Consider the Source: FTC Updates Timeless Advice
I have always been leery of reviews.
Books, movies, companies, merchandise, what ever the product or service, I seldom trust testimonials, endorsements, or personal statements unless I respect the source.
A quick search of most products or services will pull up the product, its competition, client testimonials and customer reviews.
It should be universally understood that information provided by the manufacturer and/or provider and its competition is biased.
Word-of-mouth is just as powerful today as it was yesterday.
Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and the thousands of services in between, rely on the premise of networks and the sharing of information. The power of telling a friend, who tells a friend, who tells another friend, has gone exponential.
With all of this information exchanging, sharing, updating, blogging and twittering about, the FTC reminds us that nothing has really changed. When making decisions based on someone’s experience, recommendation, or testimonial, you have to consider the source. The recent Link1 ruling takes it one step further--effective December 1, depending on the source, the information provider, exchanger, sharer, updater, tweeter, or in this case, blogger has to disclose it.
The ruling encourages bloggers to reveal relationships which may influence their reviews, testimonials, essays, etc… of products or services. Influence can take the form of money, product, trade.
The language is highly subjective to interpretation.
Bloggers are encouraged to act responsibly by disclosing this information. If they refuse, a letter may or may not go out, action may or may not follow. The ruling is vague in its language but broad in potential.
Sadly, it’s also necessary.
The often blurry lines between marketing, promotions, and testimonials are not any more or less murky than they were a decade ago, but the opportunities to mislead consumers and their networks are.
I like to believe that people are more savvy and less likely to believe everything they read. I like to believe that people recognize an ad when they see it. But then again, I also like to believe that writers willing disclose relationships that may influence their pieces.
The FTC reminds me that this is not always the case.
As a blogger, I hold myself responsible for everything I write. As a reader of blogs, I hold myself responsible for everything I believe.
Originally Posted: October 19, 2009