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  1. #1
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    FTC: Bloggers must disclose payments for reviews
    I think this was previously discussed as pending, it was passed today:

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/FTC-Bl....html?x=0&.v=2

  2. #2
    Full Member suzie250's Avatar
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    Is this specific to Bloggers only?

    I don't consider myself a blogger but I do use a blogging platform for my sites. I signed up for something recently and they changed the category I submitted (which actually was my niche) to their blogging category.

    I see no reason why they shouldn't disclose that info in the first place. Those giving false reviews simply for payment might have an issue with it. But otherwise, what's to worry about?

    Edited to add: Does the FTC have a specific definition of "Blogger"?
    I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Bud Lite than Kay.

  3. #3
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    "But otherwise, what's to worry about?"

    Nothing but I expect other bloggers to misinterpret it and some doom and gloom stuff to be coming shortly. A few years ago this was talked about and some people were getting carried away not actually reading what this was about and trying to connect unrelated affiliate stuff to it.

  4. #4
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    For those of us who play by the rules, it's business as usual - nothing to worry about.

    For those bloggers who were accepting payment for reviews without disclosing the fact.. well, that's a different story.

    Personally I think transparency is good for the community.

  5. #5
    ABW Ambassador meadowmufn's Avatar
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    I'll need to actually read the article later, but just wanted to throw this question out there. If I already have a disclaimer on my site am I good to go or do I need a notice on every single review?
    -Don't criticize anyone til you've walked a mile in their shoes. Then when you do criticize them, you'll be a mile away and have their shoes.
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  6. #6
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    As far as that, the only thing I see is:

    "For bloggers, the FTC stopped short of specifying how they must disclose conflicts of interest. Rich Cleland, assistant director of the FTC's advertising practices division, said the disclosure must be "clear and conspicuous," no matter what form it will take."

    Also:

    "To placate such fears, Cleland said the FTC will more likely go after an advertiser instead of a blogger for violations. The exception would be a blogger who runs a "substantial" operation that violates FTC rules and already received a warning, he said."

    So they're more likely to go after an advertiser than a blogger and I guess you might get a warning first. I think they're more interested in the big fish that violate FTC rules. If you do this kind of thing, just make a note that it's a paid review where the reader can easily see it and you'll be fine.

  7. #7
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust
    "But otherwise, what's to worry about?"

    Nothing but I expect other bloggers to misinterpret it and some doom and gloom stuff to be coming shortly. A few years ago this was talked about and some people were getting carried away not actually reading what this was about and trying to connect unrelated affiliate stuff to it.
    LOL. Talking to me Trusty?

    I love this ruling actually. Although as a future merchant, it puts an interesting spin on managing affiliates. Though, a good merchant would welcome this as well, even if it comes with some extra policing responsibilities.
    Kevin Webster
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  8. #8
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    Not you, actually there was a discussion about this 2 or 3 years ago on somebody's blog, somebody well respected but they were going overboard with it. (Was trying to find it) Saying stuff like this will hurt affiliate marketing and that we would have to disclose that we're getting paid on all our affiliate links etc. I was pointing out to them they were talking about paid reviews of products which is a bit different. We don't get paid upfront. At the time I said at worst, we might have to put something on some Privacy Policy/TOS page that nobody ever reads that we get paid a percentage on sales.

  9. #9
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    Here was some of it - http://www.revenews.com/bethkirsch/t...hicken-little/

    Continued on somebody else's blog. It was about the FTC's ruling on Word Of Mouth marketing and I read stuff like:

    "Are links dead?”

    “FTC taps lightly on spyware (IMHO) yet now appears to drop the hammer on affiliates.”

    And that ruling had nothing to do with affiliate marketing. That person also said Froogle would be the doomsday axe on affiliates.

    So I was expecting more of that type of nonsense with this recent stuff. People going overboard, overreacting.

    And this was a good post by Jangro at the time:

    The End of Affiliate Marketing XXXIV

    http://www.jangro.com/affiliate-mark...rketing-xxxiv/

  10. #10
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    As others note, this seems likely to be enforced against advertisers, not against small bloggers. It's a great idea to punish those who mislead and deceive in order to unfairly profit (like the cosmetic surgeon who paid employees to create fake endorsements online).

