Somewhere around my fifth blogiversary I found myself thinking more seriously about whether it was time to hang up my keyboard. It wasn’t as much fun anymore and I felt like my writing reflected that. But since it coincided with my 40th birthday I wondered if outside influences were affecting my feelings so I decided to try and shake things up.
So I set out on a blogging walkabout. At some point I stumbled onto some of the mommy blogs and started flipping around there. I hit a bunch of daddy blogs as well and found it kind of interesting. You know us parents, we love to exchange the war stories.
As I tooled around I noticed that there were a ton of blogs that were holding giveaways and or providing product reviews. I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with this, but I hadn’t paid any attention to it before. It changed in part because of one blog. I can’t remember the name but I was astounded by how bad it was.
It was a combination of video and written posts that were just atrocious. Normally I would have just clicked away but it was clear to me that this blog was being sponsored by a few companies. It peaked my curiosity and I spent time clicking around trying to suss out what was going on.
After years in marketing/advertising I know that brands will follow the eyeballs, but this bothered me. The blog was cluttered with crap. The writing was abysmal and the video wasn’t much better. I suppose that you could argue that this made it more authentic, but I didn’t like it.
I blogged about it indirectly and wrote a post called Riding the Mommy Blogger Gravy Train. I followed up on that post with When Blogging Became a Business and Getting Paid to Write- The Bloggers Dream.
Since then I have been trying to put my thumb on why I am irritated with people who got into blogging solely for the purpose of trying to garner free trips and gifts from whomever would pay them. Why should I belittle professional shills who will do anything and say anything for a buck.
Is it a case of jealousy? Am I jealous that people saw and opportunity and took advantage of it? No. The answer is that I am not bothered by bloggers who happen to do reviews. I am bothered by shills who happen to blog. That may sound harsh or seem inconsistent, but it works for me.
And in the interest of full disclosure I have reviewed products in the past and will do so again in the future.
Yesterday my pal at Fink or Swim and I spent a few minutes on Twitter tweeting a bit about a related topic. We went back and forth about whether free products and trips provide an undue amount of influence on the reviewer. I have a hard time with it.
If I provide you and your family with a free Playstation are you going to be fair and honest in your review. If your kids are laughing hysterically and your family is having a great time at Disneyland are you going to tell us about the sub par accommodations and how bad the food was.
Are you going to bite the hand that feeds you?
I am torn about this. Fink makes some good points about how all information is filtered and there are always questions about bias. He asked me if I thought that reviewers should pay for the products that they review.
I suppose that one of the reasons I subscribe to Consumer Reports is because it is supposed to be unbiased. They purchase their products and do not accept advertising. In theory the reviewers have no feeling one way or another about a brand.
That doesn’t mean that their personal feelings never get involved or that there is never any sort of influence, but it is better.
So what is the bottom line here? Well, I suppose that it is the same as it has always been. Buyer beware. Pay attention and use your own judgement. It is not impossible for someone to give an objective review of a free product/service that they received. But I am still skeptical.
Anyhoo, what do you think?