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Blogging For (Fun and) Profit

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Companies are paying bloggers to write about their products. Many of these bloggers don’t disclose that the company whose product they write about is providing compensation, whether it’s $5 per mention, a free vacation, or several thousand dollars.

Should there be mandatory disclaimer so an advertisement isn’t mistaken for a legitimate review? It may breach Federal Trade Commission guidelines without one. In fact, the Federal Election Commission is holding hearings this week to discuss the full disclosure of funds bloggers receive from political campaigns.

I’m fine with reviewing products on Consumerism Commentary. Throughout Consumerism Commentary’s run so far, I’ve been asked to write a few impartial reviews. I’ll gladly give an honest review for free (though I may be a little bit slow getting around to it), but it seems to be unethical and a conflict of interest to accept money for disguising product placement as a legitimate review. I have advertisements, yes, and anyone can buy an ad fairly cheaply, but they are clearly advertisements and not endorsements.

Updated July 16, 2010 and originally published June 28, 2005. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .


avatar ~Dawn

I wonder if a blogger getting paid would have the kahunas to write a bad review if they found the product poor?

avatar jim

Depends on how badly they need the money… I was approached to write a review of GBI Home Finance Manager in return for a free three month trial. The guy never emailed me back after a brief exchange and then they made the service free… so had I blogged about it, would it have been an advertisement if the product they sent me eventually was made free?

If it sucked, I would’ve written a bad review because the website isn’t my day job. :)

avatar Darren R. Sussman

Well, Jim, I think in your instance, as long as you were upfront about the situation, it would have been fine. If you had said, “I was given this free trial and asked to share my thoughts on the service. Here’s what I thought…” then I don’t see why it would be a problem. That’s not much different than record companies giving free copies of CDs to media outlets so they can be reviewed. If, however, they had given you $500 and said, “Write a good review of our product,” and you did, well, that would be a different story.

avatar Cap

eh, you can usually tell from a review when something is being pushed, than really endorsed cuz they like the product or service.

if something stinks, I think i’ll write about it. last thing I want is more peopel to share my misery..