There are FTC rules about advertisement. It’s pretty clear. If you receive ANY form of compensation from a company or person you have to CLEARLY disclose in that article that you have received compensation from that company. I was not very good about it early on in this blog. Then my a family member of mine became responsible for managing the legal compliance for their websites and reviews. That’s where my disclosure at the bottom of my list came from. Making it very obvious that I am being paid from a lot of people to do the list. Yet it seems like nobody else is doing it. According to the FTC and to anyone reading a blog article, “Knowing about the connection is important information for anyone evaluating the endorsement” What’s the definition of an endorsement?
Here is the official definition
For purposes of this part, an endorsement means any advertising message (including verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization) that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser, even if the views expressed by that party are identical to those of the sponsoring advertiser. The party whose opinions, beliefs, findings, or experience the message appears to reflect will be called the endorser and may be an individual, group, or institution
Yes. Any demonstration or just plain verbal statements about that company is an endorsement. In short, you shouldn’t be writing any article about a company without saying you are paid by that company to write about them. Business Insider is a good example of following the rules in this article.
There aren’t too many domain blogs so its hard not to get personal. And Michael Berkens is a lawyer so I’m pretty sure he is comfortable with anything he or Raymond writes. I don’t know exactly who pays whom or how much they get paid but I don’t think anyone would disagree when I say, articles seem to have a more paid to write feel than ever. And there are several reasons why I think this is happening.
- Banner ads don’t work anymore. Bloggers have to get more creative trying to earn advertising dollars. Announcing events and making up stories just to get information across is really the only way to get readers attention and eyeballs for their clients.
- It’s a small industry. There are only so many advertisers. If you are a larger blog with a lot of advertisers, five out of 10 articles are probably going to be about your advertisers whether they paid you or not
- People don’t know the law or care. If you are in a foreign country you don’t care about the FTC and their rules. And when was the last time a small blog got sued over it? Others think that because you can see a big ad next to the article that readers should assume. But that’s not how it works. As I said people are blind to ads, and hiding the word sponsor in the tags or in tiny print doesn’t apply either
- Bloggers honestly feel that their opinions don’t change because of sponsors. It couldn’t be further from the truth. As a blogger I can tell you that more articles get written about sponsors and they are handled different than non sponsors. It may be subliminal but it is absolutely there. It’s like pretending you’re the coach and your kid is on the team and you don’t treat them any different. You do, often much harder on them than the other kids, but you treat them different.
- If you were going to write the article anyway it doesn’t count does it? As I said before, if you have the major industry players as advertisers it is pretty much impossible to write most of your articles without disclosing. But you still have to do it.
I went through last years’ articles to see where I had officially broken the rules. No it wasn’t .WS. I wasn’t paid anything to tell my story. If anything I took a bath and lost face to tell that one. I pretty much broke it on every article mentioning an advertiser. Articles like a NamesCon ticket that I received and didn’t disclose it, each time I mentioned tickets were for sale. I was supposed to and should have. I didn’t disclose paid listings in a few tweets that I did for clients. They were covered on my list page but I didn’t do it correctly on Twitter. I have done a bad job but we are going to clean it up from here. You have to start somewhere.
I am certainly not going to be the compliance police for domain blogs. But I certainly have been paying attention over the last few months. The percentage of posts that don’t disclose relationships is gotten much higher in 2017. Do I think bloggers are trying to fool anyone? Absolutely not. They are merely trying to make a living. Am I a hypocrite? I’ve already said I have been. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t best for our readers to know