Blog Disclosure: some practical options

by Sally on February 8, 2011

Since the OFT ruling requiring bloggers, blogging communities and content networks to clearly disclose when they have been paid for writing a post,  there has been lots of chatter about how exactly bloggers in the UK should tackle the issue of disclosure.

If you don’t accept any kind of payment in return for posting, then it’s easy enough to post a blanket policy or ad-free logo in the sidebar.

Others offer a blanket statement advising readers to assume EVERYTHING is paid for – take a look at Tim Ferris for a completely brilliant example of this approach (one of Tim’s badges is used to illustrate this post).

However, most of us fall somewhere between the two – accepting the odd advertisement or reviewing free samples from time to time. In that case, you probably need to disclose on a post-by-post basis – but how can this be done?

You could simply add a disclosure statement to the end of a post (this is the approach I take at Who’s the Mummy, and is similar to the sort of thing done in journalism):

Disclosure: I received payment in exchange for publishing this post OR

Disclosure: Company X reimbursed my expenses for attending this eventsin

Another option, if you want something easy and internationally recognised is the badges produced by cmp.ly.

This is a set of five standard disclosure images that tell readers clearly which sort of post this is – there are badges for posts that are paid for, reviews of samples and posts about business clients, for example. There’s also a sixth badge which you can customise, if you sign up for an account.

What I personally like about cmp.ly is that the badge is independent and universal – you’re not aligning yourself with any particular blogging organisation or site, so the badges are easily recognised and understood by those outside a specific community or audience.

Do you have any other good ways of approaching disclosure on your blog?

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex February 9, 2011 at 8:08 AM

cmp.ly is a good idea imho.

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Rosie Scribble February 9, 2011 at 8:10 AM

I like the cmp.ly badges too.

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TheMadHouse February 9, 2011 at 9:13 AM

I too am a fan of the cpm.ly badges and like the fact that they are international. I think that I am going to start using them

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TheOnlineStylist February 9, 2011 at 9:27 AM

Thanks for this Sally – really useful article and am off to check out cmp.ly now. It can a bit of a minefield sometimes but am always conscious of trying to get it right. x

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Vic February 9, 2011 at 9:34 AM

CPM.ly badges are a great idea – anyone know of somewhere we can see them in action?

It’s probably worth a session hashing out when to use each of the disclosures. I can see there will be differences in opinion on the appropriate use of review and sample, and again marketing and paid (especially when in relation to companies such as ebuzzing).

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Sally February 9, 2011 at 5:58 PM

I read an article in CNN from a few months back that said 400,000 blogs use cmp.ly, so I think they’re fairly widely used (although mostly in the US).

What’s interesting potentially about cmp.ly is they can be used by brands who can have their own disclosure link and badges – given the OFT ruling which puts the onus on brands and networks rather than bloggers, I think that’s an interesting idea, if nothing else.

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Kirsten Gronberg February 11, 2011 at 5:47 PM

Vic,

I’m the new community manager at CMP.LY and I have a link for you from a blog post using one of our badges. Here you go: http://libslibrary.blogspot.com/2011/02/cell-ranger-stix-giveaway.html

Best,
Kirsten
my disclosure: http://cmp.ly/4/ocqhbf

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Alex February 9, 2011 at 10:52 AM

cmp.ly have very clear guidance on usage, in some detail, so the point is everyone, whether they’re part of a community or just come to a blog via google, can know what they all mean. I think another bloggers network should pick them up. Not going to be the one to suggest that though :p

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Sally February 9, 2011 at 10:57 AM

If you’re talking about the BMB network, I did suggest the cmp.ly badges in a comment on the post about the OFT and disclosure, but my comment was held for moderation and it hadn’t been published last time I checked.

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Alex February 9, 2011 at 12:17 PM

Its odd there’s no further comments after my last one. Perhaps they didn’t publish any more because they thought I’d reply and my replies in total would then be longer than the original article :D

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Vic February 9, 2011 at 12:44 PM

Re comments on that post, I’ve seen a very long one from Natalie M Lue. Quite how she managed to tweet it whilst it’s still being held for moderation, I don’t know. But you can find it at http://ht.ly/3T15y.

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Alex February 9, 2011 at 2:09 PM

How did you get to see a comment held in the moderation queue? Neat trick!

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Vic February 9, 2011 at 2:27 PM

I have no idea how she pulled it off – must be a hootsuite thing.

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Natalie February 9, 2011 at 4:57 PM

I’m cracking up laughing as it’s a total accident that it happened and a clear glitch with Typepad. I thought I was tweeting the post sans comment. Bit of a neat trick though!

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Sally February 9, 2011 at 5:55 PM

Wow. That’s a trick worth knowing. Kudos.

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Diane February 9, 2011 at 9:17 PM

Because I’m a control freak, I really like to specify exactly what I have been provided with for free, either in the body of the post (e.g, in this intro: http://blog.dianeshipley.com/2010/12/12/book-review-the-kid-table-by-andrea-seigel/) or at the end like you do, Sally.

I also think some badges (“sponsored post”) are too general and can lead to misunderstandings — I want to know if you had to say nice things about the product or could say what you liked, if they paid for your time or just gave you a free book, etc etc. I think Natalie’s long and visible when it shouldn’t have been (!) comment is spot-on: these badges aren’t really transparency, they’re a way of edging around it, and non-bloggers don’t know what they are.

I also hate it when people are like, “you should always assume people are being paid to recommend stuff,” because that’s never my motivation and I never assume it’s others’, either. It’s fair enough if they make it clear on their site but I still think it’s worth having a link to that disclosure at the bottom of every relevant post — it just seems more respectful to new readers.

I know I’m naive but when I saw that Roger Ebert tweets a few links to Amazon a day because he earns some money from Amazon Affiliates by doing so, I was a bit shocked. I genuinely thought he just wanted to recommend stuff, ‘cos that’s how I roll. Perhaps we all assume others are going by the same tacit rules as we are, and that’s where confusion reigns. And with Twitter, it’s harder to disclose ‘cos of space restrictions — perhaps we need some special symbols there?

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Sally February 9, 2011 at 9:41 PM

Great comment, thanks.

I think the point that non-bloggers don’t understand badges is a really great point. When I think about it, you’re right of course – to your average reader ’sponsored post’ or ‘review of a sample’ means nothing next to a clear, simple, direct sentence that says, “Microsoft sent me a free HTC phone so I could test their software.”

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Diane February 10, 2011 at 3:55 AM

Exactly! As bloggers, and especially when it comes to our own blogs, we think people are paying full attention, understand everything we say, and click on every relevant link… but deep down, we know that’s not the case. I think we need to picture someone coming along, thinking about other things, glancing at our site for the first time while the telly’s on… how clear is your disclosure to someone in that situation? ;)

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Emm July 8, 2011 at 3:41 PM

Finally! A factual and informative post on how we should be dislcosing that is relevant to the UK. Thank you so much for the cmp.ly info, I will either start using them or text straight away.

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