So much for blogger self-regulation. Blogger payola is now firmly in the crosshairs of the Federal Trade Commission, which today released new guidelines in endorsements and testimonials. If you receive a free product or a cash payment to review a product, you must "disclose the material connections (you) share with the seller of the product or service."
That seems to mean that review copies of software must be disclosed, although this seems like less of an issue since most sophisticated tech readers would understand that free review software was supplied. But a few years back, Microsoft was shipping review copies of Vista on souped-up comp laptops.
Caroline McCarthy notes that the mommy blogger sector seems to live and breathe on freebies, so those blogs could start having disclaimers as long as the blog posts.
ReadWriteWeb also notes the mommy blogger problem and that the regulations will be somewhat difficult to enforce.
Here's the relevant language:
The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.