The FTC recently issued guidelines for payola to bloggers.  The impact and opinions are now emerging over what this means for social media. As with any game played on a new field, rules need to apply.  The questions emerge regarding who the rules hurt, who they help, and how the game will develop in the future due to those rules.

Straight from the horse’s mouth:

The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers.

Extrapolate into the future:

As we introduce ideas related to the Deep Web and the prospect of search engines reading a database of databases, it is increasingly clear that people will process vast stores of data into ‘useful’ information simply because that is the only thing people are willing to pay for. As such, a host of new economic incentives will be in play.  It is not uncommon to cite data used in academic papers nor is it unknown to challenge data used as a basis of a conclusion.  We also note that social media often picks up where government and corporations leave off, fail, or proves inadequate at servicing the social charter.

Where is the line in the sand?

For this reason, we watch what other people say about emerging trends that amount to the vetting of data for any of an astonishing array of potential abuses as well as an once-in-a-species evolution opportunity to build social media correctly.  In present time, the FTC holds the crown of vetter-in-chief driven by “social priorities”. Others feel it is a constraint on freedom of expression decidedly not driven by “social priorities”.

Here we’ll publish a short article by Strategis Advisers and hereby disclose that we do not hold a material relationship with Strategis Advisors except that they let us re-post their splendid analysis on our blog without sending nasty cease and desist letters accusing us of gross violation of copyright laws and demanding payment for release of said rights, etc….

Keep an eye on this stuff, we do.

By Strategis:

The Federal Trade Commission has implemented new guidelines that require full disclosure from bloggers in regard to any product they review that was received for free. These guidelines are a web 2.0 enhancement of their 30 year old rules for the use of testimonials in advertising. The guidelines address an issue some folks have with the credibility of bloggers versus news and paid content.

Any company that is doling out the free product will be responsible for directing the blogger to follow the new guidelines.

The blogging community is outraged as the new guide applies to bloggers and reviewers and not news publications and magazines. The bloggers feel as though this is just one more attack on citizen journalism.

Most affected? Probably the Mommy Blogger (by the way, have you seen our whitepaper on the Social Media Mommy?)

Want to read more? check out Joan Anderman’s article on