The FTC has been a hot topic amongst bloggers for…well…at least 6 months or more. We called for regulation, we loudly ousted each other for false practices, we made big mainstream media news, we touted ethics, integrity, and pointed lots of fingers.
And the government answered.
Bloggers, and specifically review bloggers, are such a unique existence. We are single individuals that somehow defined a space and a role of self importance within the online world and the public relations atmosphere. We spend a lot of a time trying to develop relationships with corporations and mom owned businesses alike. We want our word to be solid and our text unquestioned. But at the same time, mom bloggers consistently turn social media on its head by the controversial discussion of hoards of brands out there and our influence in marketing them.
What’s interesting to me about the FTC entering the good old blogosphere is that regulating a group of individuals that run their websites as single entities and not a controlled corporation seems like an impossible feat.
I mean, has the FTC even visited twitter yet?
Currently MomDot.com is a site owned and run by myself. I have lots of mom bloggers that make it possible to be known as a community site and they volunteer their expertise for free, for which that I am grateful. But will there be a time where my site will have to register as a business in order to even consider accepting products? Will I have to make contributing authors of their own content, which currently is open to anyone, sign releases that they disclose or be held responsible for their words? My guess is yes. I will be keenly watching the online community sites and how they react in the content they publish as the rules become more defined.
But where does it end? What if I receive a product via a baby shower or birthday party…technically its free. What if I love it and tell a neighbor or a co-worker? Am I liable for that statement? Do I have to disclose that I have no monetary value invested into that item first? Do I have to pre-empt all my sentences with “your experience may differ from mine” before I pass word of mouth recommendation?
While that may sound silly, the questions really exist. As mom bloggers, with affiliations to advertisers and PR, do our relationships stop at our written word or do they go with us throughout our daily lives?
The line is so blurry that its barely existent.
In a lot of ways I feel the new FTC rules can only assist us as ‘mom bloggers’. It can dispel company concerns that bloggers may be flying under the radar in an attempt to dissuade their visitors for “free stuff”. It can reinforce to the consumer that we say what we mean and mean what we say and it can, hopefully, put to rest the disturbing arguments daily amongst women that live in this space.
What is still needed is additional bullet points that lead us on the path regarding exactly how the FTC wants these new rules to be enforced. Right now the scare tactic of a fine may jump start bloggers that haven’t thought of or don’t currently use disclosure policies, but most bloggers are echoing that they want to do it right; they always have.
As a blogger that visits and spends an exorbitant amount of time invested into blogs on a daily basis, I have been witness to the over concern of impeding regulations and most have long been preparing to make sure that they are indeed doing everything within their power to remain transparent. I have seen blanket disclosure policies, media statements, post to post disclosures and graphics that clearly state if an item was provided for the review. (hint to cupcake reviewers: Please disclose cupcakes make you fat when eaten in large quantities.)
My only real complaint is that I am wondering if these type of regulations exist for all forms of media. I can honestly say I have done no research and do not know if newspapers, magazines, news channels, and even networks follow disclosure rules and how closely the lines parallel. But what is good for one group, should most definitely be good for the other.
And while I don’t believe these regulations truly have as much to do about the reviews that bloggers receive as much as it does about false content sites intended only to profit via affiliate links, its had a trickle affect down the entire chain.
I say we embrace it.
Love it for what it is.
Use it to affirm who we are, clarify what we do. We are a force, a strength, something that cannot be stopped, and we should be proud that from nothing, bloggers have created a true new medium where non existed before. Wear the badge not as a hindrance, but as a validation.
We are recognized.
Now buy an ad.