Savvy consumers often go online for independent consumer reviews of products and services, scouring through comments from everyday Joes and Janes to help them find a gem or shun a lemon.
What some fail to realize, though, is that such reviews can be tainted: Many bloggers have accepted perks such as free laptops, trips to Europe, $500 gift cards or even thousands of dollars for a 200-word post. Bloggers vary in how they disclose such freebies, if they do so at all.The practice has grown to the degree that the Federal Trade Commission is paying attention. New guidelines, expected to be approved late this summer with possible modifications, would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers — as well as the companies that compensate them — for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest.
Memo to the FTC: no one is lining up to offer me laptops, free trips, gift cards, or anything else of value. I don't know who these people are that are getting such perks.
Just so it's clear to everyone, I do get free stuff. I get books, DVDs, and CDs from time to time. Because I write for Blogcritics, I have access to a lot of free stuff. I've had an opportunity to review a lot of items over the past few years. I've had a chance to interview many authors. But I haven't made much (if any money) in the process.
Normally, if there is an item I am reviewing for Blogcritics (or any other blog, for that matter), I get an advance copy of a particular item. It may be a DVD screener for an upcoming show, a CD before its release, or an advance copy of a book. It's the exact same stuff that other media outlets such as newspapers and magazines receive to publish the same types of reviews. I don't make any money unless someone clicks through a link in my review to a site selling the item or they happen to click on one of the advertisers in the sidebar and buy stuff.
To go one step further, the amount of money I make on such sales is miniscule. I have made very little money blogging and certainly don't have any illusions about getting rich doing it.
I review items because I enjoy it and not because there is any financial incentive.
It seems to me that the government is going to have an extremely hard time enforcing these rules. There may be abuses such as those that this article sites but those cases are isolated at best.
I'm inclined to concur with Ed Morrissey that perhaps this whole kerfuffle is evidence that we can afford to disband the FTC.