Bloggers Who Blur Line Between Product Reviews and Paid Advertising May Face Regulation

By Chiara Marra, via Flickr
By Chiara Marra, via Flickr

I recently heard a story on NPR about the “mommy bloggers.” They write about motherhood, childrens’ development, and many other similar issues; some of them are very popular, have large and active followings, and have attracted the attention of marketing departments eager to use them to push their products. Some of these mommy bloggers will have nothing to do with such practices and feel it sullies their independence and compromises the integrity of the communities they have built; others, however, are offering apparently unbiased product reviews, in some cases for free samples of products and in other cases for undisclosed amounts of money.

I listened with interest because I frequently receive requests from companies that want us to casually mention their products or Websites on this blog. What the marketers who send these promotional materials don’t seem to know is that AJN maintains a very clear separation between editorial and advertising content. This is very very important to us at a time when there are daily reports of research that’s been ghostwritten by pharmaceutical companies and of influential physicians and health care reporters with close ties to various health care industries.   

Now, according to the NY Times, some regulators are getting interested in the blurring of lines between content and product promotion on some blogs:

“It’s something everyone in the consumer protection area is newly focused on,” said C. Lee Peeler, the chief executive of the National Advertising Review Council, which sets policies for the advertising industries’ self-regulatory programs. “One of the issues of advertising in new media is, is it clear that it’s paid-for advertising, or does it look like something else?”

In fact, “two of the National Advertising Review Council’s investigative units plan to announce Tuesday their first decisions involving blogs. Their recommendations call for clear disclosure when a company is sponsoring a site or paying for product reviews.”

Bloggers, particularly nurse bloggers: Have you experienced any confusion around this or similar issues? Do you have a clear policy for how to react when you are approached by marketers? And is it ever acceptable for an independent blogger to be, at least in part, “in it for the money”?

Jacob Molyneux, blog editor/senior editor

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2016-11-21T13:23:51+00:00 August 11th, 2009|Ethics, healthcare social media, nursing perspective|2 Comments

About the Author:

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

2 Comments

  1. jm August 13, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Nicely put. I think you’re right: the main issue here is the importance of full disclosure of affiliations, payments received, etc.

  2. notratched August 12, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I have a disclaimer in my sidebar telling them to not even bother contacting me, but I still get a decent number of requests from marketers as well as people wanting me to push a certain agenda, which seems like the same issue to me. I refuse to get involved with anything like that unless I happen to want to write about the product or cause my own self without prompting. Also, for what it’s worth, I tend to skip posts by nurse bloggers that say, in effect, “I have to write this review to get my ad money.” That means your opinion means squat. Next article, please.

    That said, bloggers without free blogs need to offset their costs, and why should they entertain us for free? I don’t think it’s unethical as long as they state their affiliations. I just personally want my blog to be for free and for fun.

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