Blogger Confession: FTC *New* Rules and Review Books UPDATED 5-12-13

Posted May 12th, 2013 by in Blogger Confession / 67 comments

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Blogger Confession:  Two months ago I was following along with the tweets from Blissdom and saw that the FTC had put out new guidelines specifically for bloggers.  I admit that I didn’t jump right then to look them up because I thought “I don’t really do much that will be impacted by those”.  I was WRONG!

NOTE:  I am not a lawyer nor is any of this supposed to be considered fact!  This is what I have gathered from my research but you should read the links and the FTC guidelines to determine what you feel is compliant.

Here is the link to the FTC Guidelines: http://www.ftc.gov/os/2013/03/130312dotcomdisclosures.pdf

Here are a few other links that put it a little simpler:

Here is what I think it means for me as a Book Blogger:

  • Review Books: They are considered compensated reviews.  You received an item for a posted review and you must note that in your tweets (if expressing positive feelings in the tweet–more below), FB Postings (if expressing positive feeling in the FB Post–more below), and at the beginning and end of your blog post.

Here is an example of what I think a proper post would look like (NOTE: I am putting Sponsored in my Title because I use a tool called Tweet Old Posts and I haven’t figured out a way to make certain ones tweet with that information in there automatically).

UPDATE: You have to place your source at the top before any outward bound links and near the review (aka either before or directly after it).  For me personally, I have goodreads links, author links, links to other pages on my blog, and Library Thing links right at the top and before the review so mine need to be at the very top.  I do know there is code that you can use so that it doesn’t mess up your SEO but I honestly haven’t had a chance to try it/test it (Look at example 21 in the FTC Guidelines for more examples)

New Example

example2

(I know my graphic drawing skills are AWESOME–not)

 Twitter Example: (You can no longer use shortened links that don’t display where the tweet is from)

UPDATED From the Digital Media Law Website this was a great article:

“With respect to “space-constrained ads” (e.g., tweets), when a tweet about a reviewed freebie reflects the reviewer’s positive opinion, the new FTC guidance indicates that the reviewer should include the required disclosure in the text of the tweet. However, a disclosure in the text of the tweet is probably unnecessary if the positive nature of the review is not apparent on the face of the tweet. For example, where a tweet merely includes a link to a review without spoiling the nature of the review, any required disclosures could probably be presented on the review site instead.”

Notice that I did NOT include any of my thoughts on the book!  That is evidently the “trick” to staying in compliance which for me is great because that is always what I tweeted out.  I asked a friend about this (she is a lawyer BUT would not say on record) and she said that they will be watching for things like:  Audiobook Review: The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee (LOVED THIS)(MUST BUY)(ROCKED) .  Basically any positive feelings tied with a review book that are posted in the tweet must come with Sponsored, AD, Paid attached.   NOTE: ARC probably won’t work (she wasn’t sure  since it would have to be a term that the general public knows/familiar with and not just those in the know with the book industry.  Since I didn’t know what an ARC was till my 2nd year book blogging, I am going to say that it probably is not a common enough term for the general public).  If you stick to tweeting just the book title and author name then you should be good to go without putting Sponsored, AD, Paid.  I asked about others tweeting your tweets and it basically boils down to if the Publisher or Author or Anyone who is tied to the ARC tweets about it, they must include the words Sponsored, Paid, Ad (that is on them though and you would not be held responsible).  If another blogger tweets it, friends tweet it, etc and add their opinion to it then that shouldn’t require any extra wordage.  I will probably stick to just tweeting out other people’s reviews without any added sentiment though.  I am cautious like that!

Here is just my thoughts: I don’t think they are coming after bloggers per se (unless you have A LOT of influence) but they are trying to reign in the social media product endorsements. Evidently there are tons on twitter, fb, etc by high profile people.  I really think the first crackdown will be against celebrities and such.  I think they are silly rules but since I was already mostly in compliance and adding the extra layer at the top is no biggie to me, I will do my best.  I am making y’all aware so you can give your best effort too.

ON BOOKS THAT YOU BUY/BORROW FROM THE LIBRARY OR FRIEND:  Nothing is required and you can say whatever you want in the tweet.  That is simply a product review that is not governed by these guidelines.  Evidently you are still free to love, hate, and wax philosophically over the stuff you spend your hard earned money on 🙂

  • All of these new rules also apply to GiveAways!  In fact, I would say it is more important to put it in your giveaways.  Put it in your Rafflecopter form, put it in your tweets, etc.  Make sure to note the source of your giveaway in the rafflecopter and blog post.  Also, I have heard, though haven’t researched it yet, that the rules changed on mandatory entries and weighted entries.  These are not things I have confirmed but until I do I won’t be running giveaways except following these rules:

UPDATE:  Read this awesome post (with links) about GiveAways– Busy Being Jennifer

This article was so good that I don’t think I can expand on it!

