Undue Influence

ftc_seal

I tried not to head the words being whispered to me about the new FTC endorsement rules (it’s an interesting read), but I did. I have decided to excitedly embrace these new rules. Here’s a basic rundown of my thoughts on it.

Basically the new rules say if a blogger decides to comment on a product they received complementary then they need to disclose it. When I first read it I was all for it. Later though as I considered the implications on my writing I began to waver. After all, if I go to a bar where I’m friends with the bartender and get a comp drink am I supposed to disclose that when I talk about how great the bar is? The more I thought about it, the more I hated it. I even said something to this effect on Beervana when Jeff posted on it. After all, I consider myself smart enough to not try something just because a blog or review tells me it’s good. Others should be then. (Yet I still will use recommendations from brewing forums, go figure.)

Lately though I’ve been pondering whether or not I should full on love or hate these new rules (an email I received yesterday didn’t help me stay negative either). I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried a beer, thought it was horrible, logged on to see if others thought so too, and found a gushing review. You guys probably know the ones I’m talking about. They usually say something about how the brewery just sent them a new release to try. They’ll follow this with a basic taste description that focus’ on the beers highlights (but not it’s lowlights), and then end it with a positive endorsement of, “It’s a very drinkable beer.”

70%-80% of the time I read these reviews they’re of beers that may be drinkable, but really fall in the mediocre to ok category. The annoying part of this is that many of these bloggers don’t have the guts to say so. Are they honest? Yes, but they tend to sugar coat or skip over the bad parts. These well intentioned bloggers also tend to be what the ex DR Wort used to call “beer cheerleaders“. They will put their thumbs up on almost any beer that’s just better then average. If they get it free they even will leave out a few of the slightly more negative parts. After all, if a brewery I liked sent me a free beer to try I’d be honored. Heck, I know I’d be tempted to be more positive about the beer too. So all you bloggers please stop whining. I no longer care if your integrity will be questioned when you give a free beer a positive review. With the kinda beers that get positive reviews in our state someones credibility needs questioned.

As a side note the only free beer I recieve is when I drink with friends and they buy, or visit breweries and try samples. Since I don’t really review beers though I guess this doesn’t apply

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4 Responses to “Undue Influence”

  1. Beermented says:

    This leads to an interesting observation. If the reviews are not truthful and honest when the beers are purchased and reviewed, and if given out as free bees, the reviews are even more embellished; then what’s the point of reviewing the beer at all? The blogger is then just an advertising whore for the brewery. Another dishonest salesman, like the guy who hounds you at the Used Car lot.

    The Stamp of Full Disclosure basically might as well mean you are just reading a pack of lies made up so the blogger can get more beer. Like some drug tweaker holding a cardboard sign advertising his love of America and God. It’s all a lie to get your money or beer in the case of the blogger.

    Looking for Honest criticism and reviews? Sounds like you might have to form your own opinion or find a reviewer who can’t be influenced or bought by a breweries generosity.

  2. KCHopHead says:

    I have breweries lining up outside my door waiting for me to try their next brew. Oh wait, nope that’s not me. I’ve been offered one product for review and passed it up and got invited to one event for free that I did blog about. The “Root” beer mixer that I got offered I passed to kcworthog and wound up trying some and then wanting to throw up. It was quite disgusting.

    I wonder how they’re going to enforce this law. How do they read all blogs and how do they know if it was free or not.

    Well I guess those are things to worry about when you’re a rockstar blogger as we are just dust in the wind.

  3. Jared says:

    @Beermented

    You’ve kinda pegged one of the reasons I won’t do a true review of a beer. To many times I’ve been left henging because I followed a dishonest, or sometimes simply to generous review. The truth is there is no such thing as a brewery not having influence on your reviews. Even in blind taste testings results can be mixed.

    Another point I could’ve made is that positive reviews gets you more hits in the beer blogging world. It seems beer lovers like this positive upbeat view of the beer around them even if things are not great. Sadly this also helps incourage bloggers to prostitute themselves. If generaly positive reviews equals more hits, and positive past reviews of beers equals more free samples then who wouldn’t sign up.

    If these rules are followed it will have the effect of making every positive review of a free beer suspect.

    @KC

    Not sure how, or if, it will get enforced. luckily us little guys don’t have to worry about it 🙂 Sometimes I wish I had the problem of free beer samples and free invites to events though.

  4. Beermented says:

    I guess it’s all about being true yourself. A self respect for ones own opinion. Sell out bloggers seem easy to come by these days, all across the nation.

    Positive comments create more blog hits? I guess it depends on the purpose of the blog. Is the blogger trying to provide a real consumer service review or just looking for HITS to stroke his ego?

    Full disclosure. I would be more likely to believe a blogger who is doing independent reviews from non-free bee beers. That, coupled with a consistent history of quality reviews that appear thorough and competent.

    I think you can do a fine and honest job at reviewing, but it’s up to you. A blog can be used in many ways. Some beer bloggers are just using their blog as a Diary. Others are pretending to provide a public service, but are just stroking their own egos and getting drunk on free bees. I’m sure there are some that actually care about providing quality beer/home brewing info, local event coverage, honest reviews, etc. Which one do you want to be?

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