A few years ago, The Onion reported:
“From the tens of millions of consumer reviews posted on retail giants like Amazon.com to the more specialized message boards of Motorcycle.com and Macaddict.com, Piersall estimated that 80 percent of all human discourse now takes the form of product reviews on the web.”
I’ve always loved that story. It reminded me of when I taught video production in graduate school, the students would always put fake advertisements into their programs, even though they were not required to. Ads and consumption make up a common sense in our culture so that we not only assume their normalcy in daily life – but we also take their dominance of our visual and acoustic experience for granted.
Blogging, since it was invented by Al Gore, has always drawn the interest of marketers and advertisers, who would rather appeal to us through a vernacular voice – since we’re to savvy to be duped by advertising and marketing that directly equates the material value of a product or service with some unrelated, far-fetched symbolic value. Anyway, a watershed moment in the bicycling world came when bikesnob reviewed a Look carbon fibré rig on April Fool’s Day. His site includes some of the smartest writing on the web, and I sincerely enjoy it. But his hilarious review (and subsequent hilarious reviews) raises questions about the nature of bike blogs and relationships with advertisers and free stuff or “loaners” from eager manufacturers. Now, Washington steps in.
This week, the FTC passed controversial regulations requiring bloggers to disclose payment from a manufacturer for products they review. The New York Times summary can be found here.
I won’t be afraid to give a shout out to bike stuff that I find particularly wonderful, but I don’t think that’s what blogs are for (or what this one is for). What does the FTC’s action mean for bike blogs? What should it mean?