...it seems that those that are knowledgeable and interested in food are willing to do enough work on their own to discern whether the commentary/review is reliable.
What about people that aren't knowledgeable and interested in food (aka "the vast majority of Americans")? Or what about people who may be knowledgeable and interested in food, but know nothing about the trustworthiness of writers in a city to which they're traveling? Seriously, one of the biggest ass-whippings for me is trying to find out where to eat when I travel. Gauging the credibility of the professional critics, bloggers, and message board participants would be enough of a challenge without having to worry about whether they're corrupt. Clear and conspicuous disclosure of material connections would streamline the process.
But I disagree with the disclosure rules when I weigh the fact that if fully enforced, the new regime will impose additional transaction costs on those posting online reviews/commentary and lead to less content.
You'll have to flesh that out for me. What are the "additional transaction costs"? From the writer's perspective, including a disclosure in a blog post or message board comment doesn't cost a dime (except perhaps in credibility, which is the point). From the advertisers' perspective, there may be some additional cost in monitoring what's written by the online endorsers they recruited. Perhaps some advertisers would prefer not to bother with that--especially since, with the endorsers making required disclosures, the advertising campaign will be less likely to be mistaken for genuine grass roots enthusiasm for the product. If that's the kind of content we have less of, how is that a bad thing for consumers?
To me, the beauty of the internet is that it has brought down barriers and reduced costs associated with publishing and disseminating information. Is all that new information accurate? Unbiased? Balanced? Of course not but leave me to my own devices to separate the gold from the gravel.
Why? Why should advertisers be able to do things on the Internet that they can't legally do on television or in a newspaper?