Could bloggers that get money from pay-per-post operations be considered word-of-mouth marketers? If so, a Washington Post article reports that the FTC issued a staff opinion yesterday that states WOM marketers must disclose their relationship with sponsors.
The FTC stopped short of ordering an all-out probe into word-of-mouth practices.
While Pay-Per-Post,which was roundly flamed by the blogging community this summer, seems to have gone belly up, the model is far from dead. I found another fairly new network called Blogsvertise that does the same thing as pay-per-post. I also found ReviewMe,a network that apparently requires bloggers to reveal that a posting is paid advertising.
A blogger, who is a member of both, reviews the two services and points out that ReviewMe pays more and requires more stringent disclosure rules. Blogsvertise says they can “choose not to pay anything” and requires three links. Pretty rough demands for a practice that is likely to get you flamed.
Josh Hallet wrote about the pay per post model earlier in the year, pointing out that the Pay Per Post company was just another iteration of the Blogstar network that is also no longer operating.
Darren Rowse, who writes a blog about making money from blogging, also wrote that he wasn’t comfortable with the model, especially since it wasn’t transparent.
Word-of-mouth is defined as marketing through any peer-to-peer communication, such as blogs, MySpace, e-mail or face-to-face communication, among others. If we can consider these word-of-mouth marketing organizations, and I think that they qualify, the FTC says that it would be willing to investigate complaints on a case-by-case basis where, “there is a relationship between the endorser of a product and the seller that is not disclosed and could affect the endorsement.”
According to the Washington Post article, the consequences could include cease-and-desist orders, fines and civil penalties ranging from thousands of dollars to millions of dollars.
It seems to me that the FTC should be sure to watch these groups, and others like it, to enforce their new staff opinion. And we need to watch them too, and file complaints when warranted.
See the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s response to the opinion and their distinction between “buzz” and “stealth” WOMA.
Oh, and just to be clear, which unfortunately in this day and age we must, “Communication Overtones” does not make any money off of any of its links.