When the FTC first announced that it was looking closely at blogs and social media, one of the groups that many thought would come under close scrutiny was mommy bloggers.
Flash forward to today. The FTC rules are in place but it’s business as usual for mommy bloggers who get free product in exchange for product reviews on their blogs. That’s according to a survey of 130 mommy bloggers conducted by Mom Central Consulting.
In an article on MediaPost, Sarah Montague, VP of Mom Central Consulting, revealed that, of the 130 mommy bloggers who participated in the survey, most “have not really changed” their behavior. Many had already been including disclosure statements, so the new rules didn’t require them to. More importantly, the FTC’s rules haven’t deterred marketers. The survey found that amongst the mommy bloggers questioned, “the number of brands or agencies pitching sponsored product reviews
has remained about the same“.
Not surprisingly, Mom Central Consulting found that most mommy bloggers don’t have any qualms about receiving free stuff, but they do feel that the eye of the FTC has been focused on them far more than it has been focused on others who might find themselves in situations under which the FTC rules would apply, including journalists and celebrities. Obviously, the debate over mommy bloggers and swag isn’t going away, but so long as disclosures are made in compliance with the FTC regulations, it would seem that there’s little reason for the FTC to spend its time singling out this one group if and when it starts enforcing the rules. Based on recent statements made by the FTC’s Northeast director, it appears the FTC doesn’t have any plans to.
Interestingly, however, the survey hints that mommy bloggers may eventually come under the microscope of another alphabet soup agency in the U.S. Mommy bloggers don’t really care about the FTC but they are concerned about the taxman. According to Montague, 75% of the mommy bloggers surveyed “expressed anxiety about vulnerability to IRS audits“. Apparently, many of them are worried that they’ll be more vulnerable to an audit if they disclose their compensation, which it appears should include the value of the products they’re given in exchange for product reviews (at least in the U.S.). Which raises an interesting question: how many bloggers aren’t reporting the value of the products they’re given as income in the first place, and how many brands and agencies aren’t accurately reporting the products they give as taxable compensation?
When all is said and done, I suspect that this tax issue may develop into a far larger problem for the business of sponsored reviews than the FTC’s disclosure rules.
Photo credit: alancleaver_2000 via Flickr.