THE first thing most people ask me, when they find out I write for Digital Life, is whether I get to keep all the gadgets that I review.
For the record, the answer is no. We return all gadgets sent in to us for review, and do not accept long-term loans (read: I'll-look-the-other-way items). Most media companies, ours included, have policies against accepting commercially valuable gifts and freebies.
In the blogging world, the work of regulating credibility has been left largely to the free market. There is nothing to stop bloggers from waxing lyrical about mobile phones, face creams or even hotel stays, without declaring that they got these products or services for free.
Not anymore, if the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US and the Media Development Authority (MDA) in Singapore have their way.
Last week, the FTC updated it's advertising guidelines to include blogs. Under the new rules, bloggers who get paid for endorsing products or services are required to declare it.
The Media Development Authority in Singapore is also mulling stricter disclosure rules, although no date has been set for roll-out.
The aim is to protect consumers who could fall prey to false advertisements or advertorials masquerading as reviews.
Yet, enforcement will be almost impossible.
With so many bloggers opining about anything from restaurants to running shoes to handbags, the agencies in charge of policing the blogs have their work cut out for them.
There will also be many things to pin down, such as who a blogger is, what qualifies as a blog and which legal jurisdiction a person would fall under if he or she were, say, a Singaporean blogger living in London.
Even in the media industry, where there are rules and the threat of dismissal for breaking them, mandating credibility is not an easy task. What more in the nebulous world of the Internet?
These days, blogs, review sites and even Twitter have become the first stops for consumers who want to canvas other people's opinions about products and services before springing good money. So more protection for people is definitely welcome.
But rather, the focus should be about regulating the practice (of deceptive advertising) and not the medium (of blogs and new media).
For example, while it will be hard to track all blog posts and bloggers, it should be easier to police companies that use new media channels to make self-serving claims under a cloak of partiality, and the advertising companies that broker these deals.