Friday, November 5, 2010

Full Disclosure and Reviewing Products

Attention all Classic Film Bloggers!

You may have noticed that in the past year or so several classic film bloggers, including myself, have been getting free books and DVDs for review (or giveaway). I work in the book industry and we are no strangers to blogger reviews. And because I work with some bloggers in my day job I know a lot about process of product reviews on blogs. I just want to relay some important information to those of you who are classic film bloggers and are either already reviewing products or want to review products in the future.

If you receive a product for free from a company and you review it on your blog, no matter what it is, you are obligated BY LAW to reveal the source.

As of 10/15/2009, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) published updated guidelines concerning endorsements and testimonials. The update reads:
Bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.
It is really important that when you write a review about a product that you must reveal where the product came from. It can be as simple as thanking the company or person that sent it to you. Or you can include a standard disclaimer in your post that is always the same except for the source. I know some book bloggers who will go as far as to reveal where they got every book even if they bought it themselves, borrow it from the library or a friend, or got it in a swap. Just note this is for product reviews. There is a difference between reviewing a movie versus reviewing the DVD/Blu-Ray and package it came in.

I have made sure that any of my reviews after October 2009 include Full Disclosure and I highly recommend for bloggers out there to do the same. It's being fair to your readers. For more information about the FTC guidelines on Full Disclosure, make sure you visit this page: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm

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So how does one get free products for review in the first place?

1) They'll contact you. Warner Bros. has been doing extensive blogger outreach. While you can't contact them for reviews, if you know someone who has a contact at the company ask them to recommend you.

2) Contact them! I really wanted to review a couple of titles from Northwestern University Press so I asked them if they could send me a book. And they did! It doesn't hurt to ask.

3) Sign up for a PR service. There are numerous PR services on the web that allow media outlets to contact publishers (including bloggers). You chose which category of pitches best suits your blog and you'll start to receive pitches via e-mail. Depending on the service you chose you may get a trickle or a flood. Just don't feel obligated to jump on every opportunity. Be selective.

4) Sign up for giveaways. For example, Goodreads, a booklovers social networking site, runs giveaways daily. Recently they had copies of the new bios on Frank Sinatra and Sal Mineo up for grabs. Also, Warner Archive runs several giveaways on Facebook and Twitter.

I've been very overwhelmed with pitches and products for review and have decided to scale back. There are so many pitches I pass over on a regular basis. I've decided to start sharing those pitches with other classic film bloggers who want more opportunities to review products. I'll pitch the pitches on my Twitter account @QuelleLove or you can contact me via e-mail if you want me to look out for something in particular for you.

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Reviewing products is not as glamorous as it seems. Yes you do get  the products for free and that itself is a great thing. I'm relatively poor and still trying to pay off student loans from Grad school (I can't even afford TCM) so it's nice to receive a book or DVD boxed set that I wouldn't have been able to purchase otherwise. However, when you get a product to review you have a deadline. Publishers and Distributors want reviews up around the time of the products release to the public. If you take too long to review a product or don't review it at all, they'll keep that in mind and pass you over next time. If you have too many products to review, then you don't have time to read or watch what you want. It will eat into your leisure time. It's basically like blog homework. However, as classic film bloggers, our opinion about these products count. A lot. So it's really good to get your opinion and voice out there because a good or bad review really does matter.

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or inquiries. I'm always happy to help out a fellow blogger.

*apologies for disallowing comments for a while. I was getting some opportunists leave shout outs. I'm allowing comments for now but I will be deleting any ones I feel are inappropriate.

7 comments:

  1. That's cool you've been getting flooded. I don't have TCM right now either (thank goodness for the VHS EPs from when I did).

    I've been doing this five years and I haven't had a single company contact me about review copies. On one hand, it hurts my feelings. On the other... at least I can say I'm independent.

    However, for my comic book review site, I do get review copies and I don't note the source. I'll have to start

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  2. Andrew - My blog is Google friendly. Especially since the subtitle is "A Classic Film Blog" and I'm on Blogger (owned by Google). So I'm not surprised people have found me. But I've also been proactive. For my food blog, I signed up with Foodista, Foodbuzz and MyBlogSpark. And for this blog I joined a PR Service and I asked for review copies. So it's not like I just sat here and waited for people to come to me. And I also live off of my VHS tapes with taped TCM movies! Only way I can survive without TCM is to have old TCM ready whenever I want it! :-)

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  3. Yeah, I'm actually really high on Google results, just because I ping the heck out of them with the sitemap. But I fall through on the proactivity stuff beyond that (I tried blogcritics when they started, but it was too intensive while I was in grad school).

    So my laziness is definitely a factor.

    TCM... what if TCM streamed? That would be amazing. I still have old tapes of AMC from before they were awful around somewhere too.

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  4. Thanks for posting this, Raquelle! I had already known about the law, not that it matters. I have only been contacted about reviewing a product once, and I declined as I had already bought the product (they were late on getting to me...). To be quite frank, while it would mean getting free merchandise, I am rather glad that I am not inundated with requests for reviews, as I already have my hands full with my blog as it is (indeed, right now I am catching up on eulogies that I put off during my Halloween blogathon).

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  5. Hi Raquelle,

    Enjoyed your latest post (as well as the Bogart mania you have going on!). On the handful of occasions I've received a book for review, I've always disclosed I read a review copy -- going back long before the regulation -- simply because I personally feel it's good, ethically sound practice. (As a matter of fact, I'm reading a review copy of a new book right now, on Tennessee Williams films, which I expect to review within the week.)

    I do think there are some curious issues regarding the regulation vis-a-vis our evolving media, in general. I remember reading a fair amount of debate on this topic last year, insofar as it's interesting that the FTC singled out bloggers re disclosure but has no similar expectation of print media who also receive review copies, free movie screenings or free DVDs, etc.

    Of course, we know that some bloggers may "push" products simply because they received a freebie, and apparently the assumption with the FTC was that it's a "given" newspapers and magazines are receiving freebies and will ostensibly review the products fairly anyway.

    But...as the print media gradually dwindles and moves online (i.e., USA Today's new focus is on digital more than their print edition), lines between "traditional" journalism and various kinds of "publishing" on the internet are more and more blurred, and some felt that the "pass" to "old media" might not have been fair. So it will be interesting to see how all of this evolves...it seems to me as though over time the existence or nonexistence of disclosure requirements perhaps should apply equally to all reviewers, regardless of where published.

    Any thoughts on this aspect from your perspective working in the publishing industry? It intrigues me just because it's an angle related to how much of our daily lives has moved onto the 'Net.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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  6. Andrew - Great!

    Mercurie - Hmmm...

    Laura - I don't know what to tell you.

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  7. Thanks very much for this useful information. I already knew about this law because my partner used to work for a business that sold children's hair accessories, & mommy bloggers were constantly asking for free samples in exchange for a positive review on their site. It always reminded me of the payola scams from the 1950s and I didn't understand how it could be ethical. This law stemmed the tide a little, and my partner was very grateful for that.

    What I didn't know was that classic film bloggers could get free stuff! My blog has only been active for a bit over a month now, but I'm about as poor as you so it's definitely something I'll look out for. Very generous of you to share those offers on your Twitter. Thanks for this marvelous public service to the classic film-blogging community. :)

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