Full Disclosure

16 Oct, 2009


If honesty wasn’t the best policy, I would have declared myself a pro-snowboarder hucking 1600’s long ago but fortunately for me the honesty of being your average rider has taken me a lot farther than lies could ever have.  Recently the FTC announced that “bloggers must disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products” among other guidelines.  While I might not be reviewing brand new cars or cameras…I do a lot of snowboarding product reviews each season that I’ve come to realize are the bread and butter of this site.

When it comes to reviews on this site, you will never see a paid review where a company pays me to have that review on here.  Every product that goes through my hands and ends up in written form is something I’m interested in and want to try (or also requested by you guys).  Receiving a free product doesn’t guarantee a review nor does it mean the review will be good…it will be honest and it’s up to that company to decide if the risk is worth it.  Fortunately for me, demo days are the days where I spent the most time reviewing products and there’s no risk involved in borrowing a board for a couple hours.

In the past I’ve used words to describe how I acquire the products, usually I say “given, borrowed/demoed, bought or received” but this season that will be more noticeable to make sure I’m complying with the FTC Guidelines.  At the each of every review in the bottom I will state very clearly the nature of the product in my hands.

So for example when I review the Capita Ultrafear FK this year, it will say that I was given that product by Capita (because I was given and plan to keep it).  In the case of my Burton malolo/Burton Scribe that was a trade for advertisement and I received that product for advertising space.  At a snowboarding demo or when a company lets me borrow a snowboard and I send it back, it will be very clear that I did not keep the product.  When it comes to snowboard dvds, I clearly bought those.

I’m all for the new FTC rules, bloggers should be accountable for making it very clear when their writing is paid editorial or not.  While snowboarding bloggers aren’t like mommy bloggers who can make an income and life from blogging, we should certainly be held to the same standards of keeping our reviews honest and upfront with where products come from.

About the author

Shay

From the beginning of time, I was Shannon. From the beginning of snowboarding, I was Shay. From the beginning of online communities, I was Shayboarder. In the end, I’m the writer, photographer, editor, publisher, guru of sorts, product tester, curvy girl, and most importantly the snowboarder behind it all. Follow me on this journey through snowboarding, mountain biking, traveling and fun experiences!

15 Comments

  1. Ali
    October 16, 2009

    With someone in your position it is easy to see why you would have merchandise handed to you Shay. People visit your site because you post your honest opinion and its a good way of getting an initial feel for a product, so it should not be surprising when companies make note of that and send you their product. This is a great rule by FTC and I hope more magazines and other online reviewers show this level of transparency.

  2. October 16, 2009

    The lines between blogs – online opinion journals and websites – online environments to contain editorial and sponsored content have blurred so much that the FTC is trying to distinguish the two. Honestly most “mommy bloggers” aren’t much different than the various snowboard bloggers out there except the mommy bloggers dress better. Very few mommy bloggers are paid for their content.

  3. A
    October 16, 2009

    Don’t change for anyone, especially a Government agency. F em. Do your thing.

    amazingly, that’s my take…

  4. October 16, 2009

    Right on Shay, we’re working figuring out exactly how we’re going to handle this ourselves. We’ve never written a review for pay either, but we do get bombarded with product.

    I think it’s probably a good decision by the FTC, definitely in the best interest of the consumer, but it is an interesting restriction on free speech. I would not be surprised to see someone challenge them on this.

  5. JB
    October 16, 2009

    Smart move Shay – really the guidelines are designed for bloggers who are making a sustainable income or business level income to ensure their freebies & payments fall into the right hands: revenue, gift, etc.

    Like you I don’t take paid reviews and really only extend any type of review or thing I like/ love to something requested, innovative or just flat our great product. Doesn’t guarantee good or bad.

    The disclosure of the capita & malolo was smart and if your readers are aligned with your past blogs they’ll see you reviewed those prior to accepting the decks.
    -jb

  6. October 16, 2009

    I’m new to your blog but really enjoying it, I say take all the free stuff you can, just keep the helpful and insightful reviews coming please!

  7. Yak
    October 16, 2009

    I was wondering how you ended up with a board you hadn’t reviewed yet (the Ultrafear). Heh. We can rest easy on this one. My relief comes from this quote from the article, “the FTC’s enforcement priorities make it more likely an advertiser would be targeted for disclosure or testimonial violations than a blogger.” Say a board company gives you their entire lineup and pays you for dishonest reviews, the company will still be the one going down.

    Chris, I think it’s not a free speech issue just like false advertising isn’t a free speech issue.

    I hope to have some fun with it, just pointing out every little thing that I do/get for free. For example, I went to ‘Nice Try’ last night for free and got some free stickers from US Outdoor Store. They’re having a sale.

