How Much Disclosure Do Bloggers Need to Give?

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(photo from Neubie)

“Know that I am benefiting financially or otherwise from everything you click on, read, or look at while on my website.

You should assume I have motivation for linking to everything on this page and will benefit from it somehow.”

This blunt and humorous excerpt is part of the Disclaimer you will find on Shoemoney’s blog. Although Shoemoney takes a lighthearted approach to blogging disclosure (while being completely honest at the same time), this issue has garnered a lot of media attention over the course of this week.

The first time that I noticed the issue of blogging disclosure was in a NY Times article, “Approval by a Blogger May Please a Sponsor.” This article discussed different bloggers who are given products by marketing companies to review on their blogs (as well as other relationships, such as an aunt blogger who is being paid by TNT to send out Tweets for the show “Saving Grace”). In addition to profiling different bloggers, the article also discusses how the FTC is planning to impose stricter regulations on disclosure (including a link to a PDF of the FTC’s draft of its new rules):

“And the Federal Trade Commission is taking a hard look at such practices and may soon require online media to comply with disclosure rules under its truth-in-advertising guidelines.”

The next article I came across this week related to blogging disclosure was from CNET, “Do mommy bloggers need to grow up?.” This article begins by talking about a PR and marketing backlash from Mommy bloggers:

“MomDot is challenging bloggers to participate for one week in August in a ‘PR Blackout’ challenge where you do not blog any giveaways, any reviews, and zero press releases.”

While this article discusses the recent news about the FTC getting involved in blogging disclosure, it doesn’t necessarily agree with this major backlash: “But the reality is that many of these bloggers have turned anecdotes about parenting into a full-fledged business, and working with PR is part of the game. The likes of MomDot should be encouraging quality content, media savviness, and best practices, rather than a “PR blackout” that misses the point.”

The last article I came across shows that there can be serious consequences to false statements that are written online. On Tuesday, the New York Attorney General announced a $300,000 settlement with a company for the false statements and reviews it published online. The company involved in this settlement is Lifestyle Lift Inc., which offers a special type of facelift: “Widely advertised through television infomercials as a relatively quick and inexpensive form of face lift, the Lifestyle Lift has been performed on more than 100,000 people since 2001, according to the company. It’s affiliated with a network of doctors in New York and 21 other states.” In addition to policing its online reputation by suing a consumer-oriented website, the company went to great lengths to create false positive reviews of itself online:

“”I need you to devote the day to doing more postings on the Web as a satisfied client,” employees were told in one internal e-mail, according to the attorney general’s office.”

“One such site featured a detailed “journal,” stretching from a first consultation to two months after the procedure, and included photos and an exhortation to “GO FOR IT.” Another supposed first-person account came complete with the names of the writer’s children.”

While the matter of disclosure among a group such as Mommy bloggers talking about a new stroller or toy may seem fairly trivial, when it comes to something like employees writing reviews that aren’t even true about a medical procedure, it is easy to see why many people suddenly feel the need to take a much stronger stance on this issue.

So, how do you feel about the issue of blogging disclosure? Do bloggers really need to disclose every single time they have a financial motivation for writing a post? Or do you feel that a blunt but honest blanket disclosure such as Shoemoney’s should be enough?

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