Sunday, June 21, 2009

Reverse Disclosure?

If you read this blog you know I'm big on transparency and disclosure--both because it's important to me and also because it's about to become very important to all bloggers when the FTC releases its revised guidelines later this summer.

Last night on Twitter I noticed a conversation between Danny Brown and Chris Brogan about disclosure, then today saw Danny had a good post up "Can You Have Too Much Disclosure?"

It got me thinking about something I've wondered about before: should bloggers have to worry about what I guess you'd call "reverse disclosure"--e.g. when raving about a product or company that they just happen to like should they say "my only incentive for writing this is my genuine enthusiasm for this product/company/service"? It sounds sort of stupid and tiresome but, what with the new regulations coming from the FTC, will it soon be necessary to reverse disclose to avoid being accused of not disclosing?

I find myself thinking about the concept of reverse disclosure a decent amount lately--maybe because I've become more attuned to the concept of blogging for compensation? Before I started reading so much about the whole disclosure thing I never really gave it much thought--call me stupid but I guess I never realized how many people out there were getting free stuff or being paid to post about products or companies.

I know the handful of times I've been given something free to blog about I've been so impressed with myself that I made darn sure to mention that I'd gotten the stuff for free. The fact that I'd gotten the stuff for free was, in fact, basically the gist of both posts. And in both cases, I wasn't exactly raving about the products; certainly nobody would ever accuse me of writing falsely positive posts. In fact, I'm quite sure that if I were to go solicit products to review, companies would probably steer clear of me, given my reputation for telling it like I see it and not sugar coating things.

The thing is, though, that just as I'm fine with being strongly negative about things if I feel it's warranted, I'm also very passionate about things I love. Especially on my other blog, I'm very prone to raving about how much I love certain books, websites, people and products. (Fair warning: I'm also very prone to using the "F" word, so consider yourself forewarned.) Again, nobody would probably accuse me of raving about a product and not disclosing some conflict of interest, mostly because I'm the most TMI person in the world and usually come right out with the reverse disclosure.

But what about people like Chris Brogan or Penelope Trunk, who companies are willing to pay big bucks to have them mention products or services? (I gasped out loud when I read Penelope Trunk's post about how she used to get paid $5,000 a MONTH to blog about Payscale.) Once the FTC starts peering over bloggers' shoulders a lot more, will people like that need to put reverse disclosures in EVERY post in which they rave about something they weren't somehow compensated for? As much as I'm all for disclosure, I have to say it might get annoying...but will it be a necessary evil?

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