Blogger Roundtable: Disclaimers

   As much as I like the sound of my own voice, it's also, on occasion, good to get feedback and input from others. Ask 100 people "what is blogging?" and it's more than likely you'll get 100 different answers. So, with this idea in mind, I decided to begin a series where I'd ask a number of bloggers their opinions on topics related to  life on-line and see if any general consensus could be reached.

   For the opening post we discuss the contentious topic of disclaimers. I'd like to thank Andy from Pampered Prince, Helen from The Love Cats Inc, Kel from Kel Loves and Liberty from Fade from Black for taking part. Feel free to join in the discussion by leaving your thoughts in the comments section. 



   Disclaimers are, to some, an integral part of blogging – they’re used to build up trust with their readership. Some brands, on the other hand, would prefer to not disclose when they are giving bloggers fiscal or product incentives to write about them for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, Google guidelines and PR purposes. 
What are your thoughts on disclaimers in blog posts? 

    Is it the bloggers’ discretion to use them or should they be mandatory (like in the USA where they are a legal requirement)?


Andy

   I ‘m definite pro-disclaimer and think they should be mandatory. I feel it right to disclose whether something was given to you or not. As long as you’re honest with your opinions then it makes no difference. If a PR company wasn’t happy with me stating something was a PR sample, then I don’t publish anything at all. 


Helen

   Receiving items from PR companies or being paid for content is always a bit of a controversial topic within blogging as some are more upfront about it than others. I think people should mention clearly when they’re reviewing a product from a company, and I don’t mean a tiny asterisk right at the bottom of a post. I am personally quite sceptical about those who don’t make it obvious that something is sponsored and, although some may say that that type of content should be like that ie. blend into your blog, I think there should be more disclosure where things like that are concerned.


Kel
   I think one of the reasons people look to blog reviews is that they are seen as more honest than other review sites, and to maintain this notion of integrity, I think that PR samples or paid-for content should be disclosed. With that being said, I'll admit that once or twice I've initially forgotten to add a disclaimer in my eagerness to get a finished post published. I've always rectified this as straight away though and its never been with any intention to deceive. 


Liberty

   Overall, I don’t think disclosure should be mandatory (as it is in the US), because magazines don’t have to post disclaimers and they get given far more free samples than any blogger does – I’ve worked on lifestyle magazines and literally everything featured was  given to the staff free; very little was disclosed as such.  Of course, there is the argument that a blog is more like a personal recommendation and people have a right to know the motivation behind the recommendation (is it featured cos they love it, cos it was new and looked good so they bought it out curiosity or because it was given to them?) If all bloggers were always 100% honest when reviewing gifted products, disclaimers wouldn’t be an issue, but unfortunately a small minority will lie if a product is free so I like to see disclaimers so I can take reviews with a pinch of salt. It is up to each blogger if, how and why they disclose freebies but in my opinion, honesty is the best policy so why wouldn’t you? It doesn’t take much, builds trust with your readers, and doesn’t subtract anything from the blog.


   As for brands/agencies asking you not to disclose for SEO or PR reasons; I work in online marketing so can see the argument from both sides but would still be extremely skeptical of anyone who asked a blogger not to post a disclaimer, as it’s compromising the integrity of the blog, and acknowledging that what they (the brand/blogger) are doing is wrong. If they really want to work with bloggers and don’t want them to disclose freebies or sponsorship, they need to research and target blogs that don’t post disclaimers – they’re not hard to find at all. 


 

18 comments

  1. Really interesting post :) Personally I feel its wrong for bloggers to let readers believe they paid for something if they didn't. Especially with more expensive products - I know if I pay a lot for something I'm very critical of quality etc and although I'm in no way accusing people of being 'swayed' by free products - I can't help feeling like things aren't viewed as critically if people don't have to part with cash for them!

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    1. Thanks Vic!
      It's always interesting to hear different opinions on this and, you could certainly be right regarding expensive products.
      If I paid a couple of pound for something and it's "okay" I'll probably be happy with that and positive about it. However, if I paid £100 for something that was "okay" I'd be much more critical.
      Things that cost £0 lose this investment stake but, on some level I guess, it should, hypothetically, make the blogger just review the product for what it actually is rather than for fiscal value. Whether this occurs or not is a different matter.

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  2. I had a PR ask me yesterday to remove a sponsored links notice, in the end we compromised on an image rather than text - obviously related to the Google thing.
    To me, it's important that readers know they can depend on me being honest and that will always be my priority; like Andy said, if we can't compromise then I won't publish the post.
    Really interesting post, thanks Kieron!

    Jesss xo

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    1. Hi Jesss,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Aye many companies know that Google penalise "bought" links and one easy (hypothetical) way for Google to track this is to search for the word "sponsored" in posts so the image idea is a genius way around this for PRs!
      It means you still have the trust of your site readers as you don't have to hide non-editorial content or pretend it's not paid for, and they have a way of hiding from Google.

