In what I think is long overdue news, the FTC today announced that bloggers must disclose if they are being paid to review or post a product on their website, as well as post a “clear and conspicuous” disclosure if such a post is being made under paid pretenses. The penalties include fines up to $11,000 per violation. The new ruling, available directly on the FTC’s site, also mandates that “celebrities have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.”
Have you ever noticed how when a new product comes out, a lot of websites have the identical text when reviewing the product? I’m not talking about a few sentences here and there. I’m talking about the same verb use, the exact same sentences, and the exact same 4 1/2 and 5 star reviews. That’s payola at work for you. There’s even a very popular website that apparently fired it’s reviewer for actually posting an honest review when the game company had paid for advertising on that site.
What’s also interesting is the specific mention in the article that “word of mouth” advertising also applies. This regulation makes it mandatory that even if it’s activity beyond websites, if it’s paid for, it needs to have that notation clearly attached. The RNC and DNC should watch out for this little tripwire from the FTC. I can see them stepping on this in some of their “campaigns”, too.
I think what will probably come of this for the web will be a puny little “advertisement” banner on the top of a paid post, much like what is in magazines and TV ads nowadays. But it’s definitely a step in the right direction.