Sponsored Content: Right or Wrong

Great panel at BlogWorld Expo focused on the controversial topic of sponsored content. Jim Turner, Jason Falls and Rick Calvert nailed the participants for this one (although it would have been nice to have either Chris Brogan or one of Wal-mart’s Eleven Mom’s on the panel). Either way, here they are:

Jeremiah frames the conversation by asking the audience who was pro and con sponsored content. The audience asked for clarification and following that, Jeremiah gave eight examples of sponsored content. After he read these, he re-asked the question and a lot more people were in favor of sponsored content than first go around.

[breaking news via Howard Greenstein: IAB has asked FTC to rescind their ruling due to unfair treatment of online and offline. Here is AdWeek's take.]

Effective as of 12/1/09, here is the high-level overview of the FTC’s ruling:

  • the new FTC’s recent ruling is actually a clarification of a law that has been on the books since 1980 but have recently been reinterpreted by the FTC to cover bloggers. Some of the clarifications included in the recent ruling touch on:
    • According to the FTC, an endorsement is defined as “any advertising message that consumers are likely to believe reflect the experiences other than the sponsor.”
    • Whether the speaker was compensated (including goods)
    • Was it given to you for free
    • Terms of any agreement
    • Length of relationship
    • Value
  • FTC is holding equally liable the sponsor and the endorser if it is believed that false advertising/influence is applicable
  • The FTC is comfortable with sponsored content if proper disclosures are put in place.
Jennifer Leggio:
  • Wants to clarify that her stance is that she doesn’t believe that while she’s against sponsored content, she does see some opportunities where it might be tasteful/appropriate. It can run the risk of damaging a blogger or brands reputation.

Wendy Piersall:

  • She agrees with Jennifer but thinks that there are a lot of opportunities where sponsored conversations are appropriate. However, she agrees that it once one “plays the game,” one has to be careful about how future non-sponsored messages are interpreted.
Ted Murphy:
  • Given the fact that his company, Izea, focuses their business model on sponsored content, it’s not hard to guess where his alliances lie. However, Ted did add that he believes that all bloggers should add disclosure to their blogs in a clear, concise fashion.
There was way more to this than what I’ve covered here but this should give you a flavor of the conversation. For more details, there was actually a separate hashtag — #sponblog — that Jeremiah ran for this session. All in all, a very interesting topic.

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