Blog Naked

Bloggers have been feeling picked on lately and with good reason. There was the new FTC ruling that bloggers who receive free products or compensation for products they review and/or endorse on their blogs must make full disclosure or they will be subject to a hefty fine.

Wait a minute. Are there actually bloggers who are making money on the internets? Really? Where do I sign up?

Then an anonymous White House advisor said “bloggers need to take off their pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely-divided country is complicated and difficult”.

All of which makes me wonder whether people who work for the federal government are required to surrender a part of their brains – as in the thinking part.

This blog is my personal blog. My other blog, Advice from a Caterpillar is my professional blog. Occasionally on this blog I post book reviews. I often post book reviews on my Caterpillar blog. Those same book reviews are also published at Bookideas.com, Midwest Book Review, and Amazon. I am never paid for my reviews but I do receive free books – lots and lots of free books. If I reviewed every book sent to me I would never sleep or eat. Therefore I must pick and choose the books I review.

So – under the FTC ruling – does this make me guilty of the sin of advertising?

I set out on the internets to find the answer to that question. I began by posting to a couple writers’ listservs in hopes of opening up a discussion. But as we’ve learned from the great health care debate we don’t have discussions in this country anymore. Most people either want to argue or have no opinion. What I gleaned from my efforts was some people felt that book reviews are indeed advertisements and should be accompanied by a disclaimer. Others felt book reviewers should be exempt from the ruling.

In a recent interview with FTC’s Richard Cleland, blogger Ed Champion attempted to clarify the ruling. However Cleland’s attitude toward book reviewers was totally out to lunch. About the whole free books thing he said, “You review it and return it” because if you keep it then it’s “compensation”. But that’s just plain dumb. Publishers don’t want reviewers to send the books back. And only an idiot would pay the postage to return books that she reviewed for no pay. Come to think of it, only an idiot would review books for free. Cleland’s rationale was “If a blogger received enough books he could open up a used bookstore.” Has this dude been to a used bookstore lately? At 50 cents each, the stack of free books I have on hand would be worth a whopping $10.50.

After reading several more articles and opinions I discovered there are as many interpretations of the FTC ruling floating around as there are versions of the health care reform bill. No wonder we can’t get anything done in this country anymore.

So what do I do with all my free books – or as the FTC refers to them “compensation”? I donate them to libraries, give them away to friends, or keep them.

Liz Burton of Zumaya Publications (home of The Road to Weird – yes that’s a shameless plug for my book – makes a great gift for Halloween) said that because my reviews are published elsewhere online, that technically makes them reprints on my blog, which would mean I probably don’t need to post a disclaimer.

Then I read Kay Day’s Web Savvy column for The Writer magazine and she said essentially that it’s better to be safe than sorry and bloggers should post disclaimers.

This week an article in The Wall Street Journal stated:

The Federal Trade Commission doesn’t intend to bring individual cases against bloggers or tweeters who accept cash or gifts to tout a company’s products or services, an FTC official said Wednesday.

“We are not planning on investigating individual bloggers,” said Mary Engle, associate director for advertising practices at the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

And no, there won’t be any hefty fines levied against bloggers Apparently that was a nasty rumor they blamed on – you guessed it – bloggers.

So what is the answer to my question?

I don’t know. I forgot what the question was.

Let’s try a different question.

Should I put a disclaimer on my blogs?

Since I don’t consider myself a salesman or advertiser, the answer is no. If I want to cover my ass, the answer is yes. But the White House wants me to take off my pajamas.

Let me get this straight. I should take off my pajamas and put on my disclaimer.

To hell with it. I’ll just blog naked.

*Disclaimer: This is not an ad but if you would like to buy this T-shirt click here

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