October 23, 2009
Several years ago a golf equipment company asked me if I would conduct a product review for one of its golf bags.
The company would send me the bag; I would try it and write about it; and then, I could keep the bag for my personal use.
I talked with Dennis Forney, the publisher of this fine newspaper, about this request.
Forney’s position was straightforward, as he always is whenever we chat—I could accept the freebie, as long as I was honest in my assessment about it.
The equipment folks sent me the bag, and it was eventually the subject of a column that ran in this paper and on my golf website, HoleByHole.com.
I liked it, but I didn’t love it, and that evaluation should be pretty clear to anyone who reads the review.
Since that time, I have had the occasional freebie or two in other golf-related contexts, such as hybrid club or a round of golf at a Cape Region golf course that wanted me to write about the playing experience.
Again, there was no editorial control over the results of those experiences, other than my own requirement to write an honest assessment, as Forney suggested.
This issue came up again recently, due to a set of proposed guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC suggested that bloggers and others should openly disclose any such freebie reviews or paid endorsements, apparently to make sure readers understand the potential motivations of the writers.
The question of actual motive, however, could be left to the tender mercies of the federal government to decide.
The Commission appears to be trying to do something about advertising that is “masquerading as bona fide endorsements,” according to the New York Times, a publication with its own issues about public relations and news content.
Lots of bloggers are up in arms about the proposal, however, at least in part because of the daunting prospect of dealing with an official FTC investigation.
The FTC says its rules are aimed at nontraditional media such as the blogging community, but one has to wonder why it is not so worried about more traditional media outlets, such as this newspaper.
After all, review copies of new books, screener copies of new DVDs, and other products and services are not the sole review domains of bleary-eyed bloggers.
Out of an excess of caution, therefore, let me be as clear as possible.
I review golf books and other items that are sent to me as part of this column. I do not receive any direct payment for these reviews, other than the chance to keep the stuff.
If someone goes to my website and orders a book I reviewed through my association with Amazon.com, I earn a tiny percentage of the sale. It’s certainly not enough to change my mind about the merits of these books.
As for other products and services I review, you will be the first to know if these were freebies, because I make a point of telling you about that fact in the same column.
Glad we had this little chance to clear the air.
Oakley 10 spots out
With a single event remaining on the 2009 European Senior Tour, Pete Oakley finds himself 10 golfers away from being fully exempt for the next season.
On Sunday, Oct. 18, the Rookery’s Director of Golf finished in a tie for 39th place in the Benahavis Senior Masters, held at the La Quinta Golf & Country Club in Marbella, Spain. His 6-over-par performance earned Oakley a less-than-blistering 864 euros.
It also put him in 50th place on the European Senior Tour Order of Merit.
Oakley’s remaining chance comes up Nov. 6-8, at the OKI Castellon Senior Tour Championship, at the Club de Campo del Mediterraineo, in Castellon, Spain. Fortunately, this event’s total purse is the sixth highest for the season, at 400,000 euros.
Oakley therefore has an opportunity to make some serious money, if he can just play well enough.