Call for law forcing bloggers – and journos – to disclose payments and gifts

New laws should be passed in Australia to ensure that bloggers declare payments or gifts they receive from brands – but it should apply to journalists too, last night’s Social Media Club Sydney was told.

The comments came after Kangaroo Island was revealed earlier this year to be paying celebrities to tweet about it.

Daniel Kjellsson, of aggregated fashion blogging project Fellt: “I would welcome such a law but you can’t  limit it  to digital, it has to be broader.” He drew laughs as he told the audience: “From my ten years in traditional media I never lived better. I never had more stuff, free, come to me, and that was good times.”   

Asked about whether a law of disclosure was needed, Edelman’s director of consumer brand and digital marketing Matthew Gain told the debate on monetising blogs that although there would be practical difficulties including how big an audience a blogger would have to be before they face regulation, he would be in favour of it. He said “I think it’s difficult to police, but sure why not – there should be something.”

Karla Courtney, who runs The {Tiny} Times blog said a bigger issue requiring regulation in social media were fake reviews. She said: “We need to pursue people making comments on services. With Trip Advisor you just don’t now who is making the comments.”

She said that travel bloggers who take trips may not be directly obliged to write positively, however often feel duty bound to do so. She said: “No pressure but we’re going to email you 20 times for two weeks afterwards.”

But she said that in order to provide coverage for readers, bloggers might have to accept hospitality. She said: “You’re also meant to be covering what’s happening overseas and how do you afford to do that? If you put at the end ‘I was a guest of X company’ is that maybe okay?”

Patty Huntington, who blogs as Frock Writer and also freelances for mainstream media suggested many paid tweets go undeclared, but suggested fashion journos also fail to be upfront about their gifts. She said: ‘There has to be a wake up call. There are a lot of celebrities tweeting stuff… and fashion magazines as well because journalists and fashion writers accept gifts all the time and nobody imposes regulations on them.”

In the US, bloggers are legally obliged to disclose affiliations while in the UK the advertising regulator has investigated brands that fail to declare sponsored tweets.


  1. JackieChan
    9 Oct 12
    11:38 am

  2. Stupid. Over.

  3. Damo
    9 Oct 12
    11:51 am

  4. I see no reason why any journalist, blogger or other person generating content should not at least state they were supplied goods/whatever for free for review etc etc.

    I also can’t see why a blogger wouldn’t want to do this; surely it builds trust with their audience?

    Of course there are questions over how making this a legal requirement would be policed and it’s not something that would be easily implemented either, for example, music reviews have always relied on free CDs/downloads etc – and it is assumed this is the case, would they also be required to comply?

  5. Nikki @ Styling You
    9 Oct 12
    12:09 pm

  6. As a blogger I disclose everything received and what is paid content on my blog. As a former journalist, this wasn’t required. We had an internal gift register, yes, but our readers were none the wiser. I think regulation should be across the board.

  7. Celeste@Becoming Beautiful
    9 Oct 12
    12:54 pm

  8. I don’t see why it’s so hard to disclose. I also don’t see why bloggers will oppose to it. I disclose everything on my blog, honesty is the best practice after all.

    I do agree that the regulation should be present and should be across the board, not just digital media. Too often folks point fingers at bloggers saying we get freebies all the time, but how about journos who do? Just because they don’t disclose does not mean they don’t get them. Bloggers disclose and get fired for them. Doesn’t make sense.

  9. Dorothy
    9 Oct 12
    2:04 pm

  10. Saying that ‘just because magazines don’t do it, we shouldn’t either’ is hogwash.

    (Moderated by Mumbrella for legal reasons)

    Just because magazines don’t do it, doesn’t mean it’s right. Who respects magazines for their impartial view anyway? Everyone knows (sweeping statement) that almost everything in a magazine is there because of ‘added value’ (aka cash for comment). Part of the appeal of bloggers is the personal, impartial commentary. If we lose that, we’re nothing.

  11. NA
    9 Oct 12
    2:14 pm

  12. Really? This makes the news?

  13. Alli @ Alli&Genine
    9 Oct 12
    2:34 pm

  14. As a blogger, I think it’s imperative that we are ALL transparent in regards to paid posts, product reviews, gifts etc. And really, it’s not that hard to do so. We need to be clear to our followers that frankly, we need income to survive … but that we will always be upfront about anything “paid”. While many bloggers blog for love and passion to start out with, blogging is certainly a very real business these days, and sadly, love and passion don’t pay the bills. Commercialisation is a reality. But it’s really not that hard to be transparent – I think it’s imperative and that it should be enforced.

  15. Janelle
    9 Oct 12
    2:37 pm

  16. This all makes perfect sense, but doesn’t this put paid advertorial in traditional media in a grey area?

  17. Gemma
    9 Oct 12
    3:05 pm

  18. @Celeste and @Nikki, should disclosure still apply even if I’m receiving clothing on a loan basis?

  19. Dorothy
    9 Oct 12
    5:16 pm

  20. @Gemma – if you are representing yourself as a ‘street style’ or fashion blogger, then being given clothes to shoot and not disclosing misrepresents yourself because your readers think you are paying for and therefore endorsing the clothes on your blog.

  21. Sandra
    9 Oct 12
    10:58 pm

  22. Private people receive free product for comment every day. Travel agents get free trips so they can tell their customers about it and sell more of that tour operators products. Will we have to declare our sixth cup of coffee at Micheles to the tax man? Who is calling for this law? Sounds like sour grapes to me since Public Servants are not allowed to accept gratuity valued at more than $50!

  23. Francis McCarthy
    10 Oct 12
    10:03 am

  24. Disclosure was a key issue that was discussed at the event, with the general consensus being that transparency is the best way to go. The panel discussion on the night covered numerous other issues related to blogging business models. I’ve put together a summary on my blog for those interested.