This is all a ton to take in but I wanted y’all aware too!  This is the business side of blogging y’all and it does come with some rules.  While these are not laws, the FTC can sue you for not following guidelines.  I prefer a safe to sorry approach so I will be updating the appropriate posts with the right ways before turning back on Tweet Old Posts.  I normally do fun posts on Fridays but since I was researching this last night I thought I would share my findings.

Y’all have a fantastic weekend!  I know mine will be spent doing a mini-bloggiesta *SIGH*

Felicia S
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Felicia S

Felicia is just your average gal from Texas that loves Audiobooks and Libraries with a passion! She can wine them, dine them, and love them forever. Her eclectic reading tastes include: Cozy Mysteries, Thrillers, Swoon-Worthy Romance of all kinds, Zombies, Urban Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and the occasional YA read.

During her non-reading time you can find her hanging with her rescue furr children named after book characters: Lizzie a beautiful cattle dog mix (Pound Pup), Cinder a beautiful Shep/Pitt mix (Pound Pup), and Minerva a beautiful Shep/Pitt mix (Foster Fail). Gathering with friends and family, attending conventions, watching movies/tv shows, rooting for the 49rs, and crocheting.

If you want to follow her DIY, Health, and Life adventures check out Mess to Best

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67 Responses to “Blogger Confession: FTC *New* Rules and Review Books UPDATED 5-12-13”

  1. pabkins
    Twitter:

    Oh Jeez more things to worry about now. Haha – I’m going to have to review this after later today. Thanks for the links to the other articles though – I definitely need to check those out as well!

  2. Diamond
    Twitter:

    Thank you so much for this post! I have it bookmarked so I can use it as a refrence! While I usually state if the book was given to me in exchange for an honest review– I haven’t forgotten on some. I do have a disclaimer on the bottom of my blog too..

    Gonna have to do some minor changes on old posts!

    ^_^ thnx again!
    Diamond recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #5

  3. Ivana
    Twitter:

    Thank you very much for this post! My head hurts, but I appreciate the information 🙂

    I’m in Croatia so I don’t really know how much of it concerns me. I always list the source and have a disclaimer on two places in the review, just to be on the safe side.

    And it’s been mentioned above, I don’t like ‘sponsored’ posts, it screams ‘paid’. I guess I’ll have to change that attitude now that I know what it’s really about.

    Thanks again 🙂
    Ivana recently posted…YA Review: Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon

    • Felicia the Geeky Blogger
      Twitter:

      This is on the FTC site so I think everyone is in the clear with tweets 🙂 WHEW!

      With respect to “space-constrained ads” (e.g., tweets), when a tweet about a reviewed freebie reflects the reviewer’s positive opinion, the new FTC guidance indicates that the reviewer should include the required disclosure in the text of the tweet. However, a disclosure in the text of the tweet is probably unnecessary if the positive nature of the review is not apparent on the face of the tweet. For example, where a tweet merely includes a link to a review without spoiling the nature of the review, any required disclosures could probably be presented on the review site instead.

  4. Adria
    Twitter:

    Thanks for this, as discouraging, inconvenient as it is, I’d rather know about it now rather than later. However, this is making me reconsider blogging all together. Reviewing books both purchased by me and given in exchange for an honest review is a great, fun hobby but it seems that someone wants to control even that.

  5. Monika
    Twitter:

    You know, I’ve been thinking about the NetGalley aspect and those ebooks aren’t ours to keep. They expire on our devices, and the download link doesn’t stay up on NetGalley indefinitely… so technically, are those really items we were *given*? (If that makes sense?) Aren’t we really just borrowing the books? (maybe that doesn’t matter)

    Anyhow, great post, lots to think about!
    Monika recently posted…Review: The Liars’ Gospel by Naomi Alderman

    • Adria
      Twitter:

      I was just about to say the same thing. We don’t keep the NetGalley books, we just borrow them for a time and then write our review. I’d also like to know what the guidelines are for giveaways that we supply? Like if I’m giving away an e-book to someone and I’m paying for it.

    • Felicia The Geeky Blogger
      Twitter:

      They aren’t ours to keep but they are “given” to us for review so I think they would still qualify. After reading more I don’t think the tweet facebook thing will be a problem as long as you don’t put your feeling about the book in your tweet 🙂 That is a relief!

