Endorsements, disclosures and the economics of blogging

The week, Joni, Megan and Linda discuss the recently released FTC (Federal Trade Commission) guidelines relating to bloggers' endorsements of products, disclosure of financial or product arrangements, and the economics of blogging now and in the future.

Click here for links to the new FTC Guidelines and various reactions around the internet.

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katiedid said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
katiedid said…
Hey gals!
I am so looking forward to this discussion, but something seems to be up with the podcast! I cannot get it to work. Same with all the other podcasts on the site. My speakers are working, I checked. Is it me or are others having the same problem?
Leah said…
Not working for me, either.
I see it, but it won't upload or start???
Linda Merrill said…
Sorry everyone! Not sure what's up but Podbean is not responding. Will try to get it resolved asap!
What it comes down to is protecting readers. It really is no different than the tiny font you see at the top of some magazine pages 'ADVERTISEMENT' which then makes the reader aware that this page which looks like unpaid editorial is actually a paid ad. Having said that people have been getting free stuff since the beginning of time and whenever the government of any country tries to regulate, trouble begins for that industry. Come on! How many bloggers are making a real income? Everything ends up being about money and of course, the government wants a piece of that (to pay for your health care hee hee hee)
Beth Connolly said…
As an attorney and design blogger, I find these ridiculous guidelines beyond stupidity on many levels. They are vague, border on being unconstitutional, obviously unenforceable with 1.5 million posts a day, and a double standard as they do not apply to traditional media who are self-policing-what a joke. You will see that they will go back to the drawing board on these. Joni is correct that the fines are now $16,000. However, this would only happen after you received numerous warnings and a cease and desist from the FTC and ignored them. I need to run now, I'm off to the Post Office to mail back all my free design books. (I wish-I spend a fortune at Amazon with all these wonderful design books coming out constantly) Relax and use common sense. I think it's easy and ethical to just have a sentence in the body of your post saying that you were sent the book or product you are talking about. That has always been the right thing to do, guidelines or not.
Jaime Rogers said…
Hmmm, not sure if you were able to get Podbean back up for sometime, I believe so as i see two posts made after the noted correction however i am unable to get it to load now, it is Saturday afternoon 1:30 eastern standard, really looking forward to this post. Thanks ladies.
Linda Merrill said…
I'm so sorry everyone! Podbean was up, then down, then up again, now down. I've sent them an email asking for help. Hopefully soon!
Jaime Rogers said…
Listening now, thanks!!
Terry said…
I favor ethical design blogging. I want frauds exposed. I appreciate things that folks do that builds trust.

Blogs are already protecting us far better from payola blogging than the government can.

You don't need free merchandise and you don't need a blog to promote honestly, or misrepresent, to lie, or simply to make mistakes in judgment.
Pigtown*Design said…
You all talked about Rhonda posting about the beadboard wall paper and it selling out at Home Despot. I posted about the Turgot Plan de Paris and linked to a place to buy it for $60, with no shipping. I heard that they've sold out of the map now. It may be attributable to my posts... or not!
I have to say...I appreciate the honesty that Linda suggested she uses anyways..."someone sent me this and I liked It blah blah blah"...I think this just makes sense in every way.I see more and more posts that actually make me take pause (like when we see 4-5-6 different bloggers extolling the fabulosity of Southern Living Mag ...hmmm.)

Personally I would love to see a discreeet disclaimer up front...'cause these days I wonder...and must say I blow through, or don't even finish reading a post that feels like endorsement.

Hate using my deflector gear when reading posts.

Just sayin'.
Well, drat, it's not working for me, either. I'll have to come back and try again. It was interesting to read the comments about it here, though.
Well, that gorgeous post Joni did on Belgian design and Restoration Hardware must have had an effect on sales. A piece I want is backordered until 2010!

: )

p.s. I would love to know what y'all think about how affiliate programs fall within these FTC guidelines. Does a link to Amazon through a blog review that may or may not yield a commission to the blogger count?
Anonymous said…
Why does Megan act so lost? Didn't she do her homework?
In my opinion this law is long overdue.
Janet said…
Anon, are you the same who criticized Megan for using "philanthropies" last week? Give her a break!! These women do a great job running their blogs, these podcasts, their families, and probably all the responsibilities they have that actually do pay the bills. Don't like? Don't listen.
72 and sunny said…
Really? I didn't even catch that comment about "philanthropies" not being a word. What an odd little comment.

We felt a need to discuss it, but I think it's going to be ridiculously hard to monitor. I for one have never been given something in order to rcv. a post. but I certainly wouldn't hide it if I had.

