Image via CrunchBase
Finnish bloggers have been up in arms lately. ASML (Client Marketing Agency), various magazine publishers and internet blogging platforms (Aller, A-Lehdet/Lily, Bonnier Publications, Indiedays and Sanoma Magazines) gathered to create rules for blog advertising. Note, they won’t be an actual law but set of guidelines. I’m bit late for the news as the deadline to comment on the rules was 19th of June but I think this is still important to discuss.
Personally I follow tons of blogs. Mainly foreign but some Finnish blogs too and topics they cover range from politics to embroidery. MOST of the blogs I read are very un-commercial but there are some who earn some or all their income from blogging. And here are the things that I’ve noticed (and now I am talking about Finnish bloggers):
There is a LOT of advertising and it’s not always clearly marked if it is AND what kind of it is. Some examples:
1. Blogger receives mascara on mail and says “mailman brought this today and it’s so fab”. Mailman brought it? Really? Did he/she buy it himself and then rang your doorbell and handed the mascara to you? Out of goodness of his/her heart? Just tell honestly what label/PR-company sent it to you.
English: Avon Daring Curves Mascara. Español: Máscara de pestañas Avon Daring Curves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
2. “I bought this dress from THERE and THERE. THERE’S always a fab selection of dresses.” And when you click the link, you realize you’ve been affiliated. And if you don’t clear your cookies and cache in regular intervals, that blogger gets a reward if you return to the store.
3. “I do my hair with so and so curling iron, the best one for hairstyles like mine”.
Ghd-iv-mini-styler (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
These are just simple examples, there are more but in summa summarum, there is room for improvement. A lot. Finnish blogger Outi Les Pyy listed 6 levels of blog marketing on her blog:
Loans: Literally products on loan from companies and have to be returned after some time
Samples/Product placements: Items received from companies in hopes that blogger will write about them
Sponsored post: Like previous but this time blogger will receive either gift card or monetary compensation
Advertisement: Large scale collaboration between blogger/blogging portal and companies. Usually stricter rules, when to post etc. Again gift cards and/or money changes hands.
Affiliate links: Reader clicks on the link and blogger receives money
Old items: Sixth unofficial level. These are items that have been written about before and/or are still in use. Mentioned in the blog post in passing
Now, some bloggers have called the guidelines as threat to freedom of speech which I find not only offensive on many levels in today’s world but as proof that they don’t really understand what freedom of speech is. Anyhow, here’s what the guidelines have to say:
SEPARATE MENTION WITHIN A POST
Sample of gift card from a company:
OK to say: Blogger received this moisturizer from company X as a gift/Blogger received this espresso machine from company Y/Related to this story, I received a gift card from company Z.
NOT OK to say: Love this moisturizer, it’s best for my winter roughed skin!/Thanks for company Y for the lovely kitchen surprise/Z’s gift card will totally renew my shoe closet!
Blogger has a contract with a company to endorse their camera (specified to be cameras in the guidelines) products:
OK to say: Blogger has a contract with company Z regarding product N.
NOT OK to say: PS. These pictures were taken with camera N, which is the best for a quick photoshoot!
ADVERTISING POST (in connection to a giveaway or a contest):
OK to say: In the beginning of text: Partners for this post X and Y. In the end of post: Pictures and materials from companies X and Y. Blogger received compensation from company X.
NOT OK to say: Thanks for companies X and Y! This contest was brought to you together with companies X and Y!
AFFILIATE LINKS, BANNERS etc.:
OK to say: In the beginning of post: This post includes affiliate links marked with * In the end of the post: Blogger receives compensations from clicking the links and other related activies from companies X, Y and Z.
NOT OK to say: Post includes commercial links/Post includes links to partners websites (but the partners aren’t specified/Commercial (used commercial tag in the end to inform about the commercial nature of the post)
BASIC INFORMATION ON THE COMMERCIAL COLLABORATIONS (can be marked on the About-page or separate Commercial Information-page):
OK to say: Blogger has endorsement contracts with following companies: S, T, U, V, X, Y and Z/ Blogger has other commercial contracts (related to banners, ads etc.) with X, Y and Z (also an expansion list of all the networks and companies the blogger is affiliated with)
NOT OK to say: I have contracts with various companies but I only blog about products I like/Affiliate links are marked with tag “commercial”/Blog may include commercial links
Then there is another section about guidelines within social media which is kind of unclear but the gist of it is that reader has to know instantly that you are advertising something. The unclear part comes from the fact that they didn’t separate personal profiles from blog brand profiles.
For me, these rules are UNBELIEVABLY CLEAR (apart from the social media)! Same text in every blog and there will be much less confusion if the post is an ad or not. One blogger complained that people won’t be able to find blogs on Bloglovin‘ based on their interest if EVERY post begins with same words. Well, for me that proves that the guidelines ARE a necessity because if your every post IS an ad, I want to know so I can skip reading your blog. Biggest complaint however is that why bloggers are being singled out (these rules would apply to company bloggers as well)? Let me answer that question:
Blogs were originally online diaries and I think most still are. You put yourself and your thoughts out there in the hopes of someone reading it, commenting and eventually form a bond with you. We are pack animals, we need contact and validation from other human beings. The longer you read someone’s blog, more heavily invested (emotionally) you become and that blogger starts to feel like friend. And when a friend starts telling about new products and things and whatnot, you tend to believe them. The item they effectively are selling seems more valuable to you because it feels like a way to create even deeper bond with your friend. This is already a social contract. Blogging has been in existence since beginning of time (in internet years), the nature of blogging is that it is intimate and personal and you cannot change the natural rule just because you now feel like it. It’s the intimacy factor that separates us from regular journalists (who of course have their own rules).
Now this isn’t my jealous rant (as some bloggers actually have called readers who have said that they welcome the rules), I do have plans to turn another blog into income but not in this traditional way. (Although, I wouldn’t say no to Silhouette Cameo and new printer:D) I write this because I’m a blogger and these rules apply to me too should I become commercial blogger one day.
What are your thoughts? Are there blog advertising rules in your country? I need to write another post about ethics in blogging and my thoughts on the so called honesty of Finnish people in general. Last week I was in a marketing/networking event where one Finnish blogger was one of the speakers and something she said got me thinking.
Thrifty Finn- I have so many thoughts about this but am not skillful enough to process my thoughts into text. Oh well. I try.
P.S. The photo credit text keeps disappearing on the third photo