I sent a link to my husband this afternoon about some new rules issued by the FTC on bloggers who are paid to write reviews (or who receive freebies) and then write product reviews. Since my husband has several sponsors on his site, I wanted to get his thoughts on the impact he sees with the new rules. He posted a quick piece on it yesterday afternoon. And in short, we think the new rules are a good thing. But the real culprits those that get paid to write product reviews as comments on a site will not like the new rules.
The rules center around the notion of material connections relations between advertiser and endorser must be disclosed. These rules force all parties to disclose such biases. In thinking about these rules, we can’t see any relevance to MetalMiner.
First, if we started telling you about so and so’s on time delivery performance, and how cost effective, and high quality a particular mill or distributor is, you’d exit our site faster than a speeding bullet. And we couldn’t even imagine writing that even with the disclaimer “this is a paid advertisement. No for us, our bias has always been with metal buying organizations (and to date none of them advertise with us). And even if we move to a sponsorship model we know that conflicts of interest will limit our ability to grow our readership and create long-term loyalty.
Second, we wish we could be influenced by “free products but the giveaways in our industry are well, just not that exciting (e.g. copper coil, aluminum sheet stock and steel re-bar). Unfortunately, nobody has offered to send me a free pair of platinum diamond earrings in exchange for a favorable write-up. I guess that’s off the table now unless I “fully disclose.
But perhaps the more important takeaway here involves the whole view of blogs in the metals industry. We don’t write with a journalistic “objective voice, (which assuredly does not exist today anyway) but rather as a POV (point of view) as we like to say in consulting. Now, one doesn’t need to agree with us (in fact, many do not) but by airing our opinions and biases publicly, everyone knows where they stand, so to speak. In this context, blogs can serve as a democratizing “fact check to the news of the day.
We believe buying organizations want to know what the road signs are telling them and more important, how to act based on that information. We’ll continue to do that, in the name of full disclosure.