I know a lot of you are concerned with the FTC and how it relates to your blog. There was a discussion about the FTC’s new Disclosures Guide which was published in March of 2013 by the FTC , twitter, where a few bloggers expressed their concern about what they thought to be law changes. Based on the BEA Blogger discussion FTC and Ethics that I attended and my  own research this is what I cam up with:

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 8.46.41 AMIn March of 2013 the FTC updated it’s .com Disclosure Guide because they  stated “new issues have arisen concerning space- constrained screens and social media platforms.” Since this guide was first released in 2000, I would say an update was needed. To place this challenge within an analogy based in our world – you have a sidebar disclaimer or footer disclaimer on your blog stating that you sometimes receive books for review, if a user is viewing your site on a mobile platform, how will they see it? And how will they know to apply that disclaimer to the post they are currently reading? The FTC wants you to know that this is unacceptable now.

From what I can tell, these are not laws. There was no law change. This .com Disclosure is a GUIDE. The Consumer protection laws that have been around for some time (Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914) are still the same. The FTC is just the judge and jury when it comes to deciding if the consumer is being protected. The document in question is just an updated how-to on posting disclaimers. They describe the documents as “FTC staff guidance concerning the making of clear and conspicuous online disclosures.”  Read the document that I linked to above, it is written very well and expands on where and how your disclaimers should be placed. The point of the document is that they should be visible and as close to the “claim” as possible.

The document gives guidance like: Disclosures should not be placed within “Terms of Use” pages, or Policy pages. They should be prominently displayed so consumers can see them.

It gets very specific. But it all breaks down to: If you have a material connection with the product you have to disclaim it. Your disclaimer also has to be clear and it has to be seen in close relation to the promotional content. It is also only needed for promotional copy, what would be considered an advertisement. So, if it is a glowing review, make sure you disclaim how you got the book. A negative review, not so much. Somewhere in between? I would post a disclaimer just in case.

What you need to know:

  • The FTC is not a police force, they don’t check your blog for violations.
  • The FTC fields complaints by consumers. If your blog is being regularly reported for “false advertising” you will have to deal with the FTC.
  • When tweeting out an advertisement, you must disclose. So celebs that get paid to tweet, need to place “ad” in front of their tweet. When you are tweeting out your blog post, it is not necessary.
  • When dealing with a company that is “sponsoring” your blog post or function, it is more likely that the brand/company will be held liable and reported then the blog in question. That is why large companies that sponsor giveaways are now stating that you must disclaim in their email correspondences with you.
  • While it is very unlikely that our small blogs will be reported to the BBB for running our “companies” incorrectly and thus coming under-fire by the FTC, it can happen. So, best practice is to just disclose your connection with the product. And disclose it clearly within the post – at the top in a font large enough to be read on a mobile device. If you received the book for free, just state it before your review. This way you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Blogger Beware & Best Practice:

Paid Advertising:
The Scene: Reviewing a book by an author that has adverting on your blog. (Disclosure should state that this author is an advertiser)
Best Practice: I make it a point not to review books of my design/tour/advertising clients. This way I am not tempted to write a glowing review so I do not anger them.

The Scene: The publisher/company sent you an Amazon gift-card to get you to tweet out that their book is amazing. (Said in not so obvious words)
Best Practice: You have received material compensation, you should  disclose that it is a sponsored tweet. It does not have to be a hashtag like #spon, it should just convey that it is an ad. Now if the tweets are just general information like release dates, or links to your reviews. They do not have to put that it is an advertisement.
Tweet Advertising
The tweet to the right is just a random tweet that I saw by checking out a popular blogger hashtag #BBloggers I have no idea if they are paid by Bare Minerals or if they just love the product so much they are “promoing” the product. But, can you see how it can be confused? I used make-up to take it out of our niche, but substitute an author’s name for @bareMinerals_UK and Debut Novel for lip collection and haven’t you seen a few of them?? If a blogger suddenly decided to take money to tweet for the publisher, how would we know? The FTC wants you to disclose these so consumers are not confused and misled. If it were found out that a publisher is paying a blogger to tweet – and those bloggers are not disclosing, their will be legal repercussions.

Affiliate Links:
The Scene: You place Amazon Affiliate links in all your reviews, you purchase all the books you review.
Best Practice: You are receiving monetary compensation from readers clicking those links. Readers clicking those links will be taken off site to a purchase site. You must disclose that clicking certain links will take you to a “purchase” site and clicking those links will result in compensation.

In summation, these laws are in effect to protect the consumer, but the policing of these laws lies soles within the consumers ring. One complaint by an irate reader will not have you scrambling to hire a lawyer, but a few complaints probably will and it will not be cheap. And this is just to determine if you are culpable or not. It has nothing to do with FTC fines, or laws. You’ll have to prove your innocence and that will cost money. The best thing to do is to disclose, disclose, disclose. When in doubt, just let your readers know.

Parajunkee, Urban Fantasy, Blogger Tips

Book Blogger News

Morganville Web Series:
Rachel Caine has launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring Morganville to Internet awesome. Within a day they’ve already reached close to 15K. Obviously fans want to see this one take off. They are no where near their 75K goal, but it could very possibly happen. {Source}

MySpace Back?
MySpace has relaunched and rebranded itself, going for the “audio” crowd as it’s niche. They launced “My Radio–a music streaming platform” and users can build their own radio stations. The site is focusing on letting users be the DJ and have gotten a few big name signers to set up their own radio stations. This is has been listed by GalleyCat though as a good way for authors to set up radio-stations, maybe a playlist for their series? {source}

iBooks to the Mac
Apple has followed in Amazon’s footsteps and expects to launch an App for the Mac with it’s release of iOS 7 which will allow users to read cross mobile device and computers, highlight, make notes etc. Apple has routinely been behind Amazon on any publisher based products and their prices still continue to be higher then Amazon and B&N on some books, leading readers that I have polled as consistently blowing off iBooks as a reasonable market-place. But, I do enjoy using the app more then Kindle or Nook software, so there is that. Apple hasn’t run the market like they did with iTunes, so they have a bit of catching up to do…but they will also have to do something they are not used to – offer competitive pricing – if they want to stay ahead of this game. With Apple prices general on the high side, I don’t know if they’ll be able to take one for the team on this.

Parajunkee, Urban Fantasy, Blogger Tips

Question of the week:

How do the new FTC guidelines impact book bloggers? – Carmel

This question inspired the above post, I hope I answered it to the best of my ability. I’m not an FTC expert or a lawyer…so this does not constitute any kind of legal advice.

Happy Thursday. Talk Less. Read More. Blog with Integrity.

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