Monday, June 29, 2009

Looks like I may have to add another disclosure to this blog

If you visit this blog (or my other Empoprises blogs), you will notice a link to a disclosure regarding a particular advertising service that I employ on the blogs. I do not want to mention the service, but the name of the service provider rhymes with "frugal." According to MediaMemo, I may need to add a disclosure about another service that I use, one that provides a vast river of products. MediaMemo:

The FTC, which is prepping new guidelines about the kinds of disclosures bloggers should make when they endorse a product on their site, also wants bloggers to give readers a heads-up when they use affiliate links.

MediaMemo thinks that the impulse for this regulation is the pay-per-post blog posts:

It’s trying to clamp down on pernicious “pay-per-post” setups, which are basically advertorial networks. They want bloggers who get get free trips or products from a company to acknowledge the freebies when they write about said company.

Now some people think that Izea is inherently evil, but I've previously stated that as long as disclosure is made, I have no problem with the practice. Now people certainly have their thoughts on disclosure - just ask Michael Arrington or Loren Feldman about the recent Leo LaPorte incident, which Arrington subsequently explained was a disclosure issue not about LaPorte, but about who Palm chooses to provide with evaluation copies of their products.

So now we've gotten to links in blogs that allow you to buy products, with a benefit to the blogger. I'll admit that my first reaction to the FTC proposal is that it's silly. In my view, I would think that it would be obvious to anyone that if they choose to purchase something from the river of products via my blog, of course I'd get a little benefit from it.

But the FTC doesn't just consider techies. They also consider the non-techies, who constitute the majority of the country. What about someone who is searching for blogs for the first time, finds this wonderful blog called Empoprise-MU that talks about all sorts of music, and then sees that the blog post even allows you to buy some of the music discussed in the blog post! Isn't that pretty neat? Yet those people might not realize that I get a cut of any purchase they make during that link.

And, as far as the FTC is concerned, disclosure is just as important for a small-time blogger as it is for a major metropolitan newspaper.

Let me provide an example. Let's say that at some future time, I write a blog post about the Psychedelic Furs, praising them beyond all compare, and emphatically stating that Richard Butler's voice is the most melodious voice in the English-speaking world - and that after writing this, I helpfully provide a link so that you can buy a box set of everything the Psychedelic Furs ever recorded. Well, if I ever were to write such a post, it would be obvious to anyone who knew me that I was using the prospect of monetary gain to influence the editorial content of my post. (To put it mildly, I do not care for Richard Butler's voice.) And this, my friends, is why disclosure is so important.

Luckily for me, there is so much good music around that when I do post affiliate links (which, frankly, I don't do all that often), I can post them for music that I really like.

So why haven't I posted a ton of affiliate links to just about every song that Michael Jackson ever wrote in the 1980s - many of which I truly do enjoy? I could claim that I'm respecting the sensitivities of the Jackson family or Lisa Marie or whoever, but the truth is that I'm often too lazy to find the appropriate affiliate link and stick it in the post. (Another reason is that at this time, I don't really have much to add to the Michael Jackson discussion beyond what I've already said.)

It doesn't look like I'll have to do anything for a while - the wheels of government grind slowly, and these things obviously go through a review period - but I'd like your take on this. Do the proposed regulations affect you, either as a blogger or as a reader of blogs? What do you think?
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