Should Magazines be Required to Disclose Freebies?

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Since our post a few weeks ago on the NYC counterfeit merchandise crackdown sparked so much great discussion, this week we wanted to talk about another hot-button issue: disclosure policies.

Racked recently wrote an in-depth, investigative report questioning the current Federal Trade Commission (FTC) disclosure mandate. This mandate states that "bloggers must disclose to their readership any free products received, any samples received, any gifts, any gratis experiences, and any non-public events attended in relation to posts and online coverage." Which is a totally fair policy, right? (It's one we abide by here at CF!) Except for the fact that bloggers aren't the only ones that receive free products from companies.

According to Racked, editors and writers at print publications are gifted tons of freebies every year:

"You'd never guess how many print editors get sent multiple iPad 'lookbooks' each year, free Chanel handbags every holiday season, or are routinely handed $1,000 gift certificates to stores such as Barneys or Jimmy Choo. That on top of all the regular products sent for 'review' throughout the year—and we're not even talking about $500 face cream "samples.'"

However, as the article points out, these editors and writers are somehow immune from this disclosure policy. They aren't required by any law to state whether or not any outside sources may have influenced their opinions or content within the pages of their publication.

So why is it that print publications aren't held under the same microscope as bloggers?

Racked spoke to an FTC attorney to question the current policy -- here's what went down:

Racked: We know that the FTC has gone after bloggers and companies that work with bloggers to mandate that we disclose online anytime we get anything free or attend an event that's not open to the public. And we're curious why the FTC has not gone after print publications?

FTC Lawyer Tracey Thomas: That's a very good question I don't think I have the answer to. I don't know. I know that for bloggers and online, you do have to make disclosures. A lot of the things that I work on are bloggers or people who are only promoting products to get commissions or money or things like that. I'm not sure why we don't apply that to print.

Shortly after Racked published their article, several other FTC employees contacted the publication wanting to clarify. Yet, Racked says all they received was "more vague answers." If you're interested, you can read the full e-mail transcripts between Racked and the FTC on the publication's follow-up article.


What do you guys think - should print publications be required to follow a disclosure policy? Do you think freebies influence magazine editors' decisions? If so, is it fair to the reader? Please let us know what you think about this issue by leaving a comment below!

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