The law is a very simple one with some vague guidelines considering how vast the internet is. How about the professional twitterers who are paid to tweet about products? Who's going to be policing that one? What about facebook? It's all a great idea in theory, but good luck enforcing it.
Very interesting discussion. I don't think it will be enforced by FTC blog police, (at least I hope our tax $ won't be spent that way) but I do think there is a possibility of someone, who is jealous of a blogger, or has a grudge against a blogger, reporting an infraction. We've all seen comments from anonymous readers that let us know that person has a grudge. A person with a grudge would love to turn someone in for non-disclosure. I usually FEEL like I know when a person is being paid for an endorsement, but I really would feel better about it if I were told the blogger was getting paid, or that they had been paid to review or try the product. We all know, when we see an ad on t.v. or in a magazine, that the actor/model is being paid to make the ad. I know I am niave, but when I visit a blog for awhile, I feel like I am visiting a friend. What an easy, inexpensive way for advertisers to convince us, without having to pay a big actor a huge sum of money. I'm the perfect "patsy" for this kind of advertising. As usual, I've gone on too long. Sorry. laurie
Anonymous said…
I think you all miss the point,seeing it only from you point of view as bloggers. Put back on your regular person hat. I have come to quite resent and stop reading blogs overrun with advertising and news of trips - while your quick to deny this for the design blogs i say not so- too many parties, product intro and events in too many cities they are in . The point simply is that its slanted. It is important to know. Think of it like this- if you go to your friends house- think she looks great and ask her her skincare your impressed to learn its Avon- but invited to the same house to a classic a
Avon party, There is a difference and thats the point. It is critical to be clear about the boundaries and that it what the intent is. The point of starting a blog was personal . If its not open a magazine,
and all bets are off. If it was personal, then it was about your voice and if you have one and are lucky enough to have found a following - then its you we want -not you pitching product or placing it for benefit . Decide why your in - but dont assume because you see a high number on your counter all are fans or all will stay if they see you sell out . and there is no other way to view it - it is literally selling out. Blogging started and should remain personal.
Anonymous said…
"I want frauds exposed."

A bold stand indeed, Terry. Courageous, even.
cotedetexas said…
Well - I must say I think the comments are more intesting than the podcast - I wasn't that into this because i think the law is so unforceable, it is just silly BUT BUT BUT - I have to agree with alot of you. A blog IS personal. And I DO get so sick of looking at blogs that are all ads, but saying that - it takes so much time to run a decent blog, for free, that I understand why a lot of bloggers want to be paid for their time. But still - it's not a job, it's a hobby. So I see both sides of it. I don't take ads right now and probably never will, but that is just because I treat this is a hobby and not a job. If it was a job, I would probably hate it, instead I do it becuase I want to and I love it, not to put food on the table. I assume some people do see it as a means to put food on the table and that's ok for them too.

About the FTC rules - how can they ever be enforced? how????? all the bloggers in other countries who have large US audiences? It just seems stupid. I do think the reader can tell though when someone is getting paid for a favorable opinion.

AND about the person who said that about Southern Living. I DID write about it becuase I was ASKED to. Sometimes it's just hard to say NO to people. It's like you don't want to hurt people's feelings. But I am getting tired of all the plugging too. I can't wait to just go back to blogging about design and not about new magazine issues. That was the only one I've done in a long time (besides Garden and Gun, but that was becuase I LIKE that magazine). But Southern Living is trying to change and I did want people to know that.

These comments have really made me think. I am thinking I am going to start saying No more. I really am. I am going to try. It's hard though because it's people you know who want a little plug for their business, for free, and you feel badly saying No.

I'm repeating myself!!!!!!
cotedetexas said…
And about RHardware - I did that all on my own! Most of my posts are on my own. They really are. I was asked to write about the Mrs. O book - I probably wouldn't have written about it without being asked. But the RH - they didn't sell out because of me, but you know - that day - was my biggest readership day ever. And someone who works for RH and is a blogger told me RH passed around a memo about that blog - which is probably why the readership was so big. But I did that because I loved the catalogue. OTH - I can't tell you how many stories I have been pitched that I've never written about. I do wish I could do a disclaimer sometimes = "I was asked to write this" - ha! I do think my readers can tell though when it's something I really love and I did it on my own - lots of !!!!!! I love this!!!!!!!!!
Unknown said…
Great topic and lots of passion in the comments. Very interesting!

Anonymous said…
I think you should re package this site with just Megan & Linda & leave joni -the southern drawl out. I can hear in your tones that you agree with me -her comments are purely white noise anyway.

and by the way - Im signed in as annon as I am a listener -not a blogger.
cotedetexas said…
very interesting anon- you are against ads on blogs, and you want me out - yet of the three - I am the only who has NO ads on my site. I don't take ANY ad money at all. Very interesting. So - I guess that means that you DO believe blogs should advertise, since you say I should be kicked off the panel and your objection seems to be the ad money?????? Not quite sure what the logic is here. And yes, I do have a southern drawl. I am from Texas, do you have a problem with that too?
Linda Merrill said…
Those Anons - so fickle! I was called sanctimonious over on Liberty Post's blog a couple of weeks ago. No pleasing 'em. You never know when you'll raise someone's ire.
72 and sunny said…
anon: I hate addressing anyone so timid as to not 'own' their own thoughts or comment. BUT....your opinion is your own. Please don't assume that I feel the same way that you do.

