The Hypocrisy of Affiliate Disclosure Rules
Editor’s Note: There has been a lot of discussion this week about disclosure. One particular high profile incident was sparked by Chris Brogan who sent out a tweet with a link about StudioPress. The link lacked disclosure within the tweet and Danny Brown, Co-Founder and Partner at Bonsai Interactive Marketing, called Chris out. Now Chris is quite clear about his relationship with StudioPress on his blog, but with his elevated profile what Chris does attracts a lot of scrutiny. He gets called out pretty frequently for slights both real and imagined.
It’s at this point Jason Falls, Founder of Social Media Explorer, entered a brief but spirited debate with Danny on Chris’s behalf stating that if a business relationship is clearly and publicly disclosed somewhere it doesn’t need to be disclosed everywhere (aka buyer beware). Jason added the well taken point, “Let’s be reasonable. This is Twitter.”
Danny strenuously argued the point that many, especially in social media, agree with that all instances of affiliate links should be disclosed. Unfortunately I am pretty sure the FTC would agree with him in principal.
Which leads us to today’s guest post by Daniel M. Clark, Founder of QAQN, and reprinted here in it’s entirety with his permission. Daniel brings up a very interesting point about affiliate links in particular and how disclosure of affiliate relationships is held to a more stringent standard then other forms of sponsorship. It could be just the taint of affiliate marketing, as if somehow affiliate advertising is “seedier” than other forms of advertising. What Daniel doesn’t point out is that only white hat marketers (affiliate or otherwise) would have any moral pangs about disclosing. Black hat marketers would just keep distributing links.
I hope you enjoy the article and take part in the debate in the comments. (BTW in the spirit of this topic the links Daniel included in his original post are kept intact. They are all affiliate links and they are all his.) Enjoy.
The Hypocrisy of Affiliate Disclosure Rules
I might end up doing a show about this down the road, but as I was running around the internet this morning, something occurred to me. I came across some articles about the disclosure of affiliate links, and how weâ€™re supposed to disclose everything now, everywhere we are. Post an affiliate link on your site? Disclose. Tweet an affiliate link on Twitter? Disclose. Facebook? Disclose. No matter what the context, weâ€™re supposed to disclose.
Well, let me ask you two questions, and Iâ€™m genuinely curious what you think.
First, why is it that other forms of media are not subject to such stringent rules?
Television and radio are not required to disclose every single relationship they have. Movies? Product placement is the norm. Thereâ€™s never been a requirement that says â€œIf you show a product in your movie, you must disclose that you were paid to put it there.â€
Second, what about situations where thereâ€™s money on the line, but itâ€™s not an affiliate relationship?
Hereâ€™s an example: Chris Pearson created the Thesis framework for WordPress. (Wanna make a guess about whether or not that link was an affiliate link?) Chris is very active on Twitter. He promotes Thesis pretty regularly. He potentially benefits from every link back to Thesis because heâ€™s its creator! Soâ€¦ should Chris be required to â€œdiscloseâ€ that he potentially makes money when people click his links? Remember, affiliate links are not guaranteed compensation â€“ only if someone makes a purchase does an affiliate get paid. Maybe someone clicks one of Chrisâ€™ links and buys Thesis, maybe not.
I could be another example. Iâ€™m launching a podcast consulting gig. Do I need to disclose when I link to my pages that Iâ€™m going to make money if you hire me? Technically, according to the concepts and the spirit behind what we are required to do with affiliate links, Chris and I should both be disclosing on each and every link we put out there.
Iâ€™d like to know what you think about this.
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