According to the Guardian, The Office of Fair Trading has started a crackdown on Twitter users and bloggers who endorse products and services without stating their relationship to the brand, which I think is entirely fair enough. I think that the main problem has come about with a minority accepting payment for writing or tweeting about a product and then not declaring it. With celebrities reported to earn thousands for tweeting about a product it is obvious and fair that they should declare their interest.
As a result of my blog I have received many lovely free samples, products and entertainment. When I write about something that I have been given for free I make it clear in the review that I recieved “free product or samples” or I was a “guest” at an event. I have been paid once to include certain links and key words in a review but only after I was confident that I was maintaining my opinions and intregity. The post was marked as a sponsored post with a link to my disclosure policy.
I do not think for one moment that the OFT intends or wants to stop producers sending free samples to bloggers, but I do think that is important that bloggers disclose when they have received something for free or have been paid to write a post. Personally, I tend to trust a blog review more than a mainstream newspaper or magazine review because there is this disclosure of free products. But I have also seen blog reviews where I suspect that there has been payment that has not been declared, which annoys me as I feel it reflects badly on bloggers as a whole; the vast majority of which blog with heaps of integrity.
Companies do not generally send freebies out out of the goodness of their hearts, and they know (or at least should have been made aware by their PRs) that by sending products for honest review that they are risking a review that could be less than favourable.
It is also worth bearing in mind that the RRP of a product is several times higher than the marginal cost of sending a sample. A £100 RRP gadget has not cost the company that much to send to me. I would think that if they get one sale as a result of a review they would have still made money.
With Twitter is is not always so easy. The OTF suggests that paid for tweets be marked “ad” or “spon”; I have tweeted from free events and have not marked my tweets with “free” or such a similar designation, if I am being careful to disclose freebies on my blog posts then surely I should do so on my tweets? With only 140 characters it is harder to, and the very spontaneous nature of Twitter makes it easy to forget.
What am I to do if I attend an event that is subsidised? I have been fortunate enough to attend some wonderful meals as a blogger, which I have paid for, but at a far cheaper rate than the general public would.
I will continue to stick to my policy of disclosure and am confident that I am being honest with my readers. What do you think about this issue, or providing people are honest is it all rather a non issue?