Disclosures

Okay, so the Federal Trade Commission in 2009 revised its guidelines regarding, and I’m quoting from its website, “the long standing principle that ‘material connections’ (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers–connections that consumers would not expect–must be disclosed.”

It added “new examples [addressing] what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other ‘word-of-mouth’ marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

Now I come from the record business. Free records, free concert tickets, free lunches, free drinks, free trips. Nice Christmas presents, back in the day.

Conflicts? I wish! And I only wish I got the big bucks that the big political journos get for secretly helping out candidates, or starring in movies or whatever. Especially now that the record business is dead and so is so much of the journalism/reporting that went with it.

But even when it was alive I wrote bios and press releases and liner notes for companies that I was also writing about for publications. I can’t say every other music writer did the same, but I don’t know any who didn’t. It’s low pay to begin with, and now that we get paid by the click—not even half a cent per click on the main site I write for—we’re supposed to disclose who we have business relationships with, being so-called “endorsers” when we write about the businesses.

I’ve been pretty good about this at examiner.com, in that whenever I write about someone or something I’ve had or have business with, I’ll note it parenthetically, that is, if my name’s attached to it, i.e., CD liner notes or contributions to websites or newsletters. I’m not sure how I’ll handle it here if and when, but I love the way Teri Tom did it on her blog.

I don’t know Teri personally, but she’s renowned for being an authority on Bruce Lee’s martial art Jeet Kune Do, having studied it extensively with his late student Ted Wong. She’s also a dietitian whose clients have included the likes of Manny Pacquiao.

She writes on her blog that according to the FTC, if she interviews someone and they pay for lunch, she needs to disclose it. Same if she’s given a t-shirt with a logo and wears it in a photo.

“Disclaimers all over the place,” Teri says. “This would be tedious for me and a continual eyesore for readers. But rules is rules.”

To get around it, or as she puts it, “to cover my ass and preserve your reading experience,” she instructs her readers that for every recommendation, link, and product she uses, assume all of the following: She got fed. She got some sweet gadgets. She got busy w/member of story. She received mad scrilla. She got a helluva schwag bag. She got stock options.

She really is brilliant. So I’m going to admittedly rip her off but reduce it by saying that you can assume for everything I write on this site, I’m paid off big-time in one way or another. And I most certainly hope that your assumption is right! Like the bounty hunter says to Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales, “A man’s got to do something for a living these days”–and this is what I do for a living.

Then again, if you know the movie, Clint responds with, “Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy,” and blows him away.

So in order to help me avoid a similar fate, please consider tipping your waiter.

A man’s got to do something for a living these days.