  8. October 16, 2009

    JB and Yak, the Ultrafear I haven’t reviewed yet actually so that will be one of the first reviews this season when I switch to adding the sentence on how I received it at the bottom of the review.

    But definitely the majority of snowboard and binding reviews are done at demos which I find a lot easier to deal with.

    Yak, definitely they will be going after the advertiser. It will be interesting to point out the free things. I consider all stickers free so i think that goes under the radar. I think for the most part it’s just identifying the reviews and making sure you are clear with how you got it.

  9. October 16, 2009

    Yak, I would think the only way it falls under false advertising is if the advertiser is providing the text to the “reviewer” as well as paying for it. As long as the advertiser is just paying for a good review (still lame imo), I think it does fall into a free speech gray zone, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the larger blog sites decide to challenge it.

    Regardless, I think the real problem is in how broadly this rule was written.
    Summed up nicely by Ann Althouse: http://althouse.blogspot.com/2009/10/ftc-going-after-bloggers-and-social.html
    The most absurd part of it is the way the FTC is trying to make it okay by assuring us that they will be selective in deciding which writers on the internet to pursue. That is, they’ve deliberately made a grotesquely overbroad rule, enough to sweep so many of us into technical violations, but we’re supposed to feel soothed by the knowledge that government agents will decide who among us gets fined. No, no, no. Overbreadth itself is a problem. And so is selective enforcement.

  10. Terry Haakonsen
    October 16, 2009

    getting product for a review IS GETTING PAID to review. its not in cash but its getting PAID non the less, we all know thats what you guys are in it for, and thats why you don’t see negative reviews ever, you might whitewash it and say its not for you or something but you “reviewers” will never diss a product because you are getting paid (in gear) to review it.

  11. October 17, 2009

    Terry, I always offer to pay for my gear each year and always ask, I never assume I’m getting free gear and if I was rich enough, I would always buy it unfortunately that’s not the case. I see where you are coming from but don’t believe that every “reviewer” is in it for free gear.

    I wouldn’t assume that all reviewers are in for free gear. If that was the case, I wouldn’t spend 10+ days a year doing demos, paying to go to those out of my pocket in the past and taking off time from work to review boards. Demos are the majority of my reviews. I’d rather do that than have people like you assume something gets a good review because it gets handed to me. There is a reason why I never ride really low end crappy products, lets be honest snowboard products today are good rides across the boards, depends on the rider how to interpret them, the conditions, the day…but what works for me, might not work with another person and the opposite factor. I will say why I didn’t like a product, why “it’s not for me” and I’ve seen someone buy that board on the same reasoning because what didn’t work for me, would work for him.

  12. October 17, 2009

    Shay as a long time reader and friend I don’t feel this post was worth 2 shits. Not because of the content, your writing or lack of totally cool shred pics but because it wasn’t needed. All of your readers know THIS is the one place to go for straight forward honest reviews. We all value your opinion and never would question the honesty behind your reviews. You are truly one of the best snow bloggers out there all I gotta say is the FTC wasted a day of good reading that could have been better used for a review, industry profile or a shred journal! Love ya girlie and keep up the good work!

  13. Robbie
    October 19, 2009

    Shay, I couldn’t agree with Adrian more, and on the flipside disagree with Terry.

    The long-time followers of this blog know what it’s all about, and know how to take things in perspective. True snowboarders know that while a board ‘work’ for you, someone else might think it’s a crappy board. It all depends on your style of snowboarding.
    Personally, I can say that I’ve used Shay’s advice twice – the first was whwn I bought my Force SLs last season. I needed an opinion from someone who actually rode them, and after 15 days on them I can honestly say it’s the best buy I’ve made in years. The 2nd time is when I ordered my Capita BDI (can’t wait to get it!!!). Shay actually owns one (older model, but still), and reviewed last year’s model as well. The way i see it, I don’t care if it was given to her or not. If she hadn’t liked it, she wouldn’t have kept it. If someone really is corrupt, if you will, then he would take the board, review it, then sell it and make a couple of bucks – why keep it?
    I realize that there’s a chance that even though Shay highly recommended the BDI, I may not like it. I may think it wasn’t worth the hype and that it doesn’t meet my snowboarding needs. I that case, I won’t come back here and blame Shay for it. I looked and asked around, and made a decision.
    If there’s one thing I’ve learned from working in the interactive marketing world over the past 6 years, it’s that nothing replaces reputation. And bottom line, this blog has it. Otherwise companies wouldn’t send over goodies or invite Shay to demo days. Like someone already said, it’s a risk they all take. They know that while a bad review won’t REALLY hurt them, a GOOD review can boost their sales and rep.
    So Shay, do us all a favor – keep up the great work and ignore the haters…send them a FREE sticker or something … 🙂