Gini Dietrich

Paid to Blog? The FTC Might Come Knocking!

By: Gini Dietrich | April 24, 2009 | 

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, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, the lead blogger at Spin Sucks, and the host of Spin Sucks the podcast. She also is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.