Opinion. Disclosure Rules For Paid Online Articles And Posts.

Since December 1st, 2010, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is cracking down on website owners who publish articles endorsing a product or service without disclosing the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. “Material Connection” means payments, freebies and traded products/services, samples exchanged between vendors and writers of those endorsements.

The same rules already exist for all other non digital medias since a very long time, here in the US, Europe, Asia and most developed countries around the world. The legislator just try to catch up with a relatively new media – Internet – where “pay-for-endorsement”  is a practice employed in all sectors, including the motorcycle industry.

I am always a proponent of minimum regulations, but at the same time I agree that online magazine and blog readers must not be deceived, have to know if they read real news or an infomercial, and must be able to identify what is journalism and reporting by opposition to “paid endorsements”. Since December 1st of last year, not only publishers have to disclose in their articles their relation to marketers, but marketers of products and services have also to disclose the money or freebies they gave to be endorsed in articles.

Although the new FTC regulations are still being criticized in their formulations and in the way they are intended to be enforced, those in the online community who are paid to review products have 11,001 reasons to disclose their relation with vendors. First, honesty. Second, because fines for violating the rules run up to $11,000 per article or post. Personally I was appalled to see an online motorcycle magazine publicly advertise in its website, visible to all readers, that it was offering to vendors as many published articles as they required in exchange of a yearly paid fee! Well, I state again that I don’t sell my articles in any manner (no money exhange, free products, services, trades, samples, etc.), even to my sponsors who are running a banner in my Blog (this strict ethical rule is printed in our Media Kit and published in our website under “Terms of Service”.) I write what I want when I want.

For those who need now to disclose that they receive a form of compensation for their writing, a new company named Cmp.ly proposes a system of icons to be placed in articles to disclose the nature of a financial relation with a vendor. People reading an article can click an icon (as featured), a short code that brings them to a website detailing the kickback received, whether it’s a free product or a cash payment. A much better idea than writing a full sentence of disclosure  in each article for readers to see before they start reading an article. Some big companies already use Cmp.ly services for disclosure. No chance you will ever see any of these icons in my posts. I don’t have to.

Zipper's

20 Responses to “Opinion. Disclosure Rules For Paid Online Articles And Posts.”


  1. 1 Mike Infanzon Feb 27th, 2011 at 8:21 am

    Thanks Cyril. Integrity means alot. Keep up the good work

  2. 2 Robert Feb 27th, 2011 at 8:30 am

    It’s the reason why we read you, Cyril. No BS.

  3. 3 Ben Hogren Feb 27th, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Never thought that most motorcycle magazines were magazines. Most are catalogs with paid content. Bravo Cyril..

  4. 4 Kemper Feb 27th, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Cyril. I love your work. Accuracy and integrity.

  5. 5 Kevin Feb 27th, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Cyril leads. Others struggle to catch up.

  6. 6 Grayhawk Feb 27th, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Even though I agree whole heartily with the principal and the resultant integrity and commend Cyril for his position on the subject and his integrity as his posture on the subject has been well documented in his “Terms of Service” and executed in his actions for as long as I have been reading his blog.

    I must note that most legislators especially in todays day and time are always trying to catch up but its revenue, control, power or justification of the massive bureaucracies they preside and profit from and over that drives their intent to perceivably monitor those amongst us with a credibility gap.

    Those that conduct business from a non-credible standpoint will figure out a way to accept tokens for pleasure, profit or advancement with or without surface legislation they can get around until their actions catches up with them and it will.

    But the sad part is this might just be a first step of sorts in control over blogs and internet writings in their entirety which would not be so good as pressure to be in the good graces of those in control and/or with power have moved many to sway their postings, writings and published articles.

    Make no mistake or mis-read for sure I am not suggesting Cyril would ever be swayed or others amongst you but merely that in time these legislative first steps of control become voluminous and may handicap/burden ones ability to provide unbiased press or make it financially prohibitive or too restrictive to continue over time. I hope not.

  7. 7 J. Carter Feb 27th, 2011 at 10:38 am

    It’s an interesting subject. My point of view is that a good product doesn’t need to pay to be reviewed by a magazine. The manufacturer just need the magazine to be aware of of its product. It’s the job of people handling public relations for corporations to inform magazines. All medias are interested to talk about good products.

  8. 8 Cris Martinez Feb 27th, 2011 at 11:07 am

    It raises the issue of those doing product tests. I think it’s ok to receive free parts for tests…if it’s disclosed to the public. At least readers know some bias can occur. Parts need to be returned to manufacturer after test?

