Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Will Bloggers Be Required to Disclose Affiliate Programs?

Interesting post at CopyBlogger about bloggers potentially being required by law to disclose affiliate links. The discussion has been on going for sometime over whether affiliate programs on websites should be known by the public or weather they generally understand that the web site owner makes money off such links. Problems surrounding this issue normally only crop up when unethical web site operators use affiliate programs in a gray area manner to capitalize off of unknowing visitors.

When I originally started to blog I put (aff.) after links in a sense to inform my readers that I would profit off of them using a product but now I generally leave the link off because a) I feel most people do not mind using affilite links and b) Readers generally know that most links, especially to shopping sites, are through some type of affiliate program.

An article recently written in the WP suggests that US citizens, bloggers specifically, will be required by law to disclose their links or be subject to punishment for deceptive advertising. Here is a quote from the article:

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday said that companies engaging in word-of-mouth marketing, in which people are compensated to promote products to their peers, must disclose those relationships. …

Word-of-mouth marketing can take any form of peer-to-peer communication, such as a post on a Web blog, a page for a movie character, or the comments of a stranger on a bus.

I think most bloggers will be OK with this new change although some may suffer a drop in revenue because of it. Blogging, at least most blogging, is all about transparency. Sure this was all spawned because of the unethical bloggers, not because of consumers wanting the change which does make me feel a bit attacked simply because most of us bloggers never have, nor would choose to if given the option, engage in any of these sorts of practices. I think the move levels the playing field and makes everyone be as transparent as required by law.

Who is this going after? Mainly this law will be going after blogs and websites who rank and promote products based solely upon how much money a sale will make them. Now I am all about making money but I, as a consumer, would feel betrayed if I found out the "Top Ranked Insert Product Here" was only top ranked because it made that person the most money.

Now this is going to be something to keep an eye on. Keep in mind this is NOT law just yet but is based on a recommendation the FTC has made. Will you have to change your blog for the new proposed law? Maybe. I think most large affiliate programs will just modify their links to say something like "this is an affiliate program" although you may have to add a disclaimer somewhere in your site stating some links are for affiliate products and stores.

Final word: This law will add a new level of transparency to a largely unregulated media outlet, blogging. Leveling the field will be beneficial to most while helping to gain customer trust at the same time.

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