Viral Conversations has updated its FAQ to no longer suggest that companies let reviewers keep products and to suggest that reviewers disclose within reviews if they are allowed to keep the products they are reviewing. In a previous post, I pointed out that the site’s policy of encouraging companies to gift reviewed products to reviewers and of not encouraging users to disclose those gifts was encouraging fraudulent reviews. The relevant sections of the FAQ now read:
Do I Have to Let the Bloggers Keep The Item?
No, you don’t have to let the bloggers keep the item, in the end it’s up to you. It’s going to depend on a number of factors such as cost and shipping difficulty. Letting the bloggers keep a $25 coffee maker is probably a no brainer, but you may feel a little differently about an $1500 espresso machine. Be as clear as possible in the beginning to avoid any confusion. Additionally if you are letting bloggers keep the item, expect that to be disclosed in the review.
Do I need a Disclaimer on My Post?
We really recommend you do it to be upfront and honest with your readers. It could be something as simple as “The John Smith Camera Company sent me their new ABC-123 DLSR camera to review”. If you do a lot of reviews on your website a more formal review policy should be something you should look into. If you are keeping the item, you should disclose that in your review.
Do I Get to Keep The Product I am Reviewing?
That’s going to vary from offer to offer. Sometimes you will sometimes you won’t. That information should be communicated to you before hand. If you do keep the item you are responsible for any tax liabilities that are incurred. If you do keep the item we recommend that you disclose that fact in your review.
These changes bring the site into line with the practices of mainstream media. There are still inherent biases in letting companies choose which bloggers will review their items and in not publishing negative reviews as strongly suggested by FAQ. But those practices closely parallel the practices of mainstream publications who vie for the advertising dollars of the same companies whose products they are reviewing and who avoid publishing negative reviews.