The online world of content providers are up in arms, and with good reason. The government, more specifically, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has unveiled it’s plans to monitor blogs for claims and payments. The reason, according to the FTC is that: “Many bloggers have accepted perks such as free laptops, trips to Europe, $500 gift cards or even thousands of dollars for a 200-word post. Bloggers vary in how they disclose such freebies, if they do so at all.”
While I and all of the online reviewers and bloggers I know immediately began wondering where our free trips and laptops were, let alone those cushy gift cards, apparently the FTC thinks we are getting a joyful, free ride for the honor of entertaining and informing you about products. Actually, the print editors apparently are the ones that get the handbags and free trips, but it is easier to target the hapless bloggers. So soon, anyone who blogs and provides opinions about products will have to disclose whether they have received free products or “compensation,: be it a lipstick, or a laptop. In this way, the FTC will be saving you, the reader, from being duped by unscrupulous reviewers. The FTC won’t allow you, the “unsuspecting” reader to be misled. Bloggers will have to be very clear that they received an item as a free sample.
I have never tried to mislead anyone. I write what I (repeat: I) think are the best of the best products each day, week, month and year. I have always made it clear, right on the column, that beauty reviews like mine are highly subjective. I might like something you hate, or I might not like something that you really love. So I provide information about the product, and some up-close-and-personal experiences with it. In the end, it is up to you to decide what’s right (or not right) for you.
If you have followed my work online for the past 16 years or so, you know that I write lots of things including this daily blog, and a very large (up to 40 printed pages) bi-monthly, beauty and fashion review column called What Works. People wonder why I do this, as there doesn’t seem to be anything in it for me. I didn’t provide content online for money, I started doing reviewing products because I truly love them — they fascinate me! However, I also am a freelance writer. That is my “day job.” I hope that if you like what you read, perhaps you will hire me to work for your publication online or print.
Furthermore: I review literally thousands of products a year given to me by companies and public relations firms with whom I have had relationships going back a decade or more in some cases. It would be impossible for me to provide my review articles and blog posts to you, if I had to go to a store and purchase every single item, myself. I’d be broke, and I’d never have time for anything else (not to mention I’d have a huge, carbon footprint)! I also receive products in advance of their launch date, so that I can preview these products and direct you to (what I think) are the best of the bes ones. If a company didn’t send these products, I wouldn’t even know they existed, and therefore, neither would you.
And, in case I haven’t made it clear enough yet, I DO NOT pay for the samples I receive in order to write my reviews. This is always stated right on my What Works review column. However, the lipsticks and such that I receive don’t even remotely compensate me for the days and weeks worth of work I put into writing reviews, for which I do not receive a salary. And, when it comes to advertising, for the first dozen years I provided online content, I did not allow any advertising at all. But, in this economy, I reluctantly began to allow it. Although the FTC might not think you’re smart enough to know that advertisements on my blog and web site (most are labeled as such) earn me a few cents if you click on them (so please do!) I believe my readers do know. You are intelligent adults who can make decisions for yourselves about what to read, and who to trust–and I am grateful that so many of you have put your trust in my opinions and know that a free lipstick, or a handbag, or even a laptop (were I lucky enough to receive one) would not taint my opinion in any way!!! In fact, if I felt couldn’t be objective and honest, I would not accept anything .
Emrah Kovacoglu, founder and CEO of Total Beauty Media, fueled blogger’s frustrations even further yesterday, with an article he wrote claiming that “Beauty Brands Should Not Be Working With Bloggers“. He not only lumped all bloggers (responsible, skilled journalists and hobbyist writers) into one big group, but arrogantly stated that: bloggers should not deal with beauty brands directly but should use Total Beauty’s “Sneek Peek” program instead. In this program, bloggers are given products to review but they don’t get to pick them, and everyone gets the same product at the same time. If we didn’t have individual relationships with companies and PR firms, all you would be able to read would be reviews of the same products, over and over again!
Mr. Kovacglu has since produced a sort-of explanation, if not apology, on YouTube.
I am really dismayed at what’s happening and I’m using my blog to state my opinion. It will be a sad day when government intervention and oversight dumbs down what (and who) you can read. Freedom of speech, especially online, was what made blogging unique and wonderful. I don’t always like what I read nor do I think all bloggers provide the same quality content, but I like the freedom to choose. Don’t you?
Here is what you will now find on every WHAT WORKS COLUMN starting with the Summer 2009 issue which will be up the first week in July at http://www.advicesisters.net/whatworkscol3.html
ABOUT THE ADVICE SISTERS REVIEWS: The Advice Sisters offer impartial, up-close-and-personal product reviews, conducted by expert beauty & fashion reviewer, Alison Blackman Dunham. If other opinions are included in a review, “we” (instead of “I”) is used.
My Review Philosophy: This beauty, fashion and cosmetics review column is called “What Works” (not what doesn’t). I want to direct you to what I think are great products, not denigrate those I didn’t like (but you might love). I know beauty reviews are highly subjective. It’s my responsibility to describe products in a way that offers information, but allows you to use your own, good judgment about whether to buy it or not. I have tested thousands of products and that gives me a foundation to make my judgements, but in the end, the decision to try something is yours, alone!
A Signature Approach: Some online publications and blogs find it easier and more economical to just post photos and press releases of products “as if” they have actually used them. The Advice Sisters only include real reviews. That is, I (or a qualified reviewer) actually try the products, This approach takes much more time and effort, but it is what distinguishes The Advice Sisters from others—-I know you appreciate the difference.
A Note About Compensation: I will never formulate my reviews using just high resolution photos and press releases, without experiencing the product I am reviewing. These type of “faux” reviews simple add to the junk and clutter on the Internet, without offering anything substantive or new. In order to write real reviews of real products, I am using samples provided by a company or a public relations firm. There is no way I could write valid, responsible, up-close-and-personal reviews without them. In consideration of The Federal Trade Commission’s latest initiative to monitor the validity of blogger reviews, please note that I do not accept “advertorial” (paid content) and any paid advertisements are marked as such. Sample products are not valid “compensation” for the tremendous amount of effort it takes to write genuine reviews, nor do samples influence my experienced opinion of products in any way.
What do you think of the FTC regulating bloggers? I’d really like to know your opinions