surfer decide. Is there truth? Are there falsehoods? Sure. No different than any other industry where someone or some company really represents another. How many cable, phone or electricity companies are there out there? Probably 100s. And how many of these companies actually own and maintain the utility infrastructure? Probably just a handful of them. How many of these 100s of entities say they are actually just selling you services based on someone else’s infrastructure and product, or are simply a hired third party company contracted out? Probably none. Even mainstream media like newspapers and magazines have sketchy journalism with its professional editors, reporters and newsprint conglomerates. On the other hand, the internet is billions of pages of information provided by an infinite range of people, ages and journalism skills. Who in their right mind would believe every blog and forum post if even mainstream media is often biased and lacking integrity? I’m tired of so many laws created to protect the ignorant.
Rick Boretsky
Guest
Rick Boretsky
13 years 1 month ago

I agree with Jeff Weitzman’s comments. The entire blogosphere is one that is built on elements of trust. Those that are most transparent and most honest about their business relationships tend to have the largest and most loyal readers/followers. Abuse that trust and readers will go elsewhere. It’s such a gray area and so difficult to monitor in any media. Over-regulation in the blogosphere will be difficult, but pure fraud cannot be accepted and somehow needs to be exposed.

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