The new FTC rules on endorsements have caused a bit of a stir around the online writing community, because they apply to bloggers as well as to corporations. Basically, if you haven't heard, the new endorsement rules require bloggers reviewing a product (including a book) to disclose if they got the book for free.*

That's pretty much it.

There's a lot more detail, and some fine distinctions as to who is considered an "endorser" of a product, and who is just a consumer blabbing about a personal experience, but the long and the short of it is that, if you get the product for free, you should mention that when you write about the product on your blog.**

If you think about it, the new rule*** makes sense. If I'm reading a blog about books and the blogger has gotten a bunch of books from a publisher for free, that's relevant information. Most blogs are run by individuals and their ties to corporations are not obvious. I wouldn't know, necessarily, that the blogger might be giving extra credit or a favorable review to a book because she wants to keep the freebies coming.

Some bloggers have also made a big deal about how the FTC intends to enforce this. Short answer: they aren't. I guarantee you that they aren't out there montoring all gazillion book blogs and make-up blogs and shoe blogs and et cetera and so on. But if you're a "big name" in a certain category, they might be looking at you. I wouldn't be surprised, for example, if the FTC checks in on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, or Manolo's Shoe Blog from time to time.

On the other hand, I wouldn't tempt them if I were you. Compliance with this rule is supremely easy, even if you get all your books (or whatever product you write about) for free. In short, what we've got, in some circumstances, is much ado about almost nothing.

Now, the Google settlement, that's an issue...****


* Here's a link to the FTC press release on the new guidelines, as well as the text of the guide if you want to wade through it.

** Regardless of whether the review is positive or negative, by the way.

*** Which is really just a clarification of the old rule to make it clear that the rules about endorsement apply to bloggers.

**** That I am TOTALLY not getting into. Maya Reynolds is great on that kind of stuff, though.


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