Oct 14, 2011 Blogging
My relationship with product write-ups has gone through several stages since I started blogging. In the beginning, when I was related to most of my readers, my attitude was “Wow, you want to send me something? Sure, I’ll write about it! Yippee!”
Then, after I realized that that was completely unfulfilling and often didn’t fit on my blog, I became pickier with what I chose to write about. Bigger products came my way, but they were often only loaners. I tried that a few times, and found it problematic.
Finally, I simply adopted a blanket policy that I don’t return products. Here’s why:
Opinions can change, or get reinforced
I get comments and emails and tweets all the time on old posts asking “So, do you still like the [phone/pan/software/whatever]? Would you still recommend it?” If my answer is “I have no idea, I had to give it back after two weeks” then I’m kind-of useless.
If someone wants a review of the specs of a product, a comparison to other similar products, and impressions from someone who specializes in writing about that kind of product, she should go to Consumer Reports or cnet (two of my favorite sites, by the way). I think it makes sense for that kind of reviewer to keep something for two weeks then send it back and move on to the next product. It’s what they do.
But I try to do more with my posts and Twitter comments, because I’m not talking about ten different kinds of toasters or seven different TVs. How well did the product fit into my lifestyle? Did I keep using it or did it end up in a drawer? Do I still love it as much as I did when I first wrote about it? If I had to go back would I choose it over all the other ones I’ve tried since giving it a glowing review? This is the kind of information that someone can’t get from using a product for a short amount of time.
I need to use it like I own it
When I accept a loaner product I’m responsible for returning it in the same condition I received it in. If I borrow something from a friend I use it in a totally different way than if I bought it myself. I’m overly careful with it. I don’t let the kids touch it. I don’t see what it’s really capable of handling because I’m too worried about damaging it.
But when something is mine long-term, I use it the way I use the things I’ve paid for myself. Things get dropped and spilled on, used on road trips, shoved in purses. I get to see how they really hold up under real use.
I have to go to annoying places
When I borrow something, I have to spend my own time returning it. Even though it’s standard procedure for companies to pay for the return shipping, they usually don’t pay for pick-up. I usually have to get to a UPS or Fed-Ex store, and in Brooklyn that can be a major pain in the ass. I try to avoid those places whenever possible.
I like keeping the products for my own use
I want the products. Yes, yes, yes I do. I don’t understand why bloggers are so reluctant to admit this. I’d rather have cash, but in certain cases I’m happy to be paid in product. If it’s something I would’ve spent my own money on, then yes, I consider it payment, tax implications and all.
I work hard, and I try to write well. I’m not embarrassed to say “I earned this, and I’m keeping it.”
I don’t get as much benefit as the company does
I’m pretty loose with the term “review” – when I write about a product I tend to refer to it as a review whether it was given to me by a company or not. But if I want to be more specific about it, when a company gives me a product to try, even though the opinion is mine and the choice to write about it or not is mine, I was influenced simply by being given the product. So, there’s a really good chance that if I’m sent a product and it fits my blog and I find it interesting, I’ll be writing about it. That benefits the company.
But what if the product isn’t good, you might ask? That won’t benefit the company. Well, in my experience, companies don’t give away products that suck (which is why I’ve spent hundreds of my own dollars on crappy As Seen On TV products – they’re fun to write about, but nobody selling them wants them reviewed). So really, it’s almost like an advertisement for the company. They get a benefit.
Now, the argument can be made that my benefit is creating good content for my readers, and that is true – I work very hard when I write about products. But my readers are with me because of my work as a whole. It’s rare that one particular post changes the averages of my stats much. And when that does happen, it’s usually not about a product.
If the company is making money by people buying the product, and the PR company is getting paid to get me to promote the product, I fail to see why me promoting the product doesn’t deserve something in return from the company.
The company doesn’t get as much benefit
How many times have we seen a company carpet bomb mom blogs with a particular product? I don’t get why companies do this. I think it would be a lot more beneficial – to them and the readers – to narrow their focus to a smaller number of bloggers and create a more integrated campaign. Instead of spending their resources sending the product out and pulling it back, send it to fewer bloggers, to keep.
And instead of crossing their fingers and hoping that we’ll write about it, create a campaign. Pay the bloggers to make videos of the product, or to write a certain number of posts about it. And don’t give me that BS about not being able to pay bloggers. Too many companies have found a way to do it for that to ring true anymore.
I’ve only been blogging in the mom blog space for about three-and-a-half years. I’m not one of the old-timers who remembers “the good old days” before product relationships were such a big part of the blogosphere. And I’m glad, because I genuinely enjoy writing about certain types of products. And in all honesty I don’t hold it against a company if they don’t want to hand out products. But I do get agitated when I’m approached to try something out for a short period of time (or even worse, I’m not told that I need to return the product until after it’s sent to me). I feel like the company is trying to take advantage of me.
I have plenty of material without a company sending me a single thing. I have my kids, I have my house, I have all of the stuff I buy myself (and I buy a lot of stuff). I’m not necessarily trying to make an argument for companies to give products to bloggers. But I do want to them to think twice before they offer loaners. What makes sense for a magazine, or a newspaper, or an online news site, does not really work with blogs. Blogs are less static. Blogs are more involved with their readers. And the bloggers should be approach differently.
Originally posted on Behind the Screen. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.