  9. 9 Shifter Feb 27th, 2011 at 11:14 am

    It goes back to the definition of who is a journalist and what is a magazine.

  10. 10 Luis Feb 27th, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    It’s important to the buying public to know these things. The Car magazines are notorious for saying everything is great even when it isn’t

  11. 11 Darin Maltsberger - Instructor@MTI Feb 27th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Thanks Cyril for always bringing the facts. No matter what the other forms of media portray, I always cross check the stories with your blog. I utilize this blog in my classroom primarily because I can always trust the information to be correct. Thanks again, your honesty and integrity are what drives your readership to grow.

    -Darin

  12. 12 robert andry Feb 27th, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    have always enjoyed the integrity,accuracy, and honesty with this blog. Thank you 🙂

  13. 13 David Feb 27th, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    Gee Grayhawk your not talking about the people that have been elected to run our GOVERNMENT are you? They would never except bribes or kick backs they govern with respect and honesty! (hahaha). Well it seems that at least in Florida there are a few honest People who have the ear of the people,no wonder those from wisconsin did not travel to the sunny warm climate there or any other right to work state. Keep up the good work Cryil.

  14. 14 Wiz Feb 28th, 2011 at 3:33 am

    So Cyril, I got to disclose ‘an make public all the free stuff I send you huh? The yachts, all-expence paid vacations to Aruba, jets, caviar ‘an champagne, hookers, etc. What, you didn’t get that stuff? Who did? Jeffy Nicholas, you DOG!! I wondered why you were signing your comp tickets with Jeff instead of Cyril, I thought it was an alias to hide it from your ol’ lady! YUK-YUK!! Hey Darin, I’m still waitin’ in the wings on that speaking engagement for your class [Oh that’s right, you have no class, YUK-YUK again!]. Wiz

  15. 15 duhl Feb 28th, 2011 at 9:18 am

    intriguing piece cyril, helps bring to light some issues that are not always readily available to see.

  16. 16 Kirsten Gronberg Feb 28th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Hi Cyril!

    Thanks for the unsolicited plug of CMP.LY! I’m the new community manager at CMP.Ly and I am pleased to see someone who insists that honesty and transparency are necessary in blogging making mention of our solution for disclosing affiliate relationships. Those are core values that we hold almost sacred, and your forthrightness is fantastic. Here’s a link to my employee disclosure page, so you know I’m legit: http://cmp.ly/4/ocqhbf.

    Cheers!
    Kirsten

  17. 17 Martinez Feb 28th, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    It’s time for all motorcycle medias to adopt more ethical methods to do business. Well done, Cyril. It has to be said and you said it.

  18. 18 Marc Mazerolle Feb 28th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    I am happy to have a place to get news the way this blog presents it, however, and I am not 100% sure if this really ties in. I run an afterschool program that works with “At Risk” and “Introvert” students, we build custom motorcycles. The program being afterschool means we get no funding from the school system or local or federal governments, just the way it is, it’s because we are not part of the regular curriculum.
    This means we depend on the generousity of many great sponsors for parts, services and in some cases money.
    I personnally feel that this blog posting, from time to time, acknowledgement of these donatations would not and should not be looked upon as an advertisment for the company, rather a thanks to these companies for doing a “good thing”, for helping the industry with the future builders and buyers.
    In the strictest sense, I get “payment” ever single time my program recieves a part or service from the 1000’s of businesses still out there keeping the custom motorcycle industry alive but, that is not needed to be said or assumed, it’s common knowledge that the folks that do what I do and myself get these parts and services and that are very thankful and grateful for their contributions.

    Therefore, I do agree 100% with this but let’s not forget about the programs that benefit from “free” stuff and “payment” and let’s not include them in this.

    my two cents.

  19. 19 Jeff Nicklus Mar 3rd, 2011 at 11:53 am

    WIZ,

    Like my friend Rick Fairless once said ” if you are going to use my name at least spell it correctly!”

    That would be: Jeff Nicklus

    Over & Out,

    Jeff

  20. 20 Wiz Mar 4th, 2011 at 5:39 am

    Jeffy, As in Ol’ St. Nicklus? I don’t know if “Saint” has ever been used to describe you. Of course, in my book you are for givin’ me a spot at yer place in Sturgis! Take Care my Brother from another Mother! Wiz

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