Pancakes, A Free Trip To Finland And The FTC

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, October 16, 2009 at 06:08 AM with 2 comments

photo of tram cars in Helsinki, FinlandThe FTC has released new guidelines related to endorsements and testimonials in advertising. What is new and alarming to some in these guidelines is the inclusion of blogging and bloggers. In summary, if a blogger gets something for free or is asked to write about something and does so, they must disclose this in their blog post or face monetary fines.

I say in summary as I have read the 81-page guidelines published by the FTC and I am still digesting it. I am not a lawyer, but fortunately the language in this government edict is relatively straightforward. I am working on a full post and opinion on this, which I hope to complete for next week.

In the meantime, people are obviously talking about this, some citing examples of situations which will require them to state disclaimers about their relationship with whom they are writing about. One such example is from billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, who wrote in his blog about having his breakfast comped at IHOP. Where his writing style is tongue-in-cheek, according to the new FTC guidelines he would have to mention he received something for free when he talks about them.

The cost of breakfast at IHOP is under $10 - what about for something of more value, say a trip across the globe to Finland? That happened to me and about 3 dozen others when we attended Nokia OpenLab last September. As part of the trip I got a free round-trip coach ticket, 3 nights in a boutique hotel in Helsinki, meals, entertainment and a loaner Nokia E71 device. I would guestimate the value of all of that was over US$1,000. Does this mean every time I mention anything about Nokia – the company and or its products – I have to disclose this trip, as it could be considered influential to anything I say positive about them? Unfortunately there is nothing I found in the FTC guidelines to specifically address this.

For the bloggers out there, have you looked into these guidelines? What is your take on how it will impact how and what you write? Have you consulted an attorney about this? Will this change the face of blogging forever?

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