0
0
Gini Dietrich

Paid to Blog? The FTC Might Come Knocking!

By: Gini Dietrich | April 24, 2009 | 
4

I clearly created quite a firestorm earlier this week when I blogged that I don’t think people should be paid to tweet about a brand. While I think a good number of commenters agreed with me, I think what caused the true firestorm is that I used the recent Land Rover campaign as my example.

After keeping an open mind and reading all of the comments about the post (see it here), I still don’t think people should be PAID to tweet or blog about brands…and now the FTC agrees.

An article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal described the Internet as “becoming so rife with paid blogging that the Federal Trade Commission, which guards against false advertisements, is examining whether it should police bloggers. As it updates nearly 30-year-old advertising guidelines, the FTC is proposing that bloggers, and online marketers and companies that compensate them, be held liable for misleading claims.”

The article is fair and balanced – talking to bloggers both who are paid and those who are not, but also to those that are paid who do and don’t disclose they’re paid.

What bothers me is those that disclose they are paid, but then don’t write anything negative or critical about the products they do review: “In a disclosure at the bottom of her Web page, Ms. Smith notifies readers that she accepts compensation for blog posts, but says, “We always give our honest opinions.” Still, in an interview, Ms. Smith said she never writes anything negative about products she is asked to review because, “I choose not to be critical.”

This is akin to the beginning of my career when a magazine would give you an advertorial if you bought ad space. The advertorial was great for companies because it was viewed as editorial written by the staff at the publication. But very quickly you began seeing PAID ADVERTORIAL at the top of the pieces because the FTC didn’t want the public confused.

Same idea, different decade.  Things are changing rapidly and we have to know what is ethical, what is not ethical, and what dips over the line.  Let’s not spin; rather be ethical about what it is that we’re doing. It only helps in the longrun.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

4 comments
Paul Segreto
Paul Segreto

Gini, I definitely agree with your comments.

Bloggers do have a right to make a living blogging and should be able to write about anything they so desire. I think our forefathers had something to do with that. A little birdie, not twitter, is whispering something about Freedom of the Press.

Anyway, in the blogging community, it's not ethical to accept payment to write exactly what a company wants you to write. There's a place and a time for everything, and anything. Blogging is about opinion, even if it's opinion about facts. But it is in my opinion, it is reprehensible to defraud one's loyal readers by posting a blog in someone else's words and pass them off as yours.

trisha
trisha

I agree with you. NO ONE should lie. I think what you write should be able to stand up in court...

If you can write something negative and be held accountable for your words, I believe the opposite can be fair to be true.

I realize the FTC is trying to take away the sunshine and roses aspect, but bloggers often only pick products that they are interested in, therefore they are on an upswing before it even arrives. Plus, one thing that people have to also realize is that bloggers build relationships with PR and businesses and part of a feel good about something can be attributed to that relationship. I know that if I work with the same person over and over again, I like them, and its natural to feel more lenient on a product. Its not a conscious decision in the slightest to do that, but I am no fool that relationships play a part in feelings.

Kinda like Fischer price ticked me off on a toy and now i scrutinize fisher price a lot more than I probably would Leap Frog..make sense?

I do believe though that bloggers, because its not a journalistic writing, write how they feel and very plainly. I am guilty of saying I LOVE THIS!!! Because that is how i feel. It may come off a bit cheesy though, but it doesn't mean it isn't sincere.

Regardless of positive or negative, or balanced, etc. I do believe every written word should hold some form of accountability and this whole FTC thing doesn't bother me at all.

Ill stand in court and say that fortune cookie I ate yesterday was tasty...no problem here.

LOL

trisha

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Trisha -

VERY fair! I absolutely believe bloggers should be paid. We all have to make a living and isn't it something like 375,000 people are making a living by blogging?

What I don't think should happen is that a company pays you to write what they want you to write. If you're posting a blog about a product, provide disclosure that they sent you a sample. And then provide your real opinion on it. If you don't like the product, but feel badly about saying something negative because they sent it to you, that's doing your readers a disservice.

It sounds to me that you're the type of blogger to accept product and provide your real and honest opinion on it. I think that's absolutely fine! The ones that bother me are those that don't disclose they're being paid and don't say what they really think.

trisha
trisha

I am all for disclosure. However, to me there is a massive difference in a journalist and a blog writer. A journalist gets a paycheck on an advertorial or an opinion, so why cant a blogger charge to write the advertorial as well?

Its still writing, its still time, it still takes webspace and knowledge, hosting, and advertising. My time isnt FREE.

That being said, I wouldn't take a product I didnt believe in and write about it FOR a paycheck and I have nothing wrong with saying I received payment or a product. I actually believe its pretty common knowledge that most bloggers receive product in exchange.

But i do believe bloggers should be allowed to be paid.

Trisha
momdot.com