Kidlitcon ’09 – FTC and Bloggers

Yesterday was the Kidlitosphere Conference of 2009, here in DC.  It was a long day, but I’m so glad I got to attend.  I came away with a lot to think about, and will be writing about different things in the coming week.  One of the highlights was a representative from the FTC who came to discuss the new guidelines for bloggers.  I’m going to tackle that first.

Pam, of Mother Reader, planned the excellent conference, and she invited Mary Engle, Associate Director for Advertising Practices at the FTC, to come speak to us.  Ms. Engle explained that there is a difference between an independent product reviewer and someone who is linked to a company to help market.  An example of this would be someone who is paid per post or Tweet, and receives compensation for their marketing.  While the FTC uses the word “compensation,” they define it differently than the IRS does (so just because the FTC considers something compensation doesn’t mean the IRS will be wanting to tax it).  For example, if the XYZ company had a new cleaning product, and you helped promote it by talking about it on your blog/Facebook/Twitter/etc, and received “XYZ bucks” to use for future purchases every time you mention the product, it would need to be disclosed by you.  If the FTC discovered that you were not disclosing this info, they would go after XYZ company, not you.  The information about bloggers being fined was incorrect, and she also stressed that these are guidelines (not rules) put in place to protect consumers.

In short, independent book review bloggers are not the same as pay-per-post bloggers and do not need to disclose where they receive the books.  Now, disclosing this info may not be required, but it seems to make good sense ethically.  In the past, when writing reviews, I have tried to state that I was reviewing an ARC I received, but I don’t think I’ve gone out of my way to mention if I purchased the book or checked it out from the library.  I intend to do this going forward because it just seems like good common sense.

Others have written more in-depth posts on this, so if you want more info, I’d recommend Liz’s post at Tea Cozy and this one at Galleysmith. Edited to add Writer Jenn’s post, too.

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