PSA to bloggers wanting samples for review

Posted by Kathleen Fasanella on Feb 19, 2009 at 2:01 pm / Sales and Marketing / Trackback

An ongoing topic of controversy in our forum is expressed by designers who’ve been requested to provide samples for review to bloggers. This topic has been discussed ad nauseum on the tubes but there’s something critical missing in the debate peculiar to the medium (immediacy) of blogging and professionalism. If you’re a mommy or fashion blogger, use of the term “professional” is not a cue to poise yourself ready for battle. From an analysis, I find bloggers do not understand the definition of “sample” from the perspective of the industry, a source of much complaint. That of course, in addition to many designer manufacturers who are displeased with the approach of many in the blogosphere.

Professionalism and trade experience
I’d imagine that 99% of bloggers have not worked in traditional fashion media nor in the garment industry. That is not a crime. However, you must understand that your definition of a sample and our definition of a sample, are two entirely different things. If you are the one making the request and trying to establish a peer relationship, on equal footing of that with print pubs, you must know the difference. For us, a sample is a prototypical garment of very limited quantity and great expense. It represents a style that has not yet been released for sale to the public. We produce samples in order to sell a style at market and for traditional print media who need advance notice to make space for it in their publication. It is only after buyers place orders for it that it is produced in quantity and shipped to stores. You know how expensive clothing is; what you don’t know is the average sample costs three times that for us to produce one. Therefore, a $150 bag to you at retail, would cost us nearly $500 to produce on demand. This is one reason manufacturers resent requests for samples, ensuring you’re already off to a bad start. Another taboo is to request or demand specific sizes (intending to fit your own children) in certain colorways. Our samples come in one size, a stock size, and often, just one colorway. The style is not produced in various sizes and colors until sales demand justifies producing it. In other words, you’ve added insult to injury by asking for a custom order that likely does not exist beyond a line sheet with fabrication and colors photoshopped into it.

The second issue of resentment and the need for increased professionalism is a facet peculiar to blogging itself, that of immediacy. A print publication will need to review samples well in advance of their print date and the product’s subsequent release into the marketplace. These two are timed to match. Vogue doesn’t print photographs of samples until months later when they can tell you which stores carry the item in stock. The trade press is a bit different, releasing images in advance of store delivery. However, these publications are trade only, intended for buyers who preview styles they may wish to purchase. Very few consumers have access to these publications as these are not intended to be released to the public.

The problem with bloggers is immediacy. They will release images of samples that are not intended to be shown to the public -yet. In other words, they are releasing what is considered to be privileged information. Now, while you might be jolly to get the scoop on what is coming down the pipeline to get the lead on your competitors and demonstrate the cachet of your influence, your benefactor will be livid. The reason is, due to your advance warning, their competitor will have time to knock off the designer and still do it in time to hit the stores. That’s insult to injury. Any of us working in the trade can be sued for doing this.

Most established designers are aware of this so they will limit their exposure to known sources, presuming shared values. Unfortunately, they’ve been wrong to presume that even valid bloggers understand. Consider this situation described in The Relationship Between Fashion PR and Fashion Blogs, the latter cited WWD by way of explanation:

…last week, Gawker founding editor Elizabeth Spiers’ new blog site, Fashionista, published photographs from a password-protected area of a preliminary Bitten Web site intended only for long-lead-time monthly magazines. When attorneys from Steve & Barry’s requested Fashionista remove the photos, it did, but by then dozens of other blogs had already posted images…

Still worse, many bloggers weighed in, loudly, and felt that being forced to remove images was akin to censorship but for goodness sakes, the founding editor of Gawker -no small potatoes- lifted and published photos from a password protected site. Just how many cues did she need to know these were not intended for public viewing? In summary, confidentiality, cost of goods and immediacy are all reasons for which requests from bloggers are considered with suspicion. You might get the scoop once but is it worth it to have burned your bridges? Good luck getting the inside track in the future if you have a reputation for being untrustworthy. Now onto other matters of professionalism.

