FTC Guidelines Mandating Transparency Begin Dec. 1

by David Miller Nov 20, 2009
The new FTC Guidelines mandating disclosure of any paid endorsements goes into effect Dec. 1. As writers and bloggers, how can we embrace these guidelines and utilize them as part of an ethic of material transparency?

IF YOU HAVEN’T HEARD YET, new FTC guidelines will be going into place beginning Dec. 1. These guidelines include, among other things, a mandate on disclosing any and all paid sponsorships or endorsements.

From the FTC Guide:

“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. . . . Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

While many bloggers such as Marty Dickinson are bemoaning the impending regulations, some of us in the travel writing are looking at them as a step in the right direction. With full disclosure now being federally mandated, there seems to be more of a chance that current industry policies forbidding travel writers from taking comps will be revised, giving travel writers more freedom in looking for / accepting stories, and perhaps more to the point, earning a living.

How you answer Dickinson’s question about the regulations–“why would it be important for people to know that you’re getting a commission payment for a referral?” will probably determine how you feel overall about the issue.

The point is less about money and more about about transparency. After looking at this issue (or at least trying to) from all sides, I came up with a manifesto of sorts called Material Transparency.

I argued that bloggers and writers not only embrace the impending FTC regulations on material connections, but expand the concept into an overall aesthetic of transparency in their other connections, their crew, their companies, all as a way of defining and helping exhibit / promote their personal brand.

In what ways, if any, will these upcoming regulations affect your work as a writer or blogger? Please let us know in the comments below.

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