The gravy train may be nearing its final stop for a niche group of opportunistic mommy bloggers.
In what could be a ruling with wide ranging implications in the Internet world, the Federal Trade Commission is considering cracking down on bloggers and chatty people on social media sites like Facebook, who endorse or review products and/or services -- and get something in return from the people who offer those products or services.
"Consumer endorsements and testimonials have always been viewed as extremely effective types of marketing," FTC spokesperson Richard Cleland tells ABCNews.com. "But the concern is about those instances when 'testimonials' area delivered and it's not made obvious that it's an advertisement for a company."
As AdAge reports, "This could present a significant issue for marketers, including the likes of Microsoft, Ford and Pepsi, who spend billions on word-of-mouth and social media."
It also presents a significant issue for bloggers who happen to be moms, and who blog about all-things-mom including things moms buy. Because as we all know, moms read a lot of blogs (85-percent of American moms say they read blogs), and moms are the most powerful consumer group on the planet. And as The Wall Stree Journal's blog "The Juggle" points out, word-of-mouth is a very powerful tool among the mom community, with 80-percent of moms say they buy products at the recommendation of other moms.
Take for instance the case of "The Eleven," which I wrote about back in November. "The Eleven were chosen and assembled by Wal-Mart stores, which paid for 11 Mommy bloggers to travel to the store's Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters in order to participate in a "Salon Secret" panel," which turned out to be Pantene hair products.
And of course, those Mommies then went home and blogged about their adventure and began spreading the good word about Pantene and Wal-Mart to their countless readers - thus creating a viral buzz worth millions to P & G and Wal-Mart. And although one member of The Eleven, Katja Presnal - who runs the Skimbaco.com online retail site and SkimbacoLifestyle blog - told AdAge at the time that she wasn't paid with money for her positive posts, one can't deny that these particular mommies are benefiting from their blogging - as indicative by the limited of offer of "free P&G sample products" offered on Prenals's blog.
In this new world order where bloggers could be held liable for products reviews, the FTC says a blogger who crosses the line from innocent product mentions to outright endorsements-for-profit could face a cease-and-desist order, or even be forced to reimburse readers who claim to have bought a product under false circumstances.
Blogs held accountable?! This will either
A) result in a sudden rush by advertisers to find mommy bloggers to officially sponsor - and visa versa,
B) open the food gates to federal regulation of all blogs (watch out all you Politicos!),
C) force a whole lot of mommy bloggers to send personal checks to all sorts of people they never heard of who claim they were mis-led by a post on the Elmo Color Change Bath Tub Fun Toy, OR
D) all of the above
Could this be the beginning of ethics in blogging? Can the Internet, the Wild West of the 21st Century, actually be regulated?
I'm not studied enough in this issue to venture a guess or an opinion on that. But what I can tell you....is that Gatorade 12-ounce bottles which come in a handy six-pack, can keep your kids hydrated, healthy and happy all at the same time.
(did you get that - FTC?)