How Will Music Blogs Deal With The FTC’s New Disclosure Guidelines?

noah | October 5, 2009 12:00 pm

Here’s an interesting conundrum for anyone out there who writes about music on the old Interwebs: The Federal Trade Commission just announced that beginning Dec. 1, bloggers will have to disclose whether or not they received payments or free goods in exchange for reviewing products—if they don’t, they could be fined up to $11,000. So how will this affect music blogs, which pretty much depend on a stream of free things (low-cost items like concert tickets and CDs and MP3s, mostly) to keep up with what’s going on in their little world? From the FTC’s announcement:

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. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.

So what does this mean? A weekly “What I Got In The Mail This Week And Might Trade In For Something I Really Want” post from every music blogger out there? (Even though it might be hard to believe now, CDs still do have some sort of monetary value!) Will online publications that don’t consider themselves “blogs” also be forced to go the full-disclosure route? Will some of the more unsavory sites out there move off WordPress and TypePad and onto alternate content-management systems that don’t dare breathe the word “blog”? Are people really paying music blogs to talk up artists? (If so, el oh el, right?) And finally, not for nothing, but old-school media is just as dependent on freebies as any of their newer-media counterparts might be—in a possibly more insidious way, too!—so why pick on bloggers to begin with? Is this another case of the Internet being a Scary Bad Place in the minds of old-fogey regulatory types?FTC Publishes Final Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials [FTC]