If you read Gear Diary, you are probably familiar with product reviews on various blogs. But do you ever consider why your favorite website is reviewing product X? Or whether product X has been overly generous to buy goodwill in the blog world? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cares. How will this affect you? Read on and find out.
Businessweek has an excellent article here that gives a detailed rundown of the FTC’s proposal and their reasoning. Essentially, there is concern that consumers may not realize the relationship between companies (who may advertise on websites in addition to providing samples for review) and the writers/owners of the blogs.
I saw this article a few days ago and started pulling together notes on this, since I think it does spark an interesting debate about where the lines of free speech and consumer protection meet. Coincidentally, Twikini, a twitter program for Windows Mobile, came out of beta today, and they have a promotion running that would probably explode the FTC’s metaphorical head. Twikini is offering a free copy (normally 4.99) of their software to anyone who posts on their blog about the software, as long as it has a screenshot and is at least one paragraph.
On the one hand, it’s excellent viral marketing for them…but on the other, they’re essentially soliciting reviews in exchange for free software, and to entice others who read the reviews to go and purchase the software. Ethical or not?
And is this really terribly different than the amazon.com/belkin scandal from earlier this year? Obviously, there are differences, but if Belkin were paying people to write good reviews who used Belkin products, would that be different? And why?
This is a good opportunity to also point you to Gear Diary’s official stance on product submission and reviews, found here. We are very clear that we offer unbiased reviews; no one is buying us off with shiny objects.
So now that I’ve rambled on about this, what are your thoughts? Should blogs be under the same scrutiny as regular media when it comes to reviews, or are blogs by the people, for the people and free from government oversight? Share in the comments and let us know your thoughts!