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Preview: Comments on: What do new FTC blogging rules mean for press trips and fam tours?

Comments on: What do new FTC blogging rules mean for press trips and fam tours?

Understanding tourism, travel, and social media

Last Build Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2017 01:43:44 +0000


By: Sheila Scarborough

Wed, 02 Feb 2011 20:35:41 +0000

Hi Grace, I'm no expert in the FTC but its focus is on US trade issues and false advertising by US companies. Most reputable bloggers worldwide have always disclosed freebies, and you've been around for awhile, so just keep doing your transparency thing and you should be fine.

By: Grace @ Sandier Pastures

Wed, 02 Feb 2011 12:24:29 +0000

As a blogger about to participate in a fam trip in three weeks, I'd like to ask if FTC rules only apply to bloggers based in the US? I live in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

By: Nerd Notes SXSWi 2010 Wrapup: Can they buy your voice? | Sheila's Guide To The Good Stuff

Mon, 22 Mar 2010 18:47:18 +0000

[...] efforts by tourism organizations, and they resulted in a few blogger press trips where I did a lot of thinking about my own comfort level as a “node.” [...]

By: LPT » Guilt-Free Blogging, or Why I’d Never Make a Good Critic

Tue, 24 Nov 2009 14:22:07 +0000

[...] definitely found myself feeling what Sheila Scarborough put so well in regards to free trips for travel bloggers: “I personally have a harder time [...]

By: Sheila Scarborough

Mon, 16 Nov 2009 14:45:37 +0000

Thanks for the continued thoughtful comments by Vera Marie, Lisa, Shelly, Susan, Edward and Durant - your analyses really add to the discussion and I appreciate them very much. Pay-my-own-way anonymity looks better and better to me; awaiting my winning lottery ticket to support it. :) OR, toss it in and agree that I'm an advertorial copywriter, with commensurate pay. Oh, wait, that takes away my "authentic blogger's voice" that all the marketers are after. Oy.

By: Durant Imboden

Mon, 16 Nov 2009 02:21:15 +0000

One of Sheila Scarborough's paragraphs caught my eye: "Now, let’s say that Sheraton establishes a long-term, contractual relationship with us. We stay for free at their properties, with the proviso that we write about them when we do (always clearly disclosing our contractual relationship.) Sheraton can also run a banner ad on our blog, for the length of the contract." That's EXACTLY the kind of thing the FTC is targeting, I'd guess: Paid advertorial, as opposed to editorial coverage that may or may not have been influenced by the fact that the writer was traveling on an expense account (his or her own, or someone else's). For one thing, the evidence is clear: If the writer is being paid to cover the topic, the coverage is likely to be viewed as an "endorsement". Second, the government can regulate advertising (including advertorial, presumably) but--under the First Amendment--can't regulate a free press.

By: Edward Hasbrouck

Sat, 24 Oct 2009 22:23:57 +0000

I presume that if you pay less than fair market value (which doesn't mean rack rate -- if they could fill the room at rack rate, they wouldn't have offered it to a writer at a "media rate", now would they?) then the difference between fair market value and what you paid will be considered a gift by both the FTC and the IRS. The FTC hasn't given much guidance on the new rules, but the logical place to look for precedent as to how they might be interpreted would be the longstanding disclosure rules for financial journalists. It's perfectly legal and considered ethical to own a stock you recommend -- even if you write for the New York Times -- but you have to disclose it in anything including articles, radio appearances, conference presentations, etc. I'd much rather see the rules framed in terms of disclosures than prohibitions on what can be published. And I think the larger effect will be on disclosure of affiliate links to recommended hotels, tours, cruises, etc., rather than on disclosure of sponsored or subsidized travel. There's more discussion in my blog: And my own (new) "Disclosures and Disclaimers" page is at:

By: Susan Getgood

Fri, 09 Oct 2009 23:27:36 +0000

I noticed the link to at the top of the post. In the interest of full disclosure, I am one of the co-founders of the Blog with Integrity pledge, and have been studying, writing and talking about the FTC guidelines for a few months now. The issue at hand isn't whether bloggers can be objective if they are compensated, hosted or provided with free product. Or that writers in traditional media are somehow more objective or ethical. It's whether the average consumer -- the reasonable person -- will understand that the reviewer may have been compensated and if that knowledge would change the consumer's perception of the review or story. The FTC believes that the reasonable person would not expect personal bloggers to be compensated and knowledge of the relationship might affect perception of the review. Hence the need for disclosure. It does not believe that similar disclosure is required in mainstream media. The document states that the FTC believes that knowledge of who paid for the product would not change the reader's perception of the review, but the FTC stand could change its stand if it learned of a material relationship between writer and company. Why doesn't it believe the disclosure is required? It's not explicitly stated but I think it is because the reader ALREADY assumes that the journalist got the review product or trip for free, in one way or another. Either funded by the publication or as a comp. Mainstream media also has pretty strict review policies to protect themselves from abuses and maintain the wall between editorial and advertising. We implicitly rely on them when we read the daily paper or our favorite magazine. I posted part one of my updated take on the guidelines yesterday and plan to post a pretty detailed analysis over the weekend.

By: Shelly Rivoli

Thu, 08 Oct 2009 17:45:14 +0000

Thanks for bringing this up again, Sheila. Nerve! Touched! I always cackle when I see a staff writer's "ethics" disclosure stating that they don't accept freebies--as if being a paid staff writer with an expense account, which was probably billed at a discounted press rate, makes their review more useful or the experience they received less polished than the lone wolf writer trying to compete online and on their own dime. Also, what is the deal with disclosing stays on press rates? Are we also supposed to disclose that, "While last week's review was based on a completely free stay and is therefore 100% untrustworthy, this week's was paid 45% out of my pocket and is a therefore a corresponding 45% unbiased"? Or is paying a significantly discounted rate still considered to inspire as unbiased a review as paying the rack rate? And why is it just "blogs" under attack, and not websites in general? Hmmm... and why isn't anyone discussing what really matters--writing useful, engaging reviews that will actually help the readers?

By: Lisa Gerber

Thu, 08 Oct 2009 17:44:42 +0000

I'm a little late to the conversation, i've meaning to get back to this. it's an important one. From a PR perspective, I wanted to chime in. It does seem the FTC is being very selective, and in doing so, opening a can of worms. As an example, if I were to send a bottle of my clients' wine to Gary Vaynerchuck to be reviewed on his wine library podcast, I run the risk of him ripping my clients' wine, or raving about it. It's a matter of being confident in your product. and being ok if someone out there doesn't like it. BTW, sometimes he buys the wine himself, sometimes it is sent to him. I've not noticed any consistency in his disclosure on the matter, and that's because he is not regulated. Having said that, I know when I invite a travel writer to my destination, i run a similar risk. The trip isn't going to go perfectly, and the writer can choose to share the negative or not. I've never placed restrictions in my invitation. (I'm sort of contradicting myself from a comment I posted on @nerdseyeview's blog this summer, but I'm not running for president, so I reserve the right to flip flop) In a perfect world, I wouldn't have to comp anything for the visiting writers - this would eliminate your dilemma, and it would certainly help our revenue! : ) but we know that doesn't work for your business model. How can you, the writers, possibly make a living if you had to pay for all the travel? I see the comp more as a way of cooperation, than a bribe. I'm sure not all destinations would share my opinion. However, as a traveler and reader, when I'm reading someone's blog about another destination, i of course want to know its not tainted due to comped travel. Lisa