The Federal Trade Commission is taking on bloggers who’ve been paid for their posts or wooed with freebies from companies that they cover. Personally, this sounds like a great idea to me. If a company sends you a product and you tell readers it’s the best thing since sliced bread, your readers deserve to know how you acquired that product and how you came to that conclusion, so they can gauge your credibility.
What I find far more troubling is that some companies are able to buy space on blogs and pay for positive coverage. Trailspace readers should know that we have never been paid or in any way compensated for a blog or article on our site (though we’ve had some offers, to which I reply, our blog is not for sale).
Trailspace’s editorial team decides what outdoor subjects and gear we cover on the basis of newsworthiness, potential reader interest and needs, and the time we have to devote. Our editorial and advertising functions remain separate. (I’ve also had disgruntled people threaten not to advertise on the site if I didn’t let them break our forums’ community rules. Too bad, I say.)
Full disclosure: we occasionally get samples of products for gear testing, but it is our policy to always divulge when a product has been provided by the manufacturer for that purpose.
Our mission at Trailspace is to help consumers find the right outdoor gear for them through gear coverage, reviews, and information. I strongly believe that getting greedy for the sake of some extra money or gear would destroy our credibility and trustworthiness, completely undermining that mission. It would be like shooting ourselves in the foot.
So, what makes a source trustworthy (or not) to you? Do you think it’s evident when a source is shilling a product? Tell us below.
Back to the FTC's new guidelines, while the FTC’s intentions sound good, apparently the 81 pages of rules are drawing many, many protests, specifically for being overly broad, inconsistent, confusing, and far more severe to bloggers than traditional print journalists (hey, how about disclosing the entire travel industry?).
I’m going to start reading the guidelines now to see how they might apply.
For more info:
FTC Announcement: FTC Publishes Final Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials
FTC Guide (PDF)
FTC Blogging Rules Draw Online Protests (CBS News)
FTC: Bloggers, testimonials need better disclosure (AOL Money and Finance)
Why the FTC's truth in blogging guidelines are truly terrible (Daily Finance)