You might have heard the recent furore about the ASA and declaring sponsored posts in the blogosphere recently. Led by fellow beauty blogger and cousin, Hayley, from London Beauty Queen, the issues around following ASA regulations have become far more evident, and frankly, incredibly eye-opening. It has become clear that as the ASA's guidelines surrounding blogging are still sitting in a relatively grey legal area, bloggers are taking it upon themselves to self-regulate to ensure they maintain a level of transparency with their readers. But it really shouldn't have to be this way.
The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) have confusing, conflicting regulations when it comes to blogs and sponsorship. It seems like they don't really know what they want us to do, and when it comes to it, they couldn't really give a hoot about whether we follow their 'guidelines' or not. Their clamping down on cases which break the guidelines is sporadic and illogical, making many feel like 'bigger bloggers' are becoming untouchable, even when it comes to laws surrounding blogging. In short, the ASA say that if you have been paid to give a certain opinion, you must declare it. If you have been paid for a post but retain full editorial control and voice your own opinion, you don't legally have to declare it, but you must ensure readers are aware they are being advertised to. They suggest "signposting" these posts as 'ad', 'spon' or 'sp', but this is not law and merely a nudge in the right direction.
As a result of these dodgy, undeveloped guidelines, many bloggers are getting paid for work and dodging declaration via these legal loopholes. This becomes an issue for other bloggers; readers begin to feel they are being tricked or misled, and all bloggers start to become tarred with the same 'untrustworthy' brush. So, while it is not illegal for them to do so, it is certainly unethical and problematic for both readers and fellow bloggers. As such, a form of self-regulation has appeared, whereby many follow an 'unwritten rule' of declaring any sponsored piece of work, and even labelling PR samples (which has no legal requirement whatsoever). This self-regulation is purely for ethical purposes, allowing a greater level of trust and transparency within the community, and between author and audience.
Hayley has, then, brought up an issue which is so important to our community. As the blogging world continues to expand, with more and more earning big bucks from what was previously just a casual hobby, we are in desperate need of more regulation and stricter guidelines. We need to all be singing from the same hymn sheet, effectively. I am joining her fight to revolutionise the ASA and provide us with this much-needed guidance, as well as greater sanctions for those who disregard the rules set. We need to stop this air of mistrust within the blogging community.
You can read her suggestions of ASA amendments and pledge your support here on London Beauty Queen. The more names we get, the more likely it is that change will happen. The ASA needs updating, ASAP.
What's your opinion on this recent discussion within the blogging world?