October 21, 2009 (PAP Newswire) — Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. announced that bloggers and similar online marketers and advertisers must now disclose the exact relationship they have with any product or service they write about or promote. If they fail to do so, they can be subject to fines of up to $11,000.
This new rule may sound fair, but it’s actually much more strict than the rules applied to traditional media like newspapers and magazines. And it has many in the online business world concerned. The guidelines “are the types of vital regulatory issues that, if decided without due care and reasoned judgment, will impair the continued growth of news and content in the online space,” the president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Randall Rothenberg, said in a letter sent to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.
“I urge the Commission to retract the current set of Guides and to commence a fair and open process in order to develop a roadmap by which responsible online actors can engage with consumers and continue to provide their invaluable content and services.”
The IAB is “not arguing that bloggers and social media be treated differently than incumbent media,” Leibowitz continued. “Rather, we’re saying the new conversational media should be accorded the same rights and freedoms as other communications channels.”
Writing in PCMag.com, Chloe Albanesius explains the rules as such: “If a college student with a well-known gaming blog, for example, receives a free copy of the latest game for review and posts a positive review, the student would have to tell readers that he received a free copy of the game. The manufacturer is also required to tell him that he has to disclose their relationship.”
On the other hand, in traditional media, no such disclosure is necessary. When you see a review of the newest Pink CD in Rolling Stone, you can take for granted that Pink’s record label sent the magazine an advance copy for review. And when Roger Ebert reviews the latest film from Paramount Pictures, again, you can assume he was allowed to see an advanced screening of that movie, for free.
Since these older types of media don’t have to disclose their exact relationships, why should bloggers?
Online gambling affiliates, can you imagine the effect this might have on your website? If you blog about sites with which you also have an affiliate marketing relationship, then beware: These new rules apply to you, as well.