Professionalism and blogging
Fashion bloggers all want to be taken seriously, no doubt of it but as long as your ranks are infested with pariah, the likes of this one, you have a long row to hoe. Do not miss the comments left at the close of the pariah article by said pariah. The comments are definitely NSFW and prove the blogger in question is anything but professional. Short of spates of cat fights the fashion blogosphere is known for, said one designer who speaks for many:

I have never been asked by a physical magazine, with the exception of xxxx [a new very amateur low quality publication with poor copy and grammar], to submit a sample of my diaper bag without the stated fact they would be pleased to return it once used for their purpose. I have, however, been asked by upwards of 30 “mom-blogs” for my $149 (retail) bag that they would LOVE TO REVIEW and tell all their friends about. I have offered product to People Mag, Pregnancy & Newborn, Fit Pregnancy, and more and they all said, “not necessary, I’m going to write about your product. Thanks for the press kit.” The remaining requests are still sitting in my inbox saying “gimme, gimme, gimme” It’s getting ridiculous.

My issue is this…a beauty editor at Vogue may never have worked the Clinique counter at Saks, but he or she surely is an accomplished writer that has worked very hard to be able to tell the good, bad or ugly. A Mom-blogger does not typically have commensurate experience. Is she a retired editor that wanted to start an online mag? What experience does she have? With respect to give aways, how do I know that Marcy in Cincinnati got my bag for signing up for the blogger’s newsletter? I have relied on only one blog that I would ever give to and the rest have met me at an event and loved my stuff and written about it.

If you are going to have the nerve to ask a designer for free product for your “review”, you better have actually spent the money to buy a web site and used some sort of professional manner of constructing a page. It is absurd and I have just had enough.

Summarizing others, magazines are not greedy. Contrary to what you think, established print publications return samples. Yes, they do. If you want to be treated with the same respect they are, you must behave as they do. You cannot expect to receive the respect given to popular magazines while simultaneously demanding better treatment.

Guidelines for bloggers (summarized):

  • Make it clear you are not asking for samples as we define them but products currently in the marketplace.
  • The perception is that bloggers are demanding free loaders; work to avoid that.
  • Be prepared to show your stats or any other requested information.
  • Disclose any relationships that may pose a conflict of interest.
  • Also see my blog policies on freebies.

45 Responses to “PSA to bloggers wanting samples for review”

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Jennifer
February 19th, 2009
3:01 PM

My opinion is to be very careful with giving samples. When I was still designing lingerie, I had two so-called journalists – one blogger and one from a well-respected print magazine – ask for samples, implying (if not downright stating) a post on the garment would be forthcoming. Somehow, once the products reached them, I never heard from them again – nor, needless to say, did I ever see any review.

Only one blogger actually reviewed my line and clearly mentioned she had tried the item. She was amazing and professional, but, in my opinion, not the rule. I now either sell a retail item when someone wants a sample or simply say no. If there’s someone I would like to have the item, I offer them a freebie – usually this is either someone I know who has helped my business in some way or someone well-respected by my customer base whom I would like to know about my line.

jamie@jamiespnd.com
February 19th, 2009
4:36 PM

This post is great – I have had a similar post in mind for quite some time – but in regards of making personalized products these review bloggers. They always insist that I make a particular style, personalize for their children AND sometimes ask for more than one. I am also done with this – I don’t want to upset the Mommy Blogger Reviewers – but all the magazines, TV stations and newspapers I worked with have NEVER asked for samples either – ever!

Angela Hill
February 19th, 2009
6:42 PM

Fantastic post. This really is a must-read for bloggers everywhere. Thank you for the in-depth content. I will re-tweet for you.

Heather J Knight
February 20th, 2009
9:26 AM

I can’t believe how rude, selfish, immature and tasteless bloggers could be in requesting samples just to have for themselves. Exposure on a blog is not the equvalent of quality printer or otehr media advertising.

