Boing Boing's Undisclosed Paid Endorsements - Do They Violate FTC Guidelines?

What makes you think that?

Still appears to be that to me. Granted, it also appears to be an endorsement of a product that doesn’t seem to be all that good, which might impact on the value people place on Mark’s future endorsements…

But I’d have thought that people who need VPNs would be doing due diligence anyway.

They are? I guess that makes sense, but I just thought it was a partnership that gave BB a way to have more gadget posts now that BB Gadgets is no more. It didn’t occur to me that those are all ads. *They aren’t marked as “sponsored” or "paid advertisement. I assumed they would be if they were - instead they are tagged “Cool Tools”. This is worse than I thought. I guess I can be a little naive.

Every post that is a paid endorsement is marked SPONSORED (if it’s in editorial) or ADVERTISEMENT (if it’s just an ad made of words)

Posts that contain affiliate links don’t quality, in my view. For example, see this review of Energizer Tea Lights I did. Be sure to listen to it.

Is that a paid endorsement?

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Whenever we are paid to post something, it is marked ADVERTISEMENT (ads) or SPONSORED (native/words/content, etc). If it isn’t, we were not paid to post it – notwithstanding the “affiliate cents” you (and we) set aside as a different consideration.

See, they’re not ads at all–it’s just a casual content-sharing deal and the posts look inappropriately like ads because they don’t fit right with our tone and style. (And, that subtle contextual thing having narrowed eyes, the affiliate links perhaps become the tangible AHA! trust trigger)

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That’s a good question. Your description of the candles is negative (satirical) and probably doesn’t count as an endorsement. But, on the other hand, your negative description makes it seem even more unlikely that the link would be an affiliate link. If you hadn’t brought this up specifically in the context of affiliate links, I never would have guessed you planed to make money off of that link.

Again, this boils down to consumer confusion, not any rules that say “this” has to be within 72 pixels of “that”. I wouldn’t have guessed that link was an affiliate link. I didn’t get, until someone brought it up in this thread, that Cool Tools posts are affiliate links.

Why are you so dead set against just saying “(paid link)” next to paid links? You are really fighting, and fighting hard, for opacity.

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You seem quite naive for a skeptic… :wink:


But don’t you see that from a reader’s perspective it makes little difference if you are paid in advance or afterwards via an affiliate link? What does make a difference is the motivation.

For example take the article that caused all this. It is very light on content and all about a specific promotion for a content of, let’s say, disputed quality.

Do you understand why we might have trouble believing that this article would ever have seen the light of day without the affiliate link and how that looks a lot like an ad in all but name?


Welcome, Skeptic.

BB is also about respect earned, free ice cream not whined about, and talk NOT doubled. Enjoy your stay, and remember, this isn’t a free country, this is a website. YMMV. None of us are true Scotsman. Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Ball.


Why do you think I’m a skeptic? It’s because I know that I’m as vulnerable to being tricked as anyone else, because I’m human, and subject to the same psychology and bias. And it’s why stuff like the hidden affiliate links pisses me off. I don’t like being tricked. And I really feel like I have been tricked. An affiliate link “disclosure” in the privacy policy? Really? And on BB, which has repeatedly mocked bad disclosures?

It’s not my most successful affiliate link ever, but it’s close. I sold a lot of shitty tea lights that day! The entire mentality of “paid endorsement” is orthogonal to the economics at play and the financial incentives emergent from them.

For example, high-end advertisers LOVE disclosures. They love stories about honest connections to brands. Disclosure itself is a well-defined tool of advertising.

This is partly why I’m generally dismissive of formal disclosures as a fig-leaf substitute for trust. They just make things worse, because their presence is (or easily can be) just a different and more subtle lie about how we get paid; a formality that hides whatever functionality is really in play. Once they’re there, they occupy a place that should be filled by trust. Which is why I keep a close eye on exactly who is complaining about the lack of them (and the forms the complaints take).

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Because it is your username.

So, you know both that you are vulnerable to being tricked, and so is ANYONE else, to the same degree?

That implies a level of knowledge (expertise) in others that you could not possess. Your arrogance about how easily fooled ANYONE else is is quite self-aggrandizing. You’re a fool? I will take your word for it. I AM a fool, like anyone??? Well how dare you lower the world, and pretend it’s not elevating yourself!! Speak for yourself freely. Expect problems when you’re an expert in other peoples thinking.

Oh, am I picking apart your prose to make an idle point to entertain myself? Wonder who inspired that in me today? :wink:

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I do. Native advertising has made straight-up personal “I like this product” reportage look like bullshit. We have to be more conscious about how tone (and PR stock art) can make honest blogging seem unfortunately redolent of advertorial.


Interesting, I had always just assumed CoolTools was advertising — though very good, casual, informative advertising.

I guess it’s just a problem of corner cases where the tone of a post may seem advertisey even when it isn’t. We’re just too conditioned to look for sneaky ads that our ad recognition system sometimes triggers on false positives.

I’m not sure what you could do to prevent that, short of explicitly tagging posts as “Not a paid advertisement”… but that starts treading into Gibsonian dystopia territory.

Do think that many clicks may have been because people didn’t have any idea that you were profiting off of the link? You even say “I sold a lot of shitty tea lights” - as in, yes, you are writing copy that sells stuff. So, sarcastic or not, the affiliate link turns your copy into an undisclosed paid advertisement (if not an “endorsement”) that sells a lot of stuff,

I get that not all disclosures are helpful. Prop 65 warnings that we all ignore, and your affiliate link “disclosure” hidden in your privacy policy are good examples of that. But noting paid links in posts as “(paid link)”? That seems pretty clear and useful, certainly more so that not disclosing them openly and specifically - it’s just two words. Easy. Done. Consumer confusion resolved.

I’m not really buying your “not disclosing is more informative than disclosing” argument. Seems like arguing p is not p.

You speak of trust, I feel BB has broken that trust.

Notice how much irony there is on the internet? The magical ingredient one uses to rise above unpleasant necessities, even as one embodies them.


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[quote=“Skeptic, post:35, topic:51967”]
But noting paid links in posts as “(paid link)”? That seems pretty clear and useful, certainly more so that not disclosing them openly and specifically - it’s just two words. Easy. Done. Consumer confusion resolved.[/quote]

Not a bad idea, but it’s inaccurate. It suggests we were paid to put the link there, in the form of a traditional advertising deal. [affiliate link] is the one I like, but in the past has seemed too obscure and confusing. Maybe that’s changing.

Whatever trust was broken by our use of affiliate links, it was broken a decade or so ago.

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No. Think about it: they bought the tea lights I had just described as the worst consumer electronics product in history that did not kill you.

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With a cynically included affiliate link. If you didn’t think anyone would buy the tea lights you wouldn’t have used an affiliate link. How many posts have you made since then, using a similar style, also including affiliate links?

Dozens, maybe hundreds. I can confidently report that such disclosure (which does get worked in now and again) doesn’t make any difference at all to how many are sold.

To be clear:

  1. Of course, putting the affiliate link in means people can and will buy them
  2. Disclosure doesn’t make a difference to how many people buy, that I can tell (wrt “Do think that many clicks may have been because people didn’t have any idea that you were profiting off of the link?”)

However, I must admit that when “ironic” (there’s that word again) links are disclosed in a more visible way, or simply noticed, people sometimes say they bought the item out of sheer perversion, or to reward my perverse use of affiliate links.

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