On March 12, the FTC released updated guidelines for making effective disclosures in digital advertising. Beauty & Fashion Tech posted a great article about why this is relevant to bloggers who receive free products for review and how to comply. You should go read the full post, as it goes into much more detail than I will here. My aim in this post is just to address how I have made disclosures in the past, and how I will make them in the future to comply with the new guidelines.
Essentially, receiving free products for review and then writing about them is considered advertising. All advertising online must be disclosed in a clear, conspicuous manner. This is relevant to me, as a book blogger, because I sometimes receive free copies of books from publishers and authors in order to review them for my blog. Since I am writing about books that were provided for review, I need to disclose my relationship with the publisher/author who provided the book.
In the past, when I have reviewed a review copy, I have included the disclosure, “I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher/author in exchange for my honest review” at the bottom of the post. After reading the updated guidelines, I have decided to take a few measures to increase transparency.
The FTC guidelines require ads to be designed so that scrolling is not necessary in order to find the disclosure. Additionally, disclosures should be placed as close to the endorsement as possible and should be located before any links to buy the product. The guidelines also note that Websites and mobile apps that display information on multiple pages (such as posts that include the body of the article “after the jump”) may affect proximity.
To address issues of proximity, I will add a “source” line to the book info I provide at the beginning of my posts. My book reviews will now look like this:
Publisher, release date
Format (paperback, hardcover, etc), number of pages
Source (publisher, author, book tour group)
This will let readers know right away if I received a book from a publisher, bought it myself, got it from the library, etc. I will still include the full disclosure at the end of my posts, but this way readers will know before reading the full post — or before even clicking through from my blog’s homepage — whether I received the book for free.
The guidelines also give requirements for disclosure in “space-constrained” messages, such as social media. If you endorse the product in your tweet, you must disclose that you received the product for free; however, tweeting something like, “Review of Book Title by Author,” followed by a link to your post does not explicitly endorse the book and is acceptable. I usually tweet links to my reviews with neutral language as in the previous example, but in the future I will make sure to include a disclosure along the lines of, “ARC courtesy of @Publisher,” if I directly recommend the book in my tweet.
If you receive books to review, what changes are you making to increase transparency? How will the updated guidelines affect the way you blog?