Has it ever wound you up to read a review of a trip, product or service by a blogger when you can see clearly that the blogger was incentivised to write it? Sent on a jolly, or given a gizmo to play with? Most people state clearly when an incentive has led to the review, and most brands a clear in their blogger and social media relations. But many are not.
Last night the news began bubbling through that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released new rules aimed to regulate transparency in the use of testimonials in marketing.
What this means is for bloggers, people on Twitter and Facebook online, if you have been given a product to review, a freebie or a jolly, then you have to say clearly that you were incentivised to write that review.
US media covering the story summarise it in various ways:
"The question still remains as to exactly how the new guidelines will be enforced, given the sheer scope of online media--not to mention the millions upon millions of active Twitter and Facebook users."
The BBC covered the story this morning, looking at what the impact might be in the UK soon. Remember, European media law banned 'astroturfing' last May (it's only frowned upon in the US, where as here it's more black and white. So perhaps we will see the FTC guidelines move over the Atlantic some time soon? The BBC's report is worth reading:
Offenders could face eventual fines of up to $11,000 (£6,900) per violation. The updated policy on how advertisers can use endorsements will also apply to celebrities and research firms. Until now, bloggers had not been covered by the guidelines - something which had concerned consumer groups. They had argued that for a long time that the links between some bloggers and companies were not always totally transparent and clear for readers.