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The FTC And Mommy Bloggers: Tech Talk Tuesday

I’d planned a post about E911 and the need to keep your land line. But today’s headlines have me changing course.

BusinessWeek wrote a short article about the “influence” that’s both paid, and unpaid in the blogging world. Naturally, they focused on the Mommy Blogging World, and naturally they focused on Jessica Smith. There is an 86 page PDF on the site that serves as proposed guidelines to bloggers. I recommend reading the PDF and then taking the the article as commentary.

Jessica Smith puts herself out there. She was one of the original Wal Mart Eleven Moms (I forgive her for that), she’s accepted a Ford for a year after writing a very complimentary review of their car, and she has been paid by just about every company a Mommy Blogger would hope to woo. I want to tell you two things about Jessica.

Jessica Smith isn’t a Mommy Blogger. I’ve scoured Jessica’s site and I can’t find anywhere that she calls herself a Mommy Blogger. Jessica refers to herself as a PR person and a marketer, and I totally respect her as such. Jessica has a blog. But a Mommy Blogger? No, is she a friend of the Mommy Bloggers? Yes. Jessica Smith might be the best friend a Mommy Blogger has. She’s a Mom and she’s a marketer with a blog that appears to be well compensated.

Secondly, within this space I’d consider Jessica Smith a friend. We’ve certainly had our go-rounds, but from my perspective she is completely up front and just working hard to support her own lifestyle. Jessica often recruits Mom Bloggers for paid work. I respect that. She’s introduced me to some pretty terrific women, and her reputation is stellar. She’s an honest woman. I give you honesty and demand it from the people in my life. Honest is good.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking to make some changes. According to these documents the the FTC will be attempting to hold bloggers to some of the journalistic standards that real journalists are held to. If the FTC has it’s way there will be no more eczema cures from hand creams or reviews of car seats that magically appear at people’s homes. I welcome this change.

I’m pitched every day. I have a filter set up for press releases, and for the most part I file them away, never to be seen again. I have a few publicists I’m happy to hear from. There’s one lady out of New York that always has a great small business to introduce me to. I desperately want to point y’all to small businesses and organic practices. I typically keep reviews or mentions of specific products off this blog, I write at a number of other places, and I like to keep my reviews there, where I’m paid, so I don’t have to worry about the messiness of accepting free crap, I can simply write.

Would I accept a laptop from Microsoft (as others have)? Maybe, if I needed one. Let’s be clear though, the price of free is high. Is my blog now a Microsoft Sponsored blog? Do you care what I have to say about a product if it’s been given to me? What if my policy is to only write nice reviews? How would I be taxed on that “free” laptop?

My promise to you is to be honest when I talk about a product. If it is given to me, I will tell you. Things do not just appear in my home. It is not acceptable (in my mind) for a blogger to say, “Occasionally I enjoy featuring something that I really like (sometimes it’s given to me, sometimes I buy it myself).

I’m not the one making the rules. I love the blogosphere, I love that we’re writing the rules as we go along. Publicists will need to be more careful, perhaps asking bloggers for free reviews and then giving them eight pages of “product detail” will cease to be the norm. I doubt it.  As one of my favorite publicists once said, “there are legions of 23 year olds in fake Louboutins screwing this up for everyone.”

I’m sad for Jessica that she’s once again being held up as the standard of a blogger on the take. I could easily direct you to a dozen “mommy blogs” that call themselves Mommy Bloggers and haven’t a lick of original (or literate) content. I’m not really into giving them traffic though.

The advertising firms and the PR firms will need to choose their bloggers wisely. Thus far, the selections have been mind-boggling. I’d rather have no mention of me than a mention from ____.  I’ll give you a hint, the lists suck. I’m just going to grab a handful of popcorn, sit back, and watch the show.