By Terry Corbell
The Biz Coach
Is the FTC’s Blogger-Payola Crackdown Working?
Few businesspeople like big-brother government imposing its will unnecessarily, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) crackdown on blogger payola was necessary. That’s true even though the FTC rules are hard to enforce on the massive Internet. Blogging is ever-increasing – B2B marketers especially like content marketing.
The FTC’s rules had been unchanged for 29 years. These are rules for the digital age – now that consumers get information from sources other than print, radio or TV. Three decades ago, advertisers propagated their own messages.
As a result of the FTC action, there are at least three salient points to keep in mind:
- Make certain you disclose if you have any material relationship with an advertiser or company. This means you can’t accept any form of cash or goods for reviewing or plugging a product or service – unless you make a disclosure.
- Be honest. No ridiculous claims to entice a reader to buy a product or service. You can only state what readers can “generally expect.”
- It’s not a requirement, but you might wish to consider taking legal steps to protect your personal assets if you’re sued. Forming an LLC, S Corp or C Corp shield your assets from a possible judgment.
Regarding celebrity endorsers: They’re being held accountable if they make false statements. Their endorsements, too, must state what consumers can “generally expect.” Previously, the phrase, “results not typical,” sufficed.
FTC fines are $11,000 per violation. The change was effective Dec. 1, 2009.
Another Biz Coach article – “Will Social Media Take Driver’s Seat in Search?” – pointed out the ever-increasing influence of bloggers. About 18 percent of Internet users get their information – not from authoritative news site where accredited journalists are held to high standards – but from social media. Fifteen percent of them trust blogs and 20 percent trust message boards. My sense is social media’s influence continues to expand every month.
The FTC update was a year in the making. It was consistent with the tenets under which the FTC has long been operating.
So the FTC rules are clear: It must be disclosed if a blogger’s opinion has been materially persuaded and any opinions must be based on the writer’s experiences.
The 81-page rule addition includes nine conjectural examples to explain what is OK and what isn’t.
Actually, government rules and regulations are often onerous, but deceptive blogging can be detrimental to consumers.
Every day this site is spammed, and some spammers can be very convincing. When in doubt, my practice is to delete suspected spam.
In one case, a blogger disagreed with my quoting a nationally recognized Internet security expert, Dr. Stan Stahl, who has a doctorate from an accredited institution with voluminous credentials. The column drew criticism because Dr. Stahl strongly advised consumers not to do any mobile banking. The blogger published crass comments on his blog, and he replied to me sarcastically on this portal.
However, I did not allow the blogger to insert his assertions on this site for three reasons:
- His introductory comment about the gist of the column was rude.
- A review of his blog indicated he was heavily biased in favor of mobile banking, but my sense was he had no credentials in Internet security.
- His blog also indicated his whole purpose in life seemed to heavily promote mobile banking – but he did not disclose why.
Then, it was hard not to chortle about our ostensibly disingenuous blogger, when I was able to write this follow-up article: Our Mobile-Banking Warnings about Security Prove Prophetic. And yes, you guessed it — the blogger didn’t dare challenge the details in the second column on mobile banking.
If you’re not a paid blogger for mobile banking or spammer, feel free to respond.
Let’s hope the FTC crackdown is working. I’m delighted by the rules.
From the Coach’s Corner, for writing tips, here are related resources:
“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.”
- Brian Clark
Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.