Some writers accept free products, services or trips and then write "reviews" of said items. When magazines and newspapers did this it was fine, but now that bloggers have joined in, it may well become a federal offense.
The Federal Trade Commission is preparing guidelines around products, referral fees, travel and other freebies given to bloggers, the Associated Press reports, and intends to "clarify that the agency can go after bloggers - as well as the companies that compensate them - for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest."
Bloggers are so very dirty. AP:
Journalists who work for newspapers and broadcasters are held accountable by their employers... The blogosphere is quite different.
Except not really. The New York Times, for example, "for years... accepted free cellphone service, satellite TV service, music-download service, whatever," columnist David Pogue wrote in 2006 (the paper only changed this practice in the wake of a a controversy around Pogue's free use of a $2,000 data-recovery service). Over at Hearst's Esquire, restaurant reviewer John Mariani often eats for free, which is nothing compared to the free travel and resort stays other print writers accept.
At fashion-heavy magazines like those run by Condé Nast, free schwag helps make up for lackluster pay, a practice that became more widely known with the Vogue roman-à-clef Devil Wears Prada, in which an assistant's raid on the magazine clothes closet is a key plot point.
If the FTC is truly interested in protecting consumers, it will start its anti-shilling campaign with the media that accept the biggest gifts, make the most money and reach the most people. For the moment, at least, that means traditional media.
UPDATE: The FTC confirms to All Things D that it plans to go after even simple Amazon affiliate links.