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Snooth User: dmcker

Wakeup call to wine reveiwers: FTC tells online media they're criminal if they don't report every little thing they're comped

Posted by dmcker, Dec 18, 2009.

Taking sage advice, I'm moving this to its own thread:

--Reply by dmcker, 7 hours ago.

OK, I just ran across something that might provide a new angle on this discussion.

Apparently, according to new FTC guidelines announced in October and that went into effect from Dec. 1, both celebrities and rank-and-file bloggers are supposed to disclose any free goods they receive if they make endorsements via online media.

So what about wine reviewers who are comped meals, trips, accommodations, even wine itself? Is it likely that staffers at WA, WS and whatever other publication or blog or ... that operates in the US should be paying fines (up to a maximum of $11,000) if they don't disclose what they have received from those parties they're reviewing?

I can easily imagine any number of abuses of this new policy, especially with people ratting out whatever blog or blogger they don't happen to like. And is this level of morality enforced for print? Enforcement itself is also problematic, I would think. From Caroline McCarthy of CNET, back in June:
'Does the FTC realize just how many small-time bloggers are out there? Championing business ethics is a worthy goal, but, um, good luck getting much done when there are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there and new ones popping up more or less daily. Ever heard of the expression "herding cats?" '

I would think this policy would also make the WAs and WSs quite nervous about implementing compliance policies. At the very least actually conduct all reviews the way they say they do... ;-)

Anybody know anything else about this FTC ruling and how it's playing out? Technically, Philip, it applies to Snooth, too, I would think...

Here are some links for reference:

I'm thinking it might be appropriate to start a new thread on this subject, but will wait to see if anyone else thinks it warrants further talk...

--Reply by GregT, 4 hours ago.

Way to resurrect a thread!!!

(I say start a new one.)

Either way, the FTC is nuts.


Reply by dmcker, Dec 18, 2009.

And Philip, Mark, can we *please* get post-posting edit capabilities? It's wine 'reviewers', not 'reveiwers,' etc. ...

Reply by dmcker, Dec 18, 2009.

Also moved from that other thread:

--Reply by Philip, 5 minutes ago.

Why does it apply to snooth? Are we a blog? Can't we just mention it in the Terms of Service? Can I disclose it here? Not sure if that last one will be sufficient...

Reply by dmcker, Dec 18, 2009.

Philip I don't think they're just talking about bloggers, but online social media, too. Any place online that products are promoted. Aside from just the case of obvious direct plugs, I'm sure there are plenty of legally minded folks out there who could make a case for positively worded and numbered reviews being 'endorsements'. Probably is worth talking to your legal advisor(s) about.

Though I can understand where the desire for such a policy is coming from, it does seem half-baked, at best. Perhaps it's a roundabout jobs program for the bureaucrats and legal industry... ;-(

Reply by zufrieden, Dec 18, 2009.

This is an interesting story. From talking to winegrowers in the USA, Canada and Europe I'm pretty sure that payola is alive and well. For the small producer in particular, I hear of pressure for a free case or two following a favorable review. And of course many of these reviewers have their own websites or blogs. I don't know about the enforcement issues, but I can't say I have much sympathy with dishonesty.

Reply by Eric Guido, Dec 18, 2009.

(copied from other thread)

I do remember a big to-do about a bunch of WA employees getting pampered in France some time back. A lot of people felt it was a conflict of interests. Personally, I think all wine tasting should be blind. Varietal, region and vintage should be grouped together. Screw price point. The wines should be tasted and scored. At least for the big publications.

Why wouldn't this be fair?

Reply by zufrieden, Dec 18, 2009.

VERY fair.

Reply by cigarman168, Dec 19, 2009.

It is better for those reviewers go straight forward as advertisement than comped something. Will be more fair to consumers and the products also got promoted in the website or blogger. Public forum will also help to keep eyes on those dishonest review.

Reply by Philip James, Dec 19, 2009.

Cigarman - I think advertising is cleaner than the freebies. There tends to be separation between sales and editorial, especially with a larger company, and not all the ad dollars flow into the writers pockets directly.

Reply by kylewolf, Dec 20, 2009.

Being in the science community, I understand the concept as our ethical codes state you have to express any conflict of interest on any grant or publication. I think it is just fine that this rule is extended into the rest of publication works.

While this is meant for professionals, I want to create a signature saying "I hereby claim I received no compensation by any individual or company in the form of food, wine, gifts or monetary gain...although I wise I did".

Reply by cigarman168, Dec 20, 2009.

In commercial world, I'm totally having no objection for bloggers or media reviewer to earn money, but just make sure to make readers clearly understanding which is objective reviews and what is commercialize reviews. I do see many reports on Newspapers and thanks that they put small brankets highlights "advertisement" there or else I will believe it is reality news.

Reply by ChipDWood, Dec 21, 2009.


Reply by ChipDWood, Dec 21, 2009.

From one of my favorite Snoothers period, Senior Guido:

"Varietal, region and vintage should be grouped together. Screw price point. The wines should be tasted and scored. At least for the big publications.

"Why wouldn't this be fair?"

Fair and "law" are two different things. "STANDARDS" is the word we should be using I think. It goes back to that GREAT book about Mr. Parker himself, and how he was brought into the circle of Bordeaux as well as the Rhone Valley- whereas in Burgundy he was far less welcome. Penned by Elin McCoy (lemme get the link...).

GREAT read about all of which is discussed in this thread, about the guy who has probably dealt with more "Please taste my wine as I offer you these two virgins" offers than Alexander himself.

...Ok, perhaps I exaggerate. But, after reading the book, and understanding the weight of importance this thread carries for anyone who may HAPPEN to try a wine and write about it... Let's not be too quick to do anything regarding this.

Yo dos pesos.

The Virginia Guy.

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