Moderating Bloggers – Response to Business Week Article

There’s an interesting article in this week’s Business Week online that talks about the new guidelines coming out by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will require bloggers to state whether they’ve been paid to write reviews.  The FTC hopes that this will ensure that reviews are legitimate and that companies aren’t using blogs just as advertising.

It’s a new attempt to regulate what’s on the Internet, and is a sign that more and more people are beginning to think of blogs as more than just citizen journalism.  The blogs themselves are beginning to replace mainstream media, and the FTC wants to try to have it stay honest.

I think that this is a good idea for many reasons, but I’ll get to that later.

What’s interesting is that the FTC is concerned that bloggers are not honest, whereas there’s no talk about regulating magazines.  Since I work in the realm of beauty and fashion, I’ll stick to media that covers those topics in this discussion.  The dirty (not so secret) truth about magazines is that they get truckloads of products for free, and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything bad about a beauty product in a magazine.  Furthermore, it’s been proven that the more a product is advertised (legitimately) in a magazine, the more it’s mentioned editorially in a magazine.  So why all this concern about regulating blogs when mainstream media has been having the same problem for decades now?  Bringing honesty to media is a more difficult job than just passing a regulation for disclosing advertorials, nevermind the fact that advertorials are usually disclosed on most blogs anyway.

Of course, I need to address the content on this blog as well.  Do I get products for free?  Absolutely.  It would be ludicrous to think that I actually bought all these products, and trust me, the advertising that’s on this blog wouldn’t even cover a week’s worth of what’s talked about on here.

But the thing is that I pick the products I like best and talk about those.  Those are the ones that are most fun to write about, and the ones that I continue using.  The products I don’t like – well, I mostly don’t like them because they’re not very interesting, and unless a product is truly horrible, I probably won’t mention it at all.

Is that the same as being paid cash for writing about a product?  I don’t think so and I don’t think the FDC will either.

What do you think about the article and the whole idea of regulating bloggers?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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10 Responses to Moderating Bloggers – Response to Business Week Article

  1. I think that it’s interesting that they want to moderate bloggers. In my experience, I’ve felt like most of the bloggers that I read (such as Musings of a Muse) give honest reviews. They speak about how the products work or don’t work for them. I do the same in my blog. Additionally, 95% of what I review in my blog I bought myself, so I definitely feel that I should say what my experience is with the product, be it positive or negative.

    I’m actually wondering if they feel that bloggers have too much power and if they give a product a negative review that it impacts their sales. Anyways, just the first thought that came to my mind.

  2. Henna says:

    You are so right, I actually didn’t even consider the power perspective. You’re right they must be getting pressure to do something about these now-powerful bloggers….

  3. Rebecca says:

    A couple of interesting things here.

    The example used in the Business Week article was a bit misleading, given that the blogger wasn’t “compensated” for the post, she was sent the product to review. As you mention above, bloggers – or really, any journalists – can’t afford to buy all of the things they write about, so being sent products for review is simply how media attention is created.

    As far as positive reviews go, I take the same approach with my blog. I get sent a lot of things, some of which I like, some of which I don’t. I only write about the things I find great, because that’s how I’ve decided to skew my blog – and that’s at my discretion.

    And to that end (and lastly), I think there’s a certain liberty that comes with a blog that a magazine or other major media can’t claim (full disclosure: my blog is on a “major” Canadian media site, but isn’t quite a “major” part of the programming). Yes, there’s contact information for the blogger on the page, but there isn’t the same brand status that creates a statement larger than yourself when you write about it (i.e. when Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food endorses a certain kind of food processor, that’s a bigger deal than when even The Kitchn, a rather massive food blog, does so). That’s likely why the FTC is considering these rules – but in actuality, is why they should be looking at major media even more closely.

  4. Nancy says:

    I saw the Business Week article and think you’ve raised some good points in response. I think there will need to be a whole lot more information forthcoming. Also, will there be different standards for some of the more “corporate” blogs tied to an FTC-regulated medium like TV or radio vs. a “mommy” blogger? It’ll be interesting!

  5. Kristen says:

    Well said Henna. I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there about blogs and what we do and that a few irresponsible ones may have ruined what we passionate bloggers have worked hard to create – an honest and forthright relationship with our readers.

  6. Henna says:

    Hey Kristin, glad to have a magazine writer comment!

    I forgot to add: a friend who writes for magazines once said “It’s not even important whether I see the product or like it, it’s my JOB to write about it regardless.”

    I thought that was interesting…

  7. Henna says:

    Nancy, good point on bringing up corporate blogs. Lancome has one and so do lots of other brands. Are they going to moderate those? What’s next? Twitter accounts?

  8. Eden Spodek says:

    Henna, It’s great seeing more consumer-facing bloggers discussing these types of issues.

    The impending FTC guidelines have been in discussion for a while. Bloggers who are upfront and transparent about their relationships with free products and brands, probably have nothing to worry about.

    The problem rests with the bloggers who have seen blogging as a way to get lots of free stuff (and ad revenue) on the condition that they’ll blog about products in a positive way. In other words, it’s a pay-per-post practice where the product review isn’t necessarily objective, honest or fair. This goes against the culture of social media and online relationships where trust is the currency, not dollars. (This is where blogs differ from the magazine industry.)

    I only accept products or services on the condition that a) I’m not promising to blog about them and b) if I do blog or discuss them online, I will be honest.

    As for corporate blogs, they should be clearly identified and consumers know they are representative of that company’s products or services.

    Cheers,
    Eden

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  10. Henna says:

    Eden, thanks for making it really clear who is and isn’t going to be in trouble for accepting free things.

    It just appeared to me, however, that companies like Pay Per Post are going to get hit too, and blogs that make money off them will see a loss in income.

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