  6. kimbacaffeinate
    Twitter:

    From the way I interpret this, for twitter at least, if we do a giveaway, sweepstake etc, we would need to indicate sponsored not for reviews, since my opinion is my own. But I pay the shipping for giveaways so this is crazy. I do post at the top of my blog if I received an ARC for review and prior to 3 weeks ago would use an * for my buy links. I now indicate directly under it that purchases support this blog. I would argue the twitter, since my review clearly states it’s unbiased.
    kimbacaffeinate recently posted…Review: His Yankee Bride by Rose Gordon

    • Felicia The Geeky Blogger
      Twitter:

      I think on reviews (from what I was just reading this morning) as long as you don’t tweet: Review: Book Title < ---freaking loved it then you don't have to put Sponsored in the tweet. If you post positive feelings in the tweet then you do. Which is hilarious because if you post negative feelings you do not *sigh*. I normally just post the book title and author so I am good to go there I think.

  7. Amber (Me, My Shelf and I Blog)
    Twitter:

    FIRST OFF CALM DOWN EVERYONE before you rush off to fix what doens’t need fixing know that IF this is a panic worthy thing it would only pertain to things before March 2013 and they won’t make you back track…okay so that’s one CALM DOWN.

    Second I have a lawyer friend I’m sending this too and I will find out what it really means because if this was legit (and by legit I mean, something that 100% is for book bloggers and we should be in panic mode for sure)..we would have gotten some kind of communication from the publishers on how they need us to handle things. This effects them, as it effects us and they wouldn’t just sit back and watch the bulk of their “free” advertising drop like flies.

    Also – I would LOVE to see these people keep up with the eleventy billion bloggers. Seriously. PLUS how would anyone ever know if the book you got was a FREEBIE or not? Just because it’s an ARC doesn’t mean you directly got it from a publisher. What if you won it from a site/blog/charity event/found it lying in a ditch/bought it at a used book sotre? What if a friend shared it with you? How will they enforce this?

    3. The giveaway thing is bunk. There are rules and regulations around what you can and can’t do, that are legit law for the interwebs. How many entries someone gets for a blog post, is NOT one of them. That’s stomping all over our rights and again, will not stick around long.

    I will pass this on to said Lawyer friend and get back to you all ASAP.

    • Felicia The Geeky Blogger
      Twitter:

      There is a great site I found this morning that clarified some of it (especially where tweeting is concerned). As long as you don’t post positive feeling in the tweet where your review is linked then you don’t have to put sponsored in your tweet. If you do post positive feelings in your tweet with your review then you need to label it as sponsored. You are free to post negative feelings however you see fit –which is just silly but I think a lot of these new rules are.

      I think the disclosures will have to be on the top and bottom if you have any links that will take you off page.

      I am very curious if your friend reads it differently. It would be interesting to see her take. I am not a lawyer so interpreting things like this are hard!

  8. Rachel
    Twitter:

    Thanks for the info. I hadn’t even been aware of this change. The Beauty and Fashion article was really helpful.

    And I may have read things wrong but it doesn’t seem that the FTC guidelines are that scary. It talks of “should” and “clear and concise.” Both of which leave room and aren’t entirely strict.

    Many bloggers already mention ARC review at the top of their posts near buy links, it seems that if this information is placed at the top and bottom it would be fairly clear and concise. Should the reader miss it when it’s right next to links out to buy, then the fault wouldn’t be the blogger but the reader.

    As far as tweets, if the tweet simply stated “Review: Allegiance by Veronica Roth” it isn’t a tweet endorsing anything. That article did mention not saying “loved this book” or similar in the tweet or title of the post. But a straightforward tweet with the review information isn’t an endorsement. Though I do suppose it would mean no “My five star review for XXX book.”

    And I don’t know that you’d have to go back and relabel all old reviews and posts. Perhaps I missed something. Is it retroactive?

    • Felicia The Geeky Blogger
      Twitter:

      I don’t think it is retroactive. I was just concerned about my Tweet Old Posts app and if those would be subject to the same guidelines since the tweet would be current even if the post is not (does that make sense?)

      After reading more about the tweet part though I think I am ok. I updated the post this morning with some stuff I found from The Digital Media Law site and it made my head hurt less LOL I usually just post the Book Title and Author in my tweets so I am good to go I think 🙂

    • Felicia The Geeky Blogger
      Twitter:

      All review books would fall under this (I am assuming) even if we didn’t get a physical copy. I read an article on PC Magazine that said this is less about the little man and more about the big man (corporations) BUT that didn’t make us exempt. I was like then it doesn’t matter who it is about LOL

      I am really just not a fan of the social media aspect of it!

  9. Taylor

    Thanks so much for including a link to my article! 😉 I’ll tweet you another article, written by my friend Jennifer, that will give you some info on the Giveaway rules (it won’t let me include the link in this comment).
    Taylor recently posted…Holla! It’s Friday!

