They're On To Us
By Brian Baltosiewich
It's not much of a secret that the government hasn't quite figured the Internet out, at least in terms of regulating it.
In fact, as far as podcasters are concerned, the sky's the limit. The only thing I tell Radio Exiles' podcasters is, "Don't get us sued." As professional broadcasters, we know what's right and what isn't.
But there's evidence that the government is at least making an effort to figure it out, but what I'm about to hip you to isn't coming from whom you might think -- and it's definitely worth paying attention to.
Food blogs are a growing part of the Internet (my wife has a food blog at cafeterrablog.com) and the Federal Trade Commission is leaning on food bloggers as they attempt to monetize their blogs. I think there is a very real connection between what the FTC is expecting from food bloggers, and what we're doing in our podcasts.
An article you can find at http://diannej.com/blog/2012/05/new-ftc-rules-on-writing-reviews-affiliations-and-sponsored-posts/ outlines some of the details in another article called "The FTC's Revised Endorsement Guides Impact How Companies Can Advertise Through Social Media."
The above-linked article basically says that if you have a blog (read "podcast") that "reviews, participates in an affiliate program or gets paid to mention a product…" you'd better listen up.
If you receive a product to review, if you link to a product's website and receive money for it (like an affiliate program with Amazon, ProFlowers, GoDaddy, etc.), if you receive a product to use on your podcast, or if you receive any product or service that comes from an advertiser on your site, this all applies to you.
Now, at this point in the lifespan of podcasting, this seems to apply to most of us. Tech podcasts do reviews all the time. Most of us have affiliate agreements, some of us might be using a microphone received in exchange for mentions.
If that's you, the FTC now requires you to "disclose" your arrangements not only with a blanket statement at your site, but in the (blog) podcast itself.
Quoting now: "So long as the disclosure clearly and conspicuously conveys to the reader the relationship between the blogger and the advertiser, the disclosure will be adequate," states the (original) article.
And that's not all, you're gonna love this: The article suggests that if you tweet about a product you've been compensated for, or received for free, that tweet should include the hashtag #paid or #ad or #spon.
And you could be fined if your blog (podcast) contains misleading representations about a product.
Check out the above-linked article, and the original if you really want to get into the nitty gritty.
Full disclosure: The article does state that the FTC isn't exactly pouring through blogs… yet. But if something comes to their attention, they will follow up.
Now, I expect some of you to make the argument that a blog and a podcast are apples and oranges. I don't think so, and doubt the FTC would make that distinction either.
Better safe than you-know-what.
Brian Baltosiewich has been a broadcast professional for more than 20 years. His podcast website www.radioexiles.com features professionally produced podcasts from radio pro's who have lost their gigs.
Reach out to him at email@example.com or through the Twitter account @radioexiles and on Facebook at radioexiles.com
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