…you might want to read this interview with Richard Cleland of the Federal Trade Commission, which is revising its guidelines concerning bloggers who do product reviews.
I can understand the need to disclose to readers that a post is a paid post or that a book or product being reviewed has been received for free in exchange for a review. But Cleland is mistaken that “there’s an expectation that you’re going to write a positive review.” Well, there may be that expectation on the part of the company sending out products for review, but most reviewers I’ve read don’t hesitate to say when they don’t like an item. But I can understand that some might provide a positive review in exchange for compensation, and the FTC wants to disclose that relationship.
This, however, seems overkill to me:
In the case of books, Cleland saw no problem with a blogger receiving a book, provided there wasn’t a linked advertisement to buy the book and that the blogger did not keep the book after he had finished reviewing it. Keeping the book would, from Cleland’s standpoint, count as “compensation” and require a disclosure.
A link back to a site where the product can be bought seems to me to just save a step in the process for the reader. And if every book reviewer had to send back the books they read, that just seems unnecessarily burdensome. Most books I’ve reviewed average about $12 or so — that seems like awfully small potatoes for the FTC to be worried about. I do know book reviewers who then give away the books they’ve received in connection with their review. I wonder if that is acceptable?
For the record, I mainly review books here that I have purchased just because I enjoy them and want to share them with others who might enjoy them. There have been just a handful that I’ve reviewed after receiving a request to do so and a free copy of the book, and I am pretty sure I have disclosed that in all of the reviews. So far I have turned down requests for reviews of books whose authors I am unfamiliar with.
You can find a good explanation of the FTC’s guidelines at Blogging Basics 101.