The FTC Asks Bloggers for Full Disclosure – So Here’s Mine

When I opened my morning paper (the Deseret News), this morning, I found an article in the business section titled, “FTC Targets Blog Product Reviews.” The article goes on to explain that the Federal Trade Commission has decided that they should use their authority to “make product information and online reviews more accurate for consumers.” The regulations are to go into effect the 1st of December.

Bloggers Are All Liars
From what the article said, I get the idea that folks have been lying when reviewing products on their blogs. That certainly seems dumb, for it looks to me like the blogger would quickly lose all credibility by saying outrageous or even nice things about an inferior product. But I guess the FTC thinks most of us are just gullible dimwits who believe whatever we’re told. I don’t believe that for a minute, as most Americans learned the line about “If it’s too good to be true…” a long time ago.

I spent most of the day on the computer and have noted that bloggers throughout the blogosphere are responding in various ways. I thought I’d just write this blog.

Book Announcements
I’ve been blogging since late 2003. I’ve blogged about websites, books, CD-ROMs, and various and sundry genealogy-related products. Some of the products were items that I sold. Many of the books were sent to me as “review copies,” and I posted reviews or announcements about the books – dependent on time available. While I worked for Everton’s, many of the book announcements run in the magazine and sometimes posted on the blog, were written by the publishers themselves, and were obviously so, as I would usually link to the original listing of the book at the publisher’s website, where the announcement would be found again. Did I get anything out of this? Yes – I got a job, and the library in Logan, Utah got the books.

Book Reviews
Today I continue to do a few reviews of books, software and CDs – all reviewed on GenealogyBlog. I don’t do anywhere as many as I’d like – strictly because I haven’t got the time. I’m not a speed reader, and it can take me two weeks to read a book (an hour or so a day), and then a couple more hours to write a decent review. Do I get something out of it? Sure – a book or program for which I don’t get a tiny fraction of minimum wage for reviewing. Please note that I also buy books that I review every now and then. I write those reviews because I happen to love the book and that’s all. I’m about to write a review of a book I bought over a year ago entitled “The Jews of Sing Sing.” It was written by Ron Arons. I loved the book and hope my review will do it justice.

This review thing works both ways. As you folks know, I publish books. Whenever a major title comes off the press at FRPC, I mail out about 50 copies to columnists, writers, editors, and bloggers. I hope that they will write nice things about the book – and since I attempt to only print exceptional genealogy research titles, I’ve had great reviews of FRPC books. The reviewers got something – a book. But here again, reviewing the book took their time – and I guarantee that their wage didn’t work out all that high.

Enough said about books…

Press Releases
I also run press releases from the major genealogy-related websites on GenealogyBlog.com. Sometimes I comment on them, and sometimes I don’t. I don’t run every press release I get, but if it’s from a major genealogy website, and it looks interesting to me, I’ll attempt to get it posted on the blog. In some cases – dependent on time, I will check out the database or website, and report on what I found. That’s one of the best things about producing GenealogyBlog.com. I’d do that 16 hours a day if I could.

Subscriptions, Memberships, Sponsorships, & Affiliate Relationships
I spend nearly $2000 per year on subscriptions & memberships to websites, magazines, and societies. A couple subscription websites owned by friends have been comped to me; the vast majority I pay for just like everybody else. And I’ll be darned if I’m going to disclose my relationships with every site that I might mention. And I won’t lie to you. You might also note that I run ads down the right-hand side of GenealogyBlog. In most cases, these are affiliate ads. They are all for products that I happen to like. The exception to that might be some of the Google ads that run occasionally. I can’t say that my knowledge of insurance companies is all that great. When people click on a Google ad, I get a few cents. When folks purchase a product (like a World Vital Records or Footnote subscription), I get a small percentage. I’m signed up as an Ancestry.com affiliate, but seldom ever supply the necessary links within my blogs to get any kind of commission from Ancestry subscription sales. In fact, I have yet to ever receive so much as a dime from Ancestry.com (not that I wouldn’t like the time to change that). I have a few sponsors, who actually pay a monthly fee to have their ads run continuously (Example: The Salt Lake Plaza Hotel). However, I don’t make enough money off all these sponsorships, ads, and affiliate relationships to pay for even a third of my mortgage payment every month. Family Roots Publishing carries the freight for most of the time I spend blogging (so buy stuff – please!).

The Glass is Half Full – and Maybe It’s Running Over!
As a final note, I’m one of those people who believes in the old adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” That’s the way my parents raised me. I refuse to review a book, product, service, or website that I don’t like. I made an exception to that a while back when a “website that shall not be named” changed their name to try to get rid of their tarnished image. But on the whole I like to look for the positive. I’m a “glass is half full” kind of guy. I’ll leave it to others to pick apart the genealogy-related websites. I’m spending my time picking the fruit.