So Much More Than A Mom
February 20th, 2009
9:35 AM

Great advice, thank you! Retweeted.

nadine
February 20th, 2009
10:01 AM

BRAVO! Great post. Sharing my experience from working with some DE’s out of school in NYC. They got requests constantly to provide samples – from their upcoming season – which were already on their line sheets, for various fashion publication photoshoots. The samples were always returned and usually damaged with makeup or other things. Two DE’s I worked for required the stylist to sign some type of responsibility statement and take a credit card swipe before releasing “showroom samples” which was a kind of insurance and was to be charged for damaged or non-returned items. One DE charged a type of “rental fee” which subjected items returned after the date intended for the photoshoot to a 25% of retail price each day – on the 4th day late the item was theirs. This was apparently based on Barney’s stylist rental policy. Now these DE’s were always approached by name fashion publications but also small stylists doing coverart or music video type of stuff rather than the really amateur crowd. Of course large publications consider those fee requests to be the price of doing business. Is it so terrible to do something like that for the amateur publications. Someone has to set a standard and change the expectation of entitlement. Personally, I feel that if DE’s themselves provide leadership on this issue and create a standard then it pushes the unprofessional into line and changes their expectations accordingly. Just my 2 cents. Great issue!

CDBehrle
February 20th, 2009
12:46 PM

This is a great post, covering what can be a very thorny issue,

Having dealt with all types of “media” requests over the years, there are many things to take into consideration, whether it be a blog, a stylist, a magazine, whatever….

1) Cost: the expense of giving away or loaning out, whether it’s customizing a product to suit, or even creating a whole new item (Big magazines often ask for this for a specific story) In this case you have to consider the chances of it being shot & showcased in a way that will get you sales. Will you have the lead time to produce it & sell it to a store?- Can you sell it through your own site? Is it worth it?

For some publications it may entirely worth the effort. You must to be able to discriminate.

2) Usage: What really, will a video or album cover (or blog) do for your business? How will they promote you. What & how big is their audience? Are they going to run a zipper under the screen telling you where to purchase? I took to telling bands trying to solicit free wardrobe, “OK, I will require a banner onstage at all times with 6 foot letters saying that I provided the clothes that so & so wears.” (Heck, at that rate my name alone would be over 40′ long!) But, I guess they figure they gotta try…it’s that entitlement Nadine mentions, and it should not be encouraged.

In many cases, unless you have a full court Press backing you up, how is anybody going to learn that it’s your product?

(if it is Kate W, wearing your gown at the Oscars, well…then, not such a problem!)

You have to be aware and set up your policies (& stick to them) for loan-outs or give-outs accordingly. On loan-outs Nadine has it exactly right, Get a Credit Card deposit, a signed letter of responsibility, & rental terms past a specified time out of showroom, etc. especially when dealing with a new company, or a new stylist, if they are professional it will not be a problem. On real wear usage charge rental, get a deposit, and get responsibility from production. On giveaways, you have to know what you can afford (and what you can live with) Companies have gone out of business on giveaways…

Kathleen
February 20th, 2009
1:06 PM

Addressing some of what Nadine and Behrle said, borrowing samples often involves leaving a credit card number as insurance, both by photo stylists and at market. It’s very common.

Another point I failed to make in this entry is timeliness. Print pubs, barring unforseen circumstances, return samples quickly. They know you’ve pulled this sample from a showroom or need to lend it to another party and need it back asap. The point is, not only do established industry professionals not keep samples, they return them as quickly as possible.

The point of course being that if bloggers want to be treated with the same respect as print pubs, they need to act as the print pubs do rather than expecting special treatment the print pubs don’t get. I could see bloggers deserving of special treatment if they delivered the comparative influence as popular fashion magazines do but it’s rarely the case.

That said, it is sometimes efficacious for a designer to provide free current products rather than samples depending on the price points and it depends on who makes the first approach. There are plenty of brands who’ve rolled the cost of free product into their marketing budgets but the smallest of entrepreneurs -who bloggers are likely to approach- aren’t likely to have the resources to do so.

Carrie_in_TN
February 22nd, 2009
12:09 PM

Before I launch head-long, some background:
I was a daily newspaper reporter for nearly 20 years. My last seven was as a features writer, who got lots of product samples — from toothpaste to books — I never asked for and didn’t write about.
The last 3 years I have owned a boutique line of Spanish baby and children’s t-shirts, doing my own sales and my own PR. This past year, I launched a PR and marketing firm — joining my journalism with my small business experience.

My points:
1. This is an excellent post that all designers and small business owners must really think about before throwing a bunch of samples out there and hoping something “big” will come of it.

2. Newspapers will rarely ask for samples, unless it is a book or music or food. They love food! If they borrow clothes locally for a photo shoot, they’ll give it back to you. Newspaper reporters are notoriously messy and busy and will not often mail back samples, especially if they were not requested.

