FTC Guidelines: How They Relate To Your Blog

October 7, 2009

Earlier today, I was asked a question that threw me off guard a bit, vaguely formulated as follows:  “what do you know about social media as it relates to PR?”  I muttered a joke about seeing people create PR nightmares for themselves via Twitter and Facebook and then got down to business, stating that “it’s a cheap and effective way to get your message out to tons of people” – pretty standard, ay?  

I decided to do some digging and find out what the industry pros have to say about Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media/networking sites that exist around the web and instead found an interesting article (10 Simple Things to Know About the FTC’s Rules for Blogs and Brands, by Augie Ray) about a document released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today outlining guidelines for advertising and branding via social media.  These guidelines are not laws, but rather suggestions for companies as to how to best situate themselves so that they are abiding by the existing laws in place regarding advertising.

 For the most part, these guidelines address whether or not it should be considered advertising if a blogger writes a positive review of a product.  It seems that the general idea of the guidelines is as follows:  if you are a blogger on the receiving end of a benefit from a company for favorably reviewing or using their product, then you are – in fact – an advertisement.  If I were to run out to the corner store and buy myself a pack of gum that I truly enjoyed, and I came home to blog about it – that would not be considered advertising.  However, if the gum company were sending me free packs of gum on a regular basis – or any other product that their company manufactures – and I took to my blog to spout the wonders of this product, then that would in fact be considered a sponsored endorsement, since I am regularly receiving treats. 

Most relevant to the PR world is the fact that many workplaces are now looking into adopting Social Media policies, and if they are not – according to the FTC and Augie Ray – they should be.  It is important that in a time where it seems everyone has a Twitter account, which could lead to easy and free advertising for your company for 140 characters or less, you are monitoring and managing these networks.  If an employee of a company logs into their personal Facebook account and reveals to the public their employer’s product is their all-time favorite, without disclosing that they are an employee of that company, they are opening the company up to legal ramifications and they may not even realize it.

Courtney Danielson (candidate for a Caster job)


Blogs to Keep Print Alive?

January 23, 2009

It’s not hard to see why those in the print publication industry are nervous.  Magazines are folding, downsizing, cutting costs and workers.  Prominent newspapers like The Chicago Tribune have filed for Chapter 11 bankrupcy and others like The New York Times have struggled simply to hold onto their assets.  Late last year, the Times was planning to mortgage its office building for $225 million while publications like The Rocky Mountain News and The Miami Herald were put up for sale. 

The economy is a factor but the decline of print publications can largely be blamed on the internet and the invention of the 24-hour news outlet, the web being able to provide up to the second coverage that print papers could never compete with.  So why does Joshua Karper, publisher and founder of the Chicago-based start-up publication “The Printed Blog” think that the internet will save print? 

“We are trying to be the first daily newspaper comprised entirely of blogs and other user-generated content,” he said. “There were so many techniques that I’ve seen working online that maybe I could apply to the print industry.”  

His paper, which will feature local content and first only be circulated in the Chicago and San Francisco markets, plans to use blog content, user provided photographs and anecdotes to populate the pages.  And – as if that wasn’t radical enough – the paper will be free. 

By selling ad space to local businesses with the promise that the readership will be completely targed towards their audience, Karp hopes to revive the print model by capitalizing on the open source nature of the web.  Of course, there are still costs associated with print that are unavoidable – ink, paper and printing materials to name just a few.  But there are some solutions.  “The Printed Blog” plans to put its printers in the homes of the distribution centers thereby eliminating the cost of having a main manufacturing plant. 

Where does all this content come from?  Karp is working with local and national bloggers to sign agreements that let him and his volunteer staff of 10 repurpose their content for the paper in exchange for a small amount of generated ad revenue. 

“The arrangement is mutually beneficial,” said Lauren Dimet Waters, editor in chief of Second City Style, a Chicago blog that has agreed to be reprinted. “If they can make money off of our blog, I can’t imagine we wouldn’t, too, because of the exposure,” she said. “If it gets us exposure to 20 new people, then I’ll be happy.”

Will this new model save the print industry and revolutionize the notion of the free daily paper?  Joshua Karp certainly thinks so.

via The New York Times

Posted by: Ashley / ashleyatcaster on Twitter