    But it's a very bad idea to try to regulate writers and publishers, just as it's a bad idea to try to regulate print journalism.

    To the extent that this FTC rule imposes duties on online writers which aren't imposed on print or broadcast journalists engaging in the same practices, it is unfair; probably much more important, to the extent that it limits free speech, it is probably unconstitutional, and will have a "chilling effect" on internet publishers. I wouldn't be surprised to see multiple lawsuits filed in the next few weeks, seeking to strike down the rule -- nor would I be surprised if the lawsuits succeed.

  11. #11
    Newbie Timewarp's Avatar
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    I don't do paid reviews but just out of curiosity, what is the jurisdiction of the FTC? Just American bloggers? Blogs hosted in the US? Blogs read in the US?

  12. #12
    ABW Ambassador Trying to Win's Avatar
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    FTC to Regulate Blogging
    Just a squirrel trying to get a nut, in the Internet jungle.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trying to Win
    I merged your thread with this existing one.
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  14. #14
    ABW Ambassador CCBerries's Avatar
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    Here are the FTC's documents behind the story:
    The FTCs anouncement:
    http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm
    The guidelines (81 pages):
    http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005...esfnnotice.pdf
    examples start at about page 50

  15. #15
    Full Member snappy's Avatar
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    Hey yall I am confused..... for example if I have cj merchant 1 that I absolutely love and I make product reviews and place my affiliate links so that the viewers can buy them. Wouldn't this mean that the ftc could in fact fine me because I am taking payment from the advertiser who is paying me 10% per sale????
    Did that make sense?
    I attract success and abundance into my life because that is who I am.

  16. #16
    Moderator leeann's Avatar
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    I wonder how they'll enforce this esp. w/ the recent decision for the US to relinquish their control of the internet (or at least some)... wonder what parts..
    leeann


    Shoppers determine what has value and they like coupons. Stop manipulating who set the cookie just because you do not like coupon and promotional sites.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by snappy
    Hey yall I am confused..... for example if I have cj merchant 1 that I absolutely love and I make product reviews and place my affiliate links so that the viewers can buy them. Wouldn't this mean that the ftc could in fact fine me because I am taking payment from the advertiser who is paying me 10% per sale?
    Actually, I'm also confused about this. & wondering if promoting a specific vendor would also apply. I just worry about the government splitting hairs the wrong way.
    Renée
    Pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain. -Wizardress of Oz

  18. #18
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    Interesting column from the LA Times on this.

    I'd love to see these phony pseudo-celebrities get nailed by the FTC for hyping their freebies.
    Since June 10, 2012 a vegan aarf but still writing the Hound Dawg Sports Blog
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  19. #19
    Full Member suzie250's Avatar
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    Ok, so maybe I need to worry about this a bit more. Are we as affiliates, just posting links of products and a description, bound to this?

    I don't feel that I am being paid for a review or an endorsement, only providing information on the product itself.

    I received an update change to program agreement with this added to it:

    all product endorsements or reviews must be disclosed. "When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement...such connection must be fully disclosed."
    I have to post and run, and I will contact the merchant for clarification if they want a notice that those links will lead to payment (if the product is purchased).
    I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Bud Lite than Kay.

  20. #20
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    I was just posting about this over on Jangro's new blog but in that 81 page PDF above, the word affiliate isn't mentioned even once. And the FTC knows about affiliate marketing, example:

    FTC Approves Affiliate Marketing Rule Regarding Use of Consumer Information

    http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2007/10/affiliate.shtm

    The marketers they're talking about typically get paid upfront, a lot of them post glowing reviews of products with the readers having no idea that the author was paid already, received a free product etc. I have a pretty good idea who they're targetting, it's not affiliates. You could always just put a disclosure page somewhere on your site, basically saying you get paid a percentage of sales from affiliate links, link to it from your footer or whatever if it's a concern. And since they said they're more apt to go after advertisers, you would be hearing from merchants or networks if this was becomes a real issue in the future telling you to add this or that to your site. I wouldn't worry about it until you get something like that, then it's probably just adding a page to your site or something.