3. Magazines will send back your samples and some of them will say, we’re shooting on this date and sending back on this date. Fabulous and free advertising!

4. I have a very defined niche, so I am careful what blogs I send samples to. Only one in three years has been worth it, and that blogger didn’t require a sample. I think I sent out about four tees as samples the whole time we’ve been in business. I got better results from folks who just simply wrote: “Hey, look at this cool thing!” and asked for nothing. Still get hits and sales from those.

5. I tell clients and friends who own product lines to attack newspapers and magazines first and get all the free publicity they can. Pitch the newspaper and mag websites, which often have separate staffs, too. Sometimes, you can upload your own press release to the newspaper’s community Web section.

6. The best sales we ever got via print media was from a small and free brief in a newspaper in a city where we have a big demographic. Small sometimes is very big. Don’t discount that.

7. I have heard toe-curling and shameless stories about bloggers wanting product, like one to keep and one to give away, like product specifically in their kid sizes, and charging hundreds of dollars for a “review.” That’s OK, I guess, if the niche is well-targeted and if you get a return, but what is their readership, what is their reach into the big, wide world that is the internet?

8. Are there bloggers in your field/demographic/niche who will simply point people toward you and not necessarily review you? Go find them. Drop them a note. I constantly write about products I know my readers will like. I charge nothing and generally raffle off the book or CD, etc.

9. Start a blog and use Twitter. Write about yourself, your product, your experience and use keywords that will bring your customer directly to you. Not always easy, but worth doing and mostly free.

10. I don’t mean to bash review bloggers. I get that people are just trying to make a buck. We all are. But I think a good conversation must be had about blogger ethics and transparency and designers must use caution and smarts when they send valuable samples to blogs and publications.

11. Three is a trend. Don’t be afraid of linking up with other designers to say to a reporter ‘hey, here is a hot design trend and here are three designers who are doing that.’ We got a huge feature story in a major metro because I pitched another t-shirt brand targeting the same demographic and called it a trend. Hold hands. It works.

Best of luck to you all.

Heather Allard
February 23rd, 2009
11:50 AM

Kathleen,

As someone who has been on both sides of this coin (I invented two baby products, Swaddleaze & Blankeaze, and sold them last year. Now, I write The Mogul Mom blog, a blog for mom entrepreneurs), I have to say that most of this can be avoided by simply communicating–both as the designer who is being asked to send samples and the blogger who is requesting samples. If both parties are clear about their expectations of a sample exchange, most problems can be avoided.

Samples are expensive to give out and as designers, we want to insure that we’re getting the best bang for our buck. Do ask for a blogger’s numbers–their reader demographic, number of subscribers, how many hits they get, bounce rate, etc. If it’s not a great fit, politely decline.

Mommy bloggers-be prepared to provide these numbers when you request samples & consider letting the designer know what type of post you plan to write and how you market your blog. Give examples of your work & show the designer that you’re a serious blogger.

A few things to consider:

Over the past few years, “mommy bloggers” have become increasingly powerful and many big companies willingly shower them with products hoping to gain a favorable review. The number of buyers that are influenced by mommy bloggers should be looked at before dismissing them as “greedy moms”.

Getting editorial coverage in magazines & newspapers has become more difficult, especially for small businesses & mom inventors, as many publications now “give” this supposedly unbiased coverage to advertisers.

Thanks again for the great post.

Heather Allard
The Mogul Mom

Vesta
February 23rd, 2009
4:23 PM

I am asked for free product by review bloggers every day. Seriously. I just can’t justify all of it. It doesn’t pay off, unless it’s a huge, huge blog. I mean, add the shipping and payroll costs on top of the product costs and it’s a substantial outlay.

Miracle
February 24th, 2009
12:56 PM

————
Over the past few years, “mommy bloggers” have become increasingly powerful and many big companies willingly shower them with products hoping to gain a favorable review. The number of buyers that are influenced by mommy bloggers should be looked at before dismissing them as “greedy moms”.
————

A very large company, has a large enough budget for marketing and advertising to have these expenses. They are going to measure the value of that post a lot differently than a small business. I think sometimes bloggers think that kind of process is more widespread than it is, smaller companies don’t usually have those kinds of budgets. Also, it’s hard for a company to believe a blogger has a large amount of influence, when their blogging is mostly about saving money yet the products they are asking for are in the higher price ranges. I think small businesses, especially online, can measure the results of the mentions and if they are only getting visits, and no sales (or 1 or 2 sales), then how can they justify continuing the process?

