Is Your Wine Blog in Compliance with the FTC? Updated Disclosure Regulations that Affect You.

If you are a US wine blogger and accept free samples, run advertising on your site, or even partake in sponsored content or affiliate programs, there has been an update from the FTC on disclosure regulations you’ll want to pay attention to.

We are not attorneys, and this post is not legal advice so we encourage every blogger to check out .com Disclosures and consult with an attorney if you have any questions. 

The FTC makes it a point to emphasize that disclosures need to be “clear and conspicuous”, meaning that it’s the publisher’s responsibility to adequately inform readers of the nature of the content.

Below is a summary of a few high-level take aways from the 2013 FTC changes. They apply to all types of sponsored content, including simple product reviews (as a result of free samples).

Some things that no longer work

  • A Disclosure page on your blog alone is not adequate
  • A disclosure at the bottom of your blog post alone is no longer adequate
  • Hyperlinking to a disclosure alone is not adequate

Proximity & Prominence
Disclosures and the endorsement and/or outgoing product link need to be proximate to each other. The FTC states that

“A disclosure is more likely to be effective if consumers view the disclosure and the claim that raises the need for disclosure (often referred to as a “triggering claim”) together on the same screen.”

Keep in mind that this applies to viewing of your content on mobile devises as well. As such, disclosures should be as close to the endorsement and/or outgoing links as possible.

To be safe, the FTC suggests publishers repeat disclosures as needed. We are noticing bloggers disclose the nature of the content at the top of a post, close in proximity to the actual endorsement or sponsored content, and repeated again at the end of the post.

Disclosures also need to be prominent – meaning they need to noticeable. Hyperlinking to a disclosure statement is not adequate; nor is changing the size and/or color of the disclosure to make it less prominent than other content. Again, this applies when viewing content on mobile devices.

In Social Media
If you’re paid to endorse and/or mention products in your social media efforts, then you need to definitely read the full document in order to understand the FTC’s expectations on disclosures in Social Media.

One interesting thing to note, however, is how wording of your social media promotion of your blog posts affects whether or not disclosures in that promotion is required.

For example, if you receive a free sample from a winery and end up writing a review on your blog, you know that you need to adequately disclose on your post that the product review was a result of a sample. But depending on how you word your tweet of that review affects whether or not that tweet also needs to include a proper disclosure.

A tweet that endorses the wine like

“My favorite #wine of the year is the 2010 Red Blend from Generic Winery”

necessitates a disclosure ahead of the tweet so that it reads

“Ad: My favorite #wine of the year is the 2010 Red Blend from Generic Winery”

Not disclosing in your endorsement tweet that this is an “ad” would be in conflict with FTC guidelines.

However, a tweet promoting your post and not the product does not require a disclosure.

“A review of 2010 Red Blend by Generic Winery”

Disclosing your relationship with Zephyr Adventures
For the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference we are offering a discounted rate for our pre-conference excursions (Lake Chelan & Kelowna) for excursion attendees in exchange for at least 1 blog post on the excursion and the excursion hosts. Also, for our 2013 Wine Tourism Conference, we are offering a discounted blogger rate for conference registration in exchange for 2 blog posts on the conference (subjects of your choosing).

These posts will require adequate disclosures as they classify as sponsored content.

If you have any questions on these sponsored posts, please email Cindy at zephyradventures dot com.