NYT on the gray areas between blog reviews and paid endorsements…

By Matter

There’s been quite a bit of buzz lately about the FTC’s proposed guidelines regarding marketing and endorsements related to bloggers and online media in general. We’ve been closely tracking it since many of our clients pursue coverage on blogs, especially since consumers increasingly rely on third parties and their peers to give no-nonsense product reviews before they make a purchase. The NYT had a pretty interesting article yesterday that took a look at some bloggers, Twitter users, etc. who accept fees for posting about a company or product, and how they disclose that info to their readers. Nothing ground-breaking here, but it’s a well balanced article on the topic and was enough to provoke some thought internally on where this is all headed.

It’s funny – in some ways, it makes total sense for the FTC to get involved and update its guidelines, like holding bloggers liable for content they write about a product if they’re being paid to write it. In theory, it’s not that different from holding a company responsible for claims it makes in an ad.

On the other hand though, sometimes I read this stuff and I instantly hear Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler chiming in with “Really?!?! REALLY, FTC?!??!?!” because it just seems like people are honing in on something that has been happening for years and years with very little abuse and need for regulation. People don’t get upset that movie and TV critics receive screeners and advance (complimentary) viewings before rating a film or program. And we don’t question whether the opinions we get are credible and un-influenced by the fact that they got this access for free from the studio or network trying to promote its project. So why are people looking at product reviews on blogs like they are so very different than other kinds of “traditional” reviews? What do you think? Take a look at the article and weigh in below in the comments.