  10. Heidi

    Reading all of this I don’t think we have to go back past March and update posts, since these guidelines went into effect in March. I guess I will do like you say and just put sponsored in front since it is safer. I doubt the FTC is going to go after a little blogger who isn’t using their blog for business but better safe than sorry. This is lame!
    Heidi recently posted…The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross Tour Stop: Character Interview and Giveaway

  11. Jenny
    Twitter:

    Wow. Really? I had absolutely no idea about any of this! I’m so clueless, it’s amazing my blog hasn’t been shut down already. Thanks so much for the heads-up Felicia! I always note at the top of my post where I received the book, but I’ll be adding a disclaimer at the bottom now as well.

    The giveaway one I don’t think affects me too much, I almost always have a “free entry” option and then make comments, twitter follows, etc optional extra entries. I’m going to go read some of the other posts you linked to, I need to be more aware of these things!
    Jenny recently posted…Eyes of E’veria Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway

    • Felicia The Geeky Blogger
      Twitter:

      It is the reason that I try to do (or keep up with) rules for blogging in general instead of just what is going on with book blogging. Though this particular thing made my head hurt in trying to figure out how it relates to us. I mean we don’t get a physical object every time but I think even ebooks would count.

      *sigh*

  12. Amanda
    Twitter:

    Kelly told me about this last night, and I have to admit that it’s going to change a lot of things–mostly because of the social media aspect. I’m thinking mainly of people wanting to tweet your review through built in social media sharing tools.

    Putting “sponsored” in your title will help a bit, but…what if others want to tweet? Are they obligated to also include that in their tweet? The answer to that question is going to affect a lot of people. Imagine authors wanting to share a review of their book, but it was a review request; having “sponsored review” in the tweet itself will likely diminish its impact.

    Also? Think of how often we ignore sponsored tweets or updates on Facebook.

    Thanks for posting about this, Felicia. As always, you rock. 🙂
    Amanda recently posted…Discussion: I Know My Why…Now What?

    • Felicia
      Twitter:

      I know!

      I think it will also have an impact on ReTweets and FB Shares. I am not sure how far down the tree it falls but I am glad that Fashion/Product bloggers are talking about it. They seem to be plugged into these things even more than book bloggers (even though in essence we probably receive more product than they do). I knew that eventually the FTC would buckle down more on social media because that was a big loophole for companies.

      I do think it is will make people ignore reviews that are labeled sponsored. I imagine that people that comply will get less hits and some won’t even be aware that they should be doing it.

      It is dizzying but I am glad I looked it up. Ignorance would have been bliss but it would have also been meaning doing something wrong when I knew something different was out there.

      I am going to have to think through it more because I think even my way isn’t full compliance. I might have to put source before ANY outbound links.

      • Amanda
        Twitter:

        I’m wondering if this will affect how bloggers accept review requests. How many would just say, “It’s not worth the trouble?” and not accept any?

        Disclosing where you received the book is one thing, but putting “sponsored” or “ad” prominently on a post is going to have serious implications for traffic and how people perceive and acknowledge that review.
        Amanda recently posted…Discussion: I Know My Why…Now What?

        • Felicia The Geeky Blogger
          Twitter:

          I think there will probably be a bigger portion that just don’t do it. Until someone gets in trouble (which is probably unlikely) some will take a chance. Just like with the Photo Credits thing—copyright has always been there but it took someone getting in trouble for people to take it seriously.

          I will probably quit review books because I do think it will impact traffic. It is something that I am seriously considering because I won’t not comply to the guidelines. I will finish the ones I have though and then decide from there. That should give me plenty of time to see how it impacts the dialogue on my blog. I don’t care about stats but I like having discussions with friends over books that we read 🙂

          I agree the words sponsored or ad or paid have a negative connotation. Even though it doesn’t change the actual review, it does highlight the fact that the reviewer did not pay for the item and has some responsibility to the supplier (even if that is just for a honest review of the product) 🙁

        • Marie Burton

          That’s me! I’m over it, I have says for a year now that I simply feel like a Review Robot. And that’s not fun. I’d rather talk about books & not feel like I’m a marketer sponsorer spammer just because I reviewed an ARC.

  13. Melissa
    Twitter:

    Wow, thanks for the heads up! Looks like I’ve got to go back and update a lot of old posts, boy this is going to be a hassle! Hopefully no one will pay attention to my current Rafflecopter giveaway either, since I’ve got different point weights. Yeesh. Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is about that, but it is what it is!

    I didn’t even realize that there had been an update, so I’m glad you are on top of things! 😉
    Melissa recently posted…BOOK BLITZ/REVIEW: The Haunting Season by Michelle Muto

    • Felicia The Geeky Blogger
      Twitter:

      I am not sure about the GiveAway guidelines. Last night in my hustle to figure out posts, I quickly glanced where someone said that it had been mentioned at the conference. You might be fine on giveaways but yep I imagine a lot of us have some updating to do if you tweet out old posts!

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