FTC and Bloggers Full Disclosure

I click to read an article in the NY Times about the FTC’s new guidelines for bloggers and recognize the shirt the blogger in the picture is wearing “I have the same one” and look down the text in the photo and realize “oh, it is me in the photo”. I received a few interview requests yesterday about the FTC and full disclosure and spoke about it with my friends. On the same day I spent a few hours on conference calls with companies that send me a check for a work done. However, the occasions that someone sends me a check to write something in my blog are very very rare. I don’t get paid to write my own blog. This is my site and I am my own boss. I get paid when I write for someone else, or when I give my opinions or time for someone; which is called consulting. I love what I do, which at some days like yesterday is speaking on phone all day and writing about children’s clothing that I like, and interacting with people who share the same passion in life as I do. I feel it’s sort of funny that people come to me and ask about paid posts and my integrity, I have written close to 1000 blog posts, published 875 in this blog, and I have done around 10 paid posts at Skimbaco Lifestyle. That’s less than 1% of my posts that I have been paid to do. Because I chose to write about them – like the Red Chair Confessions; how funny was the video? And shopping at Talbot’s – yes, I got paid to write about Talbot’s and to shop there with my friend, seems like a dream job to me. Part of me wishes I would get more opportunities like that – write about things that I like and get paid for it! Part of me thinks I should never write a sponsored post anymore. Which takes me to FTC. I have a disclosure policy, and I mention in my posts if I have gotten a product for free from the company directly or from one of their agents, like a PR agency. I am still wondering one thing. Most of the products that I find, love or recommend, I have not received a sample. I drove a Volvo and drank Starbucks coffee way before I even knew what blog was, I have been wearing Ralph Lauren clothing as long as I can remember and have been buying Hanes underwear for my family years before they ever contacted me to be part of their social media efforts. I don’t understand that why anyone would think that if I have been in contact a company I might write differently about their product than if I had never been in contact with them? An example. I wrote about SeaWorld in San Antonio last summer. I visited there with my family, and we paid tickets to get in. We drove from Colorado to Texas, and paid our gas, food and lodging. I wrote that our family loved SeaWorld. Earlier this year I was contacted to write one paid post about SeaWorld dolphins and I was paid a trip to SeaWorld in Orlando in May. I was not asked to blog about it, but I did (and was not paid to write about it, but if I did, I was asked to fully disclose that I got a free trip). I truly like SeaWorld, and would recommend it to families. It makes me sad to think that my opinion last summer would be more valuable than the opinion this spring. While I think it’s great to have rules, it will seed out the bad apples, too much is too much. I’m wondering should I save every receipt of every product I buy to prove later on I bought it (if I mention it in my blog). I’m wondering should I write a list of free gifts and stuff I get and publish it – but what if some of the stuff sucks, and then someone thinks I’m endorsing it because it is in my list? Maybe there should be a system, like banners to alert the readers every time when any product is mentioned? Also, since the new FTC Guides affect celebrities, I suggest celebrities start wearing a button on each piece of clothing they wear out in public, and pretty much on anything they own. In fact, all this talk about money makes me think, maybe I should stop living my life to the fullest and blogging about stuff… maybe I will just start a business making different buttons for celebrities and start making some real money. When the FTC rules take effect in December, I want to be prepared and be the first celebrity disclosure button maker out there, maybe I’ll even get Tom Cruise and Oprah to endorse my buttons. Oh dammit, how they gonna endorse a disclosure button without a disclosure button? This FTC thing is making my head spin, and yes, I read the whole 81 pages and yes I plan on continuing doing every thing as I have been doing.
  1. Hi!
    I saw the picture in NYTimes and just loved the look of the cafe. What´s the name of the cafe and do you have the adress ?
    I´m going to New York this spring (probably by ship cuz I have this fear of flying…).

    Have a beautiful day !

    Greetings from Norway!

  2. I don’t know how many times I sat and wondered about my disclosure policy. Is it good enough? Is it a turn off? Is it missing something? Is it telling too much? Should I put a disclosure in every sponsored post? The over doing of disclosure is a turn off. I’ve always wanted to make money blogging and I haven’t changed just so that I could do so. It’s a business that I have been passionate about for years. I’m putting on my thick skin. I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing.

  3. I love the “oops” one best!

    I’m all for disclosure but I’d like to think that my readers are smart enough to discern whether I paid for something or got it for free when I write “I bought…” or “I received…” It seems redundant to put a disclaimer on each and every post.

  4. Great post. I felt the same way this month after I reviewed a food product. I reviewed their line on my own and they loved my review/video so much that they sent me a bunch more so I reviewed the new stuff. Somehow I felt dirty for writing that second post. ;)

    As far as trips go… weeeeellll… I have yet to see a blogger write a critical review of a sponsored trip. We are led to believe that they always turn out wonderful and the bloggers always LOVE the product/company OR we may be led to believe that maybe they are only writing good stuff so that they will get more trips and opportunities like that. The opportunities would dry up if one became known as the blogger who was brutally honest. That’s just reality. It also depends on the company. I know that one will not have to search long and hard to find lots of good stuff to say about Sea World or a Disney Cruise. Other companies like Wal-Mart or Nestle.. hmmm.. yeah the adoration is MUCH harder to take seriously. There are a lot of variables one should consider before letting their name be associated with a company or product.

  5. Such an awesome post, I had to retweet it. I’ve had at least 5 phones and about 10 e-mails in the past day about this. These calls and e-mails are from the non-blogger people in my life.

    I just want to roll my eyes over all the drama. I had to create a second blog about this. But I’m frustrated because I like to post about cool things on my blog. I find something cool on etsy, I want to share. I go to Anthropologie and find a beautiful dress, I want to show it up.

    I feel like I need to write something now, “I’m a consumer, this post was paid for by my credit card and a lack of a budget in these frugal times.”

  6. pure awesomeness. I especially love the last one: ” I love this, and was paid to say and wear it. My life is perfect”

    You bring up some good points about mentioning products you were not paid mention. It seems like it’s going to now be this delicate tightrope walk of not breaking FTC guidlines and still maintaining authenticity with your audience. (At least it will be for me).

  7. This is perfect! In addition to color customization, maybe offer different patterns- damask, houndstooth, stripes. A celeb needs options!

  8. Oh Katja… :-)

    Be sure to offer color customization depending on designer outfit. And maybe also “Please don’t Google my international endorsements” (apparently some celebs will endorse wacky stuff in other countries for large sums of $$, assuming it won’t get seen in the US). -Christine

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