In real life, Joni has no accent. For the sake of the show, we considered asking Joni, to speak with a robot voice, but thought it would be too distracting. So we settled with the Southern drawl.

Ok. not really.

I LOVE the texture and color that Joni and her awesome 'drawl' bring to this show! She has great, strong opinions which, I may not always agree with, but are always thought provoking for me.
Anonymous said…
I am one the anons who posted above - One anon and one post. two of the hosts statements near the end assume its all one person. Its not. I came to add the link below to make my point that is is not as you tried to say all mommie bloggers on the take. While here I noted the finger pointing and accusation that - "the anon" was talking our of both sides of her mouth. I am not- I posted once and remain against the advertising. I buy my magazines blogs are not magazines. I will add the repetition among you all is a huge turn off and you will do yourselves in . You are all citing the same stuff and pulling from the same places. mostly you are all in each others club - on a campus Its why the blandings and aesthete do the best because they share so much personal and have real voices. But im off point - you all tried to put teflon on and point to the mommie bloggers - i told you you were wrong-
maybe you want to book a ticket?

sheesh...lots of opinions around here. Has a post ever gotten as much "flack" as this one, ladies? I for one LOVE and APPRECIATE each and every one of you.

Is there something I am missing?? Do the three of you not give of your time and energy for FREE??? Does not every single person have the right to stop listening/reading?

Your podcasts are actually the one thing I WOULD pay for.

The FTC ruling is crazy, one of those unenforcable laws. Unfortunately, in order to write law for the BIG picture, it needs to apply to every little blog. What's next? Most likely making "gifts" part of taxable income.

love to ALL three of you.
Katie said…
I think you guys should take off the option of "Anonymous" comments. Even if a commenter doesn't have a blog, they can still enter their name. It just seems as if anonymous comments are mostly mean and not necessary. I think most of us don't want to read pettiness and if people have to enter a name they are less likely to be rude.
Anonymous said…
Dear Joni, Meagan and Linda:
This is the most thought provoking post and I shall continue to ponder: and think about this: the fact that Joni and cohorts choose designers to interview gives those designers cache and an added level of respect - and probably business - but if those designers were not at the top of their game in the first place (Charlotte, e.g.) they would not have been chosen - I actually like the fact that Joni says you can get yours seagrass "here" and even suggested a low cost alternative catalog. I see the hours and hours of time and thought that goes into a post on, say, linen covers - I think you folks are entitled to get some money - would I pay? Probably not, I am a starving artist! (well, almost). I loved the piece about Mrs. O - I appreciate Joni's candor - I feel like I day I can't log on to Cote de Texas is a day that is lacking! Aritsts have blog and lots of them sell their work on ebay, etsy, daily painters blog, etc - or like my mentor, they have an actual website - but in her case you actually have to write to her separately to buy a painting. On the other hand I love reading simply seleta with her fairtale blog, her beautiful self, her lovely children - something so idyllic -
So keep up the good work on your blogs ladies - I truly appreciate all of you and the SKR!!!

Suzanne on St. Simons
Lauren said…
I'm late on the commenting- had listened a while back- but see that the comments have been fierce...

I do agree with Joni that it's often hard to say 'no.' I just had a long discussion with another blogger yesterday about the very same thing. What people who read our blogs might not know is that we're bombarded with requests to talk about things ppl are selling & when we (rarely for me personally) actually DO decide to write a post on it, it's because we have an opinion about it. An HONEST opinion. We haven't thrown morals out the window because we were asked to review a product or magazine... I think if it's something we're honest about that no one should have any issues. It seems to me we should be policing ourselves. I would be embarrassed to endorse products I don't like on my blog, but on the other hand I see nothing wrong with endorsing products I love.

I was asked to review Southern Living too & did a post on an article I particularly loved. Since reading these comments I went back and made a notation at the very beginning that I was asked to review the mag but it didn't change my review in the least & I would hope that my readers can trust that I wrote honestly.

I just recently got approached by a company, Open Sky, about selling products online. You don't sell their products, you sell products you personally love & use. I wrote a post about it today & was on the fence but now think I will go for it & hope ppl don't view it as selling out. I see it as providing a spot where people who trust me can go & shop knowing that I love/ trust all of the products. (many of the products to be sold are products I get ewmails about from readers on where to find.) I'm not sure how it will go, but I think it's a nice idea so we'll see...