  21. #21
    CPA Network Rep Essociate's Avatar
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    these regulations will drastically affect many of the nutraceutical offers, as the reg's have firmed up how testimonials and benefit claims can be presented. one of the issues that is yet to be seen is whether the big boys will even care about an $11k offense.

  22. #22
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    After skimming the 81-page document, I also noticed that neither the word "affiliate" nor the concept of affiliate marketing are discussed, and the emphasis is entirely on the advertiser, not web publishers who carry advertising.

    Advertisers are responsible for taking reasonable steps to prevent misleading or deceptive claims from being used to promote sales of their products. There's nothing new about this -- the new "rules" mostly articulate well-established concepts. Most of the sensationalistic media reports (as well as blog entries and forum posts) actually misconstrue the effect of the "new" rules.

    I would expect that merchants may add new rules and terms to their affiliate agreements, which would prohibit the use of misleading or deceptive information, especially in the form of "endorsements" or "reviews." We'll probably find two or three variations of the same "boilerplate" language added to dozens of merchants' affiliate agreements, over the next 60 to 90 days, and the same language will probably be added to many more merchants' terms and conditions. One or more affiliate networks might even be pro-active enough to include "reasonable language" on this issue when they next revise their network agreements.

    It will be interesting to see how this affects the nutriceutical industry; many companies pretend not to know that their affiliates are making unauthorized health claims or offering endorsements that aren't factually true (e.g. the "reviewer" hasn't actually purchased or used the product, which the merchant knows, or the "review" includes factual information that isn't accurate). On the other hand, if a web publisher provides an article on the known uses and benefits of a particular nutritional supplement, it's unclear to me how these rules would be applied, in light of the first amendment protections afforded to publishers -- which aren't forfeited by accepting advertising (even performance-based advertising).

    To the extent that merchants perceive these "new rules" as a potential liability, we'll probably see a few merchants abandon their affiliate programs, while others seek ways to deal with the increased "compliance costs" for their affiliate marketing programs. "Review & endorsement screening" may even become a new "service offering" (similar to trademark and parasite screening) for OPMs and others.

  23. #23
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    Wanted to add this, which I just read, straight from the FTC:

    "Richard Cleland: “That $11,000 fine is not true. Worst-case scenario, someone receives a warning, refuses to comply, followed by a serious product defect; we would institute a proceeding with a cease-and-desist order and mandate compliance with the law. To the extent that I have seen and heard, people are not objecting to the disclosure requirements but to the fear of penalty if they inadvertently make a mistake. That’s the thing I don’t think people need to be concerned about. There’s no monetary penalty, in terms of the first violation, even in the worst case. Our approach is going to be educational, particularly with bloggers. We’re focusing on the advertisers: What kind of education are you providing them, are you monitoring the bloggers and whether what they’re saying is true?”

    And he answers more questions -

    http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/jenn...-its-message-0

    They want to go after deceptive advertisers that try to mislead consumers. What they've always done, more of this - http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/busi...rce/bus28.shtm

    Not your blog with affiliate links.

  24. #24
    Full Member suzie250's Avatar
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    Thanks guys. I feel a bit more relaxed about it this morning.

    I don't do deceptive advertising but my concern was more on trying to figure out what the merchant wants. I agree with Mark that many merchants will start changing their agreements. I guess I just hadn't expected it so soon.
    I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Bud Lite than Kay.

  25. #25
    Comfortably Numb John Powell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suzie250
    I agree with Mark that many merchants will start changing their agreements. I guess I just hadn't expected it so soon.
    I got an email this morning from a merchant advising me to get ready.

    What would it hurt to just stick a Disclosure link next to the Privacy Policy link like Jangro is advocating? Would that be enough? What are the odds of someone reading that and killing a sale?

    Someone could come up with a standardized Disclosure that we could all use, and we can put it up with squint fonts like they do on TV Ads.


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