Natalie
February 25th, 2009
3:18 AM

This was a really insightful article although I can’t say that I have personally experienced this. I am offered product all the time as a ‘mom blogger’ but I turn down the great majority of requests. I don’t have the time to handle so much product and whilst you have emphasised the greed of some bloggers, it’s also important to recognise that for the companies who try to push product to you, they do so with expectation. If someone sends me something, I straight up ask them to provide return postage as I don’t assume it’s free. I never ask for my size or my child’s size, so again they have to initiate that conversation. Ultimately it comes down to how much editorial integrity you have because I worked in print publishing for several years and understand the often unspoken or implied expectation of brand owners, designer, and retailers. I want to write what I want to write and I don’t like being harangued by people about when they’re going to be featured.
That said, if there is a question of quality, and trust me, it does happen, it is in this instance that we check products – on occasion, thankfully the minority, seeing the product has been scarily different, particularly with clothing.
I think that whilst there are clearly instances where bloggers do abuse the process, I do feel that it cuts both ways, and I don’t think either party has room to be making demands or assumptions.

Kathleen
February 25th, 2009
5:31 AM

Hi Natalie, I agree with everything you said except this:

I think that whilst there are clearly instances where bloggers do abuse the process, I do feel that it cuts both ways, and I don’t think either party has room to be making demands or assumptions.

I don’t agree that either party isn’t entitled to make demands etc. It matters a whole lot which party is making the approach. Now, if given party is the one making the approach or proposing a situation like this, then it is incumbent upon them to know the ropes but the other person isn’t responsible for knowing off the top of their heads just because someone asked them.

As far as the ethics of receiving product in anticipation that you’ll write a glowing review, you might want to see the link to my entry (the very last line of my post above) on my blog’s policies. Like you, I either return product or buy it if I like it. That way, even if no one else knows it, I know my reviews are not compromised.

Kathleen
February 25th, 2009
12:24 PM

Oh my, I just stumbled on this tidbit, a word to bloggers who review products; you may end up feeling bad if your visitors are fleeced by a company who sent you free samples for review:

What follows is the story of how ChickDowntown.com commits fraud by charging customer credit cards for items that are out of stock or backordered and then making it nearly impossible to get a refund until the customers give up trying to work with the retailer and have their credit card company reverse the charges. This is also the story of how ChickDowntown.com attempts to control the resulting torrent of bad publicity by anonymously commenting on websites, bribing friendly bloggers with designer merchandise giveaways, and spending millions of dollars a year to advertise in the finest fashion mags all to keep the steady supply of unsuspecting customers flowing to their website.

Summary: Even if you get free loot, your reputation is impacted by the reputation of the company you recommend so you want it to be a good one. Doing your homework was one thing I neglected to mention in my blog policies. I never consider reviewing a product from a given company unless I’ve done some leg work. Even then, I’ve been burnt by two unestablished companies that ended up cheating my visitors which made my judgment questionable.

Audrey - Mom Generations
February 26th, 2009
2:02 PM

As a “mom blogger” at MomGenerations.com – where I actually run a series called – 365 Days of Fashion Advice for Moms… I am offered samples/products ALL THE TIME from designers/brands/companies – small, medium and large. I also run a product review component for families… where I am sent tons of stuff – unsolicited and solicited.

I’m going to make this short and sweet.. because, I have to say – I come from the fashion world. I worked at Donna Karan in NYC for 7 years… my first job as one of the assistants to Donna Karan herself – you want to talk requests from people “big”, “small” and “in between” – I’ve had them, heard them and dealt with them. And I just want you to know that some of us “mom bloggers” do come with a vast and experienced background. And even the ones who don’t – well, those are some of the most POPULAR blogs.

And I have to say – I agree with some of your points – I do feel like companies should reach out before sending products. And if are requested products from mom bloggers – do exactly what Heather Allard mentioned, ask for stats, etc. Believe me – when a company asks for stats and the mom blogger know she CANNOT give them good numbers, she will not respond.

