If you are a US beer blogger and accept free samples, run advertising on your site, or even partake in sponsored content or affiliate programs, there has been an update from the FTC on disclosure regulations you’ll want to pay attention to.
We are not attorneys, and this post is not legal advice so we encourage every blogger to check out .com Disclosures and consult with an attorney if you have any questions.
The FTC makes it a point to emphasize that disclosures need to be “clear and conspicuous”, meaning that it’s the publisher’s responsibility to adequately inform readers of the nature of the content.
Below is a summary of a few high-level take aways from the 2013 FTC changes. They apply to all types of sponsored content, including simple product reviews (as a result of free samples).
Some things that no longer work
- A Disclosure page on your blog alone is not adequate
- A disclosure at the bottom of your blog post alone is no longer adequate
- Hyperlinking to a disclosure alone is not adequate
Proximity & Prominence
Disclosures and the endorsement and/or outgoing product link need to be proximate to each other. The FTC states that
“A disclosure is more likely to be effective if consumers view the disclosure and the claim that raises the need for disclosure (often referred to as a “triggering claim”) together on the same screen.”
Keep in mind that this applies to viewing of your content on mobile devises as well. As such, disclosures should be as close to the endorsement and/or outgoing links as possible.
To be safe, the FTC suggests publishers repeat disclosures as needed. We are noticing bloggers disclose the nature of the content at the top of a post, close in proximity to the actual endorsement or sponsored content, and repeated again at the end of the post.
Disclosures also need to be prominent – meaning they need to noticeable. Hyperlinking to a disclosure statement is not adequate; nor is changing the size and/or color of the disclosure to make it less prominent than other content. Again, this applies when viewing content on mobile devices.
In Social Media
If you’re paid to endorse and/or mention products in your social media efforts, then you need to definitely read the full document in order to understand the FTC’s expectations on disclosures in Social Media.
One interesting thing to note, however, is how wording of your social media promotion of your blog posts affects whether or not disclosures in that promotion is required.
For example, if you receive a free sample from a brewery and end up writing a review on your blog, you know that you need to adequately disclose on your post that the product review was a result of a sample. But depending on how you word your tweet of that review affects whether or not that tweet also needs to include a proper disclosure.
A tweet that endorses the beer like
“My favorite #beer of the year is the Bland Ale from the Generic Brewery”
necessitates a disclosure ahead of the tweet so that it reads
“Ad: My favorite #beer of the year is the Bland Ale from the Generic Brewery”
Not disclosing in your endorsement tweet that this is an “ad” would be in conflict with FTC guidelines.
However, a tweet promoting your post and not the product does not require a disclosure.
“A review of Bland Ale from the Generic Brewery”
Whether you accept free samples, partake in affiliate programs and/or monetize your blog in any way, please make sure you read the 2013 FTC guidelines and update your blog with appropriate disclosures so you stay in compliance! Happy blogging!
Thanks Cindy! That makes more sense. I was thinking more along the lines of a random excursion to a brew pub where the blog topic never comes up. Essentially, if you’re given something for free and it’s known either that you’re a blogger or that you’re planning on writing up a review then a disclosure is warranted. I was just concerned that I’d have to revise past entries in which I had simply gotten an extra sample that I didn’t pay for. Thanks for clearing it up!
I’m a little confused by the article. Do the FTC disclosure rules apply to ALL blogs or just blogs that are either monetized or that utilize advertising? I understand the principle behind the disclosures but frankly it seems a bit over the top. What if I pay for samples and a tour at a brewery and then receive a bonus sample? If I write a review about the entire experience and base my perspective upon ALL of the samples in conjunction with the facilities, employees, etc. does that require some sort of disclosure–even if my blog is not monetized, runs no advertising, and receives nor accepts any free gifts from brewers?
Cindy Molchany says
I would imagine the safe answer here is that if a company ever gives you something for free with the purpose of you potentially reviewing it on your blog, you would need to disclose that. That’s not a “gift”, that’s a sample. I would look at it from the company or brewery’s side – what’s their intention in giving you something? For review, to be nice, etc and then use your best judgement.