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  3. Great post! I usually use a * right next to the product if it was sent to me (or ill build into the post something like 'I was sent this by xyz...) if its sponsored I put at the top or bottom in big letters, this is a sponsored post). I don't like when people put a teeny * right at the bottom, well under their signature... It sits a bit uneasy with me although I am aware what I do might sit uneasy with others.

    What are you thoughts on people using an image to declare whether something is sponsored or not so that google does not pick up the text and SEO is not affected?

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    1. Hi Charlotte,

      I've got to admit I've been an asterisk guy for sponsored posts but I will only accept these if I am given full editorial reign over what I write and will not consider advertorials for the site - as such, I consider links in the post (which may be three or four words long) which won't interfere with my editorial perspective to be fine as i take great care to not let them interfere with the reader's experience on the site. (I guess I consider the five words to be the equivalent to an adsense ad or other ads of similar light obtrusiveness). That said, I am considering, once I've fulfilled my previously noted obligations, of shifting away from this approach due to the negative feedback I've heard re: the asterisk approach.

      For ones where I have had the product sent I will declare this at the bottom of the post and within the post too.

      I'd never heard of the images loophole before this was posted - I think its a great idea from a PR company perspective. Its something I will certainly give more thought about.

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  4. Ooh, good post! I'm all for disclaimers. I never used to be but just recently there have been a couple of incidents that changed my mind. Most importantly a blogger who has clearly been sponsored a substantial amount of money to promote something and run a subsequent giveaway but who is blatantly lying about it. If the blogger was honest about it, fair enough it's a bloody good deal, but they've actively lied about the money they were quite clearly gifted. It just doesn't sit right with me at all.
    However, each to their own!

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    1. Ooh that's interesting!
      It's interesting that a lot of this debate is about the different ways to declare (some folk saying asterisks aren't enough) if there are bigger bloggers (who should know better) to lie about something.
      I think it's all about integrity and some people will see not declaring but giving honest reviews as fine whereas others will want nothing more than the sponsored nature of the post mentioning in the title - yet no-one in their right mind can justify actively lying.
      Would be interested to hear who this is!

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  5. I think if you are gifted something to blog about it is only right to say so! I also think it should be a review like any other. Good bad & ugly! You are the reason someone else may actually spend their hard earned cash on the item and if its not that good tgen they should know about it not just say nice things because its free to you and you may get more free stuff. My opinions are my own :)

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    1. Your opinions are also shared by me!
      I've seen some people (who shall remain nameless) endorse products to their readers (which could, conceivably have made them buy them) only to publish a week later that they actually made said blogger ill.
      I think this was out of order and, regardless of whether said product was bought or sent, the matter remains that such behaviour was vastly irresponsible and, indeed, immoral.
      I think here, as much as some folk consider it important to disclaim whether something is sent, the most important, over-riding thing is that the review is honest.

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  6. I think its best to let people know if a review has been sponsored
    But when it comes to things like affiliate links I dont think its necessary as youre only as successfull in your monetising as you work to be and Id like to think no one would promote something they didn't genuinely like!

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    1. Aye - it would be peculiar to be an affiliate of a product that they didn't like!
      I think I agree, I don't think affiliate links need to be disclaimed

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  7. I tend to come to an agreement with them before accepting any samples. I don't ask if I'm 'allowed' to disclose its a sample - it depends on how I write the review. Sometimes I will, sometimes I don't. I think it's more important to write a great, honest review about the product and not the PR agency. I don't promote agencies, I'm interested in whether a product is good or not.

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    1. Hi Ged,

      That's a really good point. Most important thing definitely is truthfulness - it's hypothetically possible, for example, for a blogger to disclaim at the end of the post... but then lie about how good a product actually was.
      This is far worse than not disclaiming the product was sent but giving an honest review.

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  8. I disclose everything I'm sent to review, I normally will say so in the first paragraph of my review. I also add a disclaimer at end of post. It's probably going over the top but I do it in case someone doesn't read the blog post that way I cover myself twice.

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    1. Aye - I know sometimes its possible to miss such dislaimers in the first paragraph particularly if someone has a lot of reviews open on the same product so are just skimming for a variety of opinions. Good thinking!

      Delete
  9. Blogging is not my job, and I have no desire for it to ever become my job. I think for people who are professional bloggers it must be different, but I only ever try things I think I would probably buy anyway. If I try it and I don't like it, I don't care if it was given to me or not, it does not change the fact that I didn't like it. If I am sent a product that I do not feel happy to recommend, I simply don't write about it. If I do like it, I mention that it was given to me, but I don't make a song and a dance about it. either you trust my opinion, or you don't. I only blog because I was fed up of wasting money on crap products after reading hyped up sponsored blog posts about them. I know that some bloggers are very honest in their sponsored posts, but some are not so honest. We all know a few. If they mention sponsorship or not, those bloggers will still write over inflated reviews.

    ReplyDelete

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