Sunday, October 11, 2009

Link Round-up: The FTC and their new guidelines

OK, the other shoe dropped, and the FTC released their actual new guidelines covering advertisers, bloggers and celebrity endorsers.

I've actually read most of them, and scanned them multiple times looking for specific references (for example to fines, penalties, enforcement, etc.)

I suggest you either read them yourself, or stick to commentary from people who have read them or interviewed FTC folks about them because I'm frankly shocked at the misinformation that started floating around about these guidelines right from the moment they were released. First from (usually) reputable sources and then from bloggers and tweeters going to town with the misinformation.

Bottom line: If you think this affects you? Then read them yourself. Why rely on anyone else's assessment?

It was actually hard for me to find mainstream resources that didn't repeat misinformation, particularly the whole "$11,000 fine" meme, which turned out to be false. OK, with that said, here are some good resources.

On BlogHer

  • Who would I be if I didn't start with Melanie Nelson's great and thorough post on BlogHer: The New FTC Guidelines and What They Mean to You and if I didn't remind you to review how BlogHer has approached publishing editorial and sponsored content since 2006 in Lisa's founder post: The elephant in the room: How BlogHer is cracking the code on editorial content and paid advertising?

  • Elsewhere

    While some mainstream media sources seem to want to fan the flames of the "wild, wild west" view of the blogosphere, a couple of others have done exactly what journalistic sources are supposed to do: Report. And fact check. So check out:

  • Fast Company was the first to talk to the FTC and debunk some of the rumors about fines and enforcement, having them answer questions coming from concerned bloggers themselves.

  • Media Bistro's PR Newser blog checked in with the FTC to get even more clarification around the existence (or not) of penalties, fines and enforcement paths. Including drawing a very important distinction between guidelines and laws.

  • MediaPost publishes a helpful look at why the FTC thinks reviewers at "traditional media outlets" don't need to follow these same guidelines. Agree or disagree, it's a clear explanation of the position.

  • If you want a great bloggy analysis from someone who isn't freaking out about the guidelines, then check out:

  • Susan Getgood is always a good place to start, as this is a blogger who knows how to write substantive opinion pieces based on clearly cited data resources. Always disciplined. Her analysis, part one, is a general overview of the guidelines. Keep your eyes open for part two, as I'm sure it will be equally as useful.

  • Of course it wouldn't be fair not to point you to:

    Those who think this signals the End of Days

    From sources both mainstream and bloggy, some folks are telling you how they really feel, and it starts with the headlines:

  • Slate publishes a piece entitled "The FTC's Mad Power Grab"

  • Less hysterical and more grounded in real problems, MediaPost published "Legal Expert Questions FTC's New Blogger Rules".

  • And I must point out that two stalwarts from traditional media, turned blogging superstars, are virulently opposed. Those two being Jeff Jarvis and Dan Gillmor. The word "dangerous" gets thrown around a lot.

    Now, where all of the above (and I) are in total agreement is that the proof will be in the pudding of enforcement. If these guidelines are applied fairly, consistently and without scapegoating bloggers (as opposed to more mainstream publishers or celebrities who are receiving just as much, if not way more, value from relationships with brands) then who can argue that disclosure and transparency aren't good things? People would do well to avoid some of the crazier hypotheticals I've seen tossed around and focus on letting the government know that we will indeed be keeping a watchful eye on fair follow-through.

    Any law can be abused. There is no doubt about it. Were these guidelines written too broadly and thus at greater risk for such abuse? Perhaps so, but then I wish the debates could focus on that without all the hyperbole and smelling salts and ridiculous restaurant eavesdropping metaphors. Otherwise it seems like a case of the blogger "doth protest too much".

    Hope this is helpful.

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