Thursday, December 10, 2009

Beer bloggers, disclosure and the FTC

Blogger FreebiesBy now, many of you have heard that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently came out with a "short" 81-page document outlining their latest Web guidelines for those who endorse products. What bloggers woke up to was the fact that now, as of December 1, 2009, they are expected to fully disclose their relationship with the companies that provide them either with paid endorsements or freebie gifts.

The FTC is afraid that we bloggers aren't very upfront about our honesty about the products that we write about and endorse. They fear that we bloggers are misleading and are taking bribes from companies, PR reps and affiliate programs and pimping stuff that we really don't believe in. (Rant switch turned on)

We beer bloggers now have to react and fully disclose every little detail about the beers, beer books, beer gadgets and beer related products and events that we review or endorse.

Just the facts ma'am

Sure, I've gotten free stuff. I've received free samples of beer from various breweries, free beer gloves, free hangover remedies, complimentary tickets to events, free brewery maps and other assorted items. I also receive the occasional commission from various affiliate programs I participate in (Amazon, BYO Magazine, various homebrew shops, etc). I have yet to be paid for a product review or endorsement however.

I don't make much from affiliate programs or Google ads, and I have to rely on my regular full time day job to support myself and my family. Blogging barely pays for the beer I drink.

Do they think we're all stupid?

The FTC wants us (the blogging community) to let you (the blog readers) know each and every time we get something given to us and write about it. They want us to let you know what our true relationships are with the people who give us stuff. They don't trust us bloggers. They fear the general public can't make up their own minds about products.

I'll say right up front that the reviews I write here on Fermentedly Challenged are my own opinion and not a coerced script that I am expected to follow. I give out a lot of FREE publicity for brewers, book writers and beer gadgets without getting a cent in return. It's not because I'm getting paid for it, I'm not, it's because I have an opinion about it and I want to share it. I also firmly believe in supporting my local breweries because without them we wouldn't have good beer to write about.

Not all freebies are good

I've received some products in the past that I wasn't thrilled about. I don't always write about them. But when I do, I wrote about my honest opinion about their product. Some products I've flat out refused to write about because I didn't believe in it. Some products I didn't enjoy and wasn't very enthusiastic about. In many cases I really did enjoy the product and wrote a glowing review. But do I really need to convince my readers by disclosing every little detail of my dealings with businesses? Well, if the Feds insist.

So for all you "suits" at the FTC, I'll comply with your wishes and let people know up front when I write about some free stuff I get, but please don't insult the consumer nation out there by assuming they are all idiots. They aren't. They have a brain to think for themselves. Readers are smarter than you think.

I've always said, "Don't take my word for it - try it for yourselves". I firmly believe that everyone has a right to their own opinion and what they believe is the right thing for them. Just because I like a particular beer doesn't mean the next person will. Just look at BeerAdvocate and RateBeer. There are a billion opinions out there!

Got a Blog Disclosure Policy?

There's a good article that came out from Kelly Diels, a guest poster on the blog that talks about the new regulations and what every good blogger should consider. He advocates that every blogger should have a Blog Disclosure Policy for their blog. I tend to agree with Darren. The people need to know, but they don't always want to know. Disclosure helps build trust with your readers. I'm all for that.

Bloggers/Readers - what do you think?

For all you other bloggers out there, what have you done about the new FTC policies? Do you have a Blog Disclosure Policy? Are you being more up front about the free stuff or paid endorsements you do?

Readers - do you often doubt the bloggers intentions or honesty when they write about products? Think these new rules are a good idea?

I'm wondering if this whole thing is all a bunch of worry for nothing. What do you think?

And oh by the way, I didn't get paid to write this post either. But if you want to, drop me a line and send a few bucks my way and I'll be sure to let everyone know. Honest! (Rant switch OFF)

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- Attitudes towards beer start early.
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- Love beer? Fight to protect it!

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