FTC Compliance Announcement

pbr.jpgYou’ve probably heard about the new Federal Trade Commission rule on blogs by now. Bloggers, the feds say, need to be doing a better job of disclosing their conflicts of interest, primarily by revealing whether they’re being paid for reviews, and whether that payment comes in the form of free gear (or, in the piratical industry term, “schwag”).


I’d like to be able to preface a post this boring by saying that the lawyers made me do it, but unfortunately, I’m the only lawyer working at MidCurrent presently (though, given this economy, I expect to soon be joined by bat-like legions of my out-of-work compatriots).
The basic MidCurrent tribute and booty payment system is pretty simple. I get paid money to write this blog. Once a month, a flatbed backs up to my driveway, makes the little beepy noise, and dumps enough doubloons for me to roll around in, intoning “MidCurrent‘s money!” in my best Cartman voice. That’s the only money that changes hands, however.
As far as gear goes, I’ve had a standard rule ever since I started writing product reviews for magazines three or four years ago: if you want it back, just send a return mailing label. Practically speaking, I return just about everything costing more than twenty bucks or so, unless I sweat in it. Would you want a pair of socks used by a greasy blogger returned to your demo pile? I didn’t think so.
In all seriousness, we do take our ethical responsibilities seriously here. I have always believed in following the old maxim, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” If you see a piece of gear reviewed in this blog, you can rest assured that we genuinely believe that it has some redeeming quality or will appeal to some–if maybe not all–anglers. We have never accepted free gear in trade for a review, nor any bribes. Trust me, I’m a lawyer.
This post was brought to you by delicious Pabst Blue Ribbon® beer, available only in the finest gas stations nationwide. Discuss your deep and abiding love of Pabst Blue Ribbon® beer in the Comments section.

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  • J. Blevins

    “Trust me, I’m a lawyer”
    Hmmm…

  • Thanks, Zach, for posting this. As the PR manager for Costa Del Mar sunglasses, I’ve always tried to be transparent with the bloggers and other writers. I never expect a review (positive or otherwise) in exchange for providing a sample. If we get a review, then we know it’s because the writer genuinely thinks it’s a product their readers might be interested in learning more about. And most of the bloggers and writers I work with already disclose if they’re receiving sample products from me. It will be interesting to watch how this new FTC ruling impacts the blog world. Thanks for bringing this into conversation so we can all continue to make sure we’re doing the right thing for the readers’ sake.

  • Peter Wilner

    you need to upgrade your taste in beer!!

  • RedRaiderPhil

    “Discuss your deep and abiding love of Pabst Blue Ribbon® beer in the Comments section.”
    I love PBR. I love it so much. It’s a great beer. Delicious.

  • Bilge Pants

    I think the word you wanted is “swag.” Schwag is something else entirely, though PBR comes close.

  • bunkweedschwagwater

    “Trust me, I’m a lawyer.”
    Bwa ha ha ha ha….

  • Zach Matthews

    Ha! Bilge Pants – point taken, but check this out:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwag

  • David Holmes

    Phil Monohan and I recently had some off-line correspondence on this issue, in which one of the small points I tried to make was that the industry had an obligation to have reviewers disclose when they receive and retain gear they’re reviewing, as well as disclosing if they got a free stay at a lodge. After all, if you have one chance to take a trip of a lifetime to an Alaska lodge or New Zealand, it might be nice to know if the reviewer who wrote the glowing article got it for free or not.
    Looks like the FTC is having thoughts in the same direction.
    At the end of the day, it’s tough to make a good argument against full disclosure and transparency (after all, if there’s nothing inappropriate going on, why not disclose the reality of freebies?), or to have the Editor set out his or her policy re swag, etc.

  • Vince Staley

    Health Warning Alert
    Most American beers are linked to Australian urinals!!!!!!!!!!!!