You know those disclaimers at the end of blog posts, when food bloggers write about a product or service and say whether they were compensated?
I’ve noticed some confusion (or should we call it denial?) about what constitutes payment.
There are two kinds of payment: cash payment and “paid in kind,” which means a company gives you goods or services for free. That could be kitchen products, food, restaurant meals, airfare, hotel, memberships, or subscriptions.
Payment doesn’t have to be in cash to be considered compensation. And regardless of what kind it is, it has to be disclosed on your blog if you blog in the US.
And did you know that payment in kind qualifies as taxable income the US? Some companies report the value of what they gave you to the IRS, and some may send a 1099 form as well. If they ask for your social security number, that is good clue.
Now, let’s get back to the confusion about disclosing payment in kind on blogs. I’ll give you a three examples:
1. A blogger posts about a product she got for free.
In her disclaimer at the end of one blogger’s post, she thanked the company for providing the product, then said she was “not paid for this post.”
Actually, she was paid. She was paid in kind. Receiving $25 worth of pasta or a few bottles of sauce is considered payment. It doesn’t come to much, considering her effort.
2. A blogger said she was not paid to speak at a conference.
True, she was not paid in cash to speak. But speakers usually get free admission to blogging conferences, and possibly hotel and transportation costs, which constitutes payment in kind of several hundred dollars. Also, given this payment in kind, technically she should disclose when discussing the conference on social media.
3. A blogger wrote a few posts about a media event she attended.
Her disclaimer at the bottom of her sponsored posts read: “I was invited by the XX Council. This post is sponsored by the XX Council and the opinions are my own… I was not compensated for this post.”
As far as I can tell from reading her posts, she was at a location for a few days. Assuming she did not pay her own way, she received free transportation, hotel, meals, and maybe even gifts to take home. That is typical for these types of events, and would explain why she considers her post “sponsored.” Otherwise I don’t know why it would sponsored if no payment in kind occurred! So she can’t say she was sponsored and then also say say she was not compensated.
And about that part where she said “my opinions are my own:” she might as well delete that. Hardly anyone will believe her because she received freebies and then wrote positive posts about them. I wish bloggers would retire the phrase, because it’s disingenuous.
So, is this definition about payment in kind clear? What do you think disclaimers should say in these types of posts? If you are not writing sponsored posts or considering it, how does this information affect you?