FTC Review Disclosure: Positive or Negative?

Back in 2009, rules changed. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) became concerned that companies were using bloggers to promote their products. Basically, companies were giving bloggers free samples in exchange for a review of their product on the reviewer’s blog.

up or down

The FTC wanted consumers to know that the blogger was receiving a “fee” for their review, even if this “fee” was just a sample of the product. In other words, the FTC wanted to make sure that “truth in advertising” was being upheld.

As a result, the FTC revised their guidelines to state that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers—connections that consumers would not expect—must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers.

Now when an author or publisher gives a blogger or reviewer a free book in exchange for a review of that book, the reviewer must disclose that fact. Some authors and small publishers do not like this statement accompanying a review. A few members of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) have chosen to not use the BookCrash book review program because they feel that the statement that the reviewer received a free copy of the book from the author or publisher in exchange for a review cheapens the review.

I can see their point. If a review is mediocre, stating that the book was received free in exchange for a review does not help a reader decide whether to read a book or not. However, if a review is glowing and includes how the book enlightened, entertained, or helped the reviewer, then the fact that they received the book in exchange for a review usually will not lessen the impact of the review.

One excellent example of a positive review that incorporates the information that the reviewer received the book in exchange for the review was recently done by a reviewer of my newly released Third Edition of Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. In the review, the reviewer states:

I was given this book by the publisher for an honest review. It now sits on my desk right next to my stylebooks and other professional references. I highly recommend it.

The bottom line for authors and publishers is whether the good of having multiple reviews out ways that negative of having a statement in the review that the book was given to the reviewer in exchange for a fair review.

What about you? Do you think that getting numerous reviews and the exposure that goes with those reviews outweighs the impact of the required FTC statement?

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2 thoughts on “FTC Review Disclosure: Positive or Negative?

  1. Here is a thought. I use a DRM program… with ebooks. A book given to a reviewer can have an “expiration date”. So, a person can set an expiration date on the book… and that book will disappear. It is like getting a book from a library and having to return it. But, the library simply removes the ebook from your files. So, it was not a reviewer “receiving a book”. It was a “library lend”… they don’t have the book anymore within a time frame you set on expiration date as you send the book. I would advise looking at that. And, thank you, because this is what I will do when I send my books for review… I will send an expiring copy so no one can say I “gave them a free book”.

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  2. Interesting idea. However, wouldn’t you still be giving them a “free” copy to review? How is that different from food companies who give free samples for bloggers to eat and review? Those expire also.

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