But let me say this… I do want to respond to this portion from above:

My issue is this…a beauty editor at Vogue may never have worked the Clinique counter at Saks, but he or she surely is an accomplished writer that has worked very hard to be able to tell the good, bad or ugly. A Mom-blogger does not typically have commensurate experience. Is she a retired editor that wanted to start an online mag? What experience does she have? With respect to give aways, how do I know that Marcy in Cincinnati got my bag for signing up for the blogger’s newsletter? I have relied on only one blog that I would ever give to and the rest have met me at an event and loved my stuff and written about it.

I did leave a VERY good job in NYC to have my sons. I graduated from Brown University with a double degree. I definitely GET where this quote above is coming from… you have an expensive product for a Giveaway – How does the company really know it’s going to someone out in the world?

I guess you gotta rely on trust and reputation of the blogger – mom or otherwise.

Moms have an influential power… our voice does translate into dollars.

Most of all – we’re mothers – entrepreneurs creating our product in the form of a product review site/blog. The social media world is changing… and companies/brands are beginning to take notice.

I just spoke at Jeff Pulver’s SocComm Summit regarding Moms in the Digital Age… I would be more than happy to give you notes from that meeting.

I don’t want to get off topic… but I do think COMMUNICATION needs to be loud, bold and HEARD between bloggers and companies. There are different “phases” of blogs out there. Some of us have been at it for years… some only a months… it’s important to look beyond blogs – are they on Facebook, Twitter?

Companies want sales of a product, just as much as we want the traffic and visibility to translate that into ad revenue.

Very interesting post… I have never been on here before, I look forward to perusing!! And again – I’m open to a discussion if need be. I think you raise VERY important points. And I think some of the advice in the comments above are SPOT-ON! Brave women/ladies!!

:)

Audrey McClelland

PS – Sorry – I guess this isn’t short and sweet!

Gylon Jackson
February 26th, 2009
2:14 PM

Why would anyone just send samples out for the hell of it? There has to be some research done on the amount of traffic (daily site visitors), google page rank and what the blogger is writing about. By the way Fashion incubator has some good stats.
http://www.fashion-incubator.com
Google PR – 6
Alexa – 106,000

The notion that magazines don’t get free products and they have to return the samples is a joke. They do get free things all the time and even worse magazines get special treatment and special “gifts” if they are favorable to a designer or a brand.

Using blogs to market can be a great thing!!!!
With that said there is also power in numbers if you can afford to send a bag, purse or shoes to bloggers for review that is a great inexpensive way to market. To many times people get caught up in paying PR people a lot of money to promote a product.
In this day and age of the internet one can use gorilla marketing tactics to promote a product. Using good trusted or even up and coming bloggers to promote a product is a great idea. A blogger that is writing to “review” a product should not be shunned.

Also the power of a blogger can be HUGE, you never know what blogger can be a benefit to your product.

I see bloggers as a tool not a bunch of greedy people.

Are desigers greedy for only supplying the stars and magazines with samples? Greedy for attention, greedy for fame, or greedy for publicity?

In closing the article was great and the rules are good but I promise you that most bloggers are not greedy they are just trying to find their way and get their own piece of the pie.

G

Miracle
February 27th, 2009
3:13 PM

The notion that magazines don’t get free products and they have to return the samples is a joke. They do get free things all the time and even worse magazines get special treatment and special “gifts” if they are favorable to a designer or a brand.

When magazines call in samples for a story they are working on, for example, bright and colorful handbags, they DO return those samples, with some exception. This is for items sent at their request. If designers and companies shower the editors with gifts, that is an entirely different thing. Unsolicited items sent are also an entirely different thing.

I think there’s an issue of parity. If a DE can get an item back from a print publication, after it is used for a photo shoot, why not from a blog?

Trish
March 2nd, 2009
11:19 PM

I have to agree with what others have said- that communication is key. For both parties. I do think it is very important for people to understand the difference between a sample and a product already on the line. I also think it important for the company to ask that images not be posted until a certain date. Some people might not know that the product was not available yet.

As a mom blogger I can say that I have never returned a product that was sent to me to review- I have never been asked! Also- I know a lot of people consider that product to be their compensation for the review and traffic that is brought to the company. Most of us are not paid, or are making very little money from our blogs. That is the difference between a magazine and a blog. They are getting compensation for reviewing or writing about a product. A review can take several hours, and it might not be worth it to spend all that time for nothing in return. I have written about things that I already own and loved though too, simply because I thought it was a great product. And yes, I have asked for things to be sent in a certain size, simply because how can I know that it works the way it should without actually trying it. I can look at say, a pair of shoes, all I want, but until I actually wear them, I cannot tell if they are comfortable or not.

I do agree that it is important for companies to do their research before working with a blog. Ask for numbers, ask for stats. If the blogger is not willing to give them, then they are not worthy of working with you. And yes, unfortunately, there are some bloggers out there who only want free stuff. But please note that not all bloggers are like that. Most of us simply like to help spread the word about great products. It’s not about the free stuff. It’s about the relationships we can build with companies and our readers that is important to us.

Another thing I wanted to say is it’s OK to say no! I would rather a company respond to a request with a simple, no thank you, I’m not interested, than getting no response at all.

Real Quickly, I wanted to respond to this: “I think there’s an issue of parity. If a DE can get an item back from a print publication, after it is used for a photo shoot, why not from a blog?”

I believe there is a big difference in having product loaned for a photo shoot vs having a review written by a blogger. I have been involved in acting, and I approached a company looking for my wardrobe. They were more than willing to loan me the clothing, and I am returning that to them. They also told me to keep my favorite pieces, but I was not expecting that. I was prepared to return all of it to them. This was an event that I needed specific items for. Once the event was over, I was more than happy to return them. If I had received the same items asking that a review be written about them to build publicity for the company, however, I would not have returned them, unless it was something we specifically agreed upon beforehand- hence why communication is key.

Alison Cummins
March 3rd, 2009
5:13 AM

Trish,

If your reviews are something a company can buy from you to gain publicity, then they are advertisements and not independent reviews.

Trisha
March 3rd, 2009
7:16 AM

I think this article is ignorant. You are stating that it would be the designer “out” product, time and money but what is the blogger out of? As a “mom” blogger, it takes me a week to review a product properly, over an hour to take pictures and write a decent post on a review, and even longer if it includes a video. Then it takes another hour to list it to all the social networking sites and giveaway pages (if its a giveaway) and on top of it, it takes up space on my site which is nothing more then advertising for the artist or seller.

And what do I do that all for? A product? My house has 100s of products that I never use again after the review or giveaway is done. All a review IS is a glorified ad for the SELLER, its for thier benefit. Am I supposed to work several hours for FREE on behalf of someone I dont know online trying to get their product known?

See my entry from a boutique perspective
~Trisha Haas

Miracle
March 3rd, 2009
8:12 AM

Trisha, you bring up really great points, however, no one has yet to address the issue of what the blogging community is going to do to distinguish credible bloggers from (let’s be honest here) freeloaders. For a DE, especially one that goes solo (as many do), it’s difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff and a couple bad experiences with “bad apples” spoils the entire process. I get passed along information from other DEs and publicists and let me tell you, some of what’s going on is horrendous. Add to that a sense of some bloggers feeling entitled to items for personal use, regardless of the demographic of their blog. When one blogger asks one DE for one item, it becomes hard to notice a pattern, but when a blogger tries to go on a shopping spree with a publicist’s clients, then it becomes pretty clear that something is amiss.

What is the blogging community going to do about it? Will there be standards? A code of ethics? A seal used on reputable blogs? Is there any self-policing other than just saying “some of us are not like that” without pointing out who?

It’s commendable that you give such thorough reviews, a lot of bloggers don’t write more than a short blurb and worse yet, some never do the review at all, pocketing the product instead.

Most DEs want to find a harmonious relationship with all outlets of exposure, they just don’t want to get burned and don’t have enough money to keep trying if it happens more than a few times.

I’d love to hear what you have to say about this.

Kathleen
March 3rd, 2009
8:43 AM

I think this article is ignorant. You are stating that it would be the designer “out” product, time and money but what is the blogger out of?

You are welcome to disagree but direct attacks are unwelcome. As far as the matter of ