Yes, the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on undisclosed cash or freebies given to bloggers. Funny, we have rules covering such behavior at BW. (We’re not allowed to accept the stuff.) But it’s the magazine, and not the government, calling the shots. (And in plenty of mags, as Spires notes ex ScratchPad, freebies are part of the game. Wouldn’t it be wild, I’m thinking, if mainstream bloggers had to disclose freebies in their blogs, but not in the pages of their magazines and papers?)
I’m all for disclosure, but why should government busy itself with it? Seems to me that lots of bloggers already go to great lengths to make disclosures. In time, won’t the public start doubting those who don’t—and won’t their reputations fall? Am I naive to think that peer pressure would work?
Of course, The FTC guidelines will only affect a fraction of bloggers—the ones who actually have relations with companies and get paid. They’re the ones who most resemble mainstream media. For the vast majority of bloggers, the key currency in this economy is not money, but links. People sell influence by linking, and often getting paid in kind. It’s in link love, far more than free goodies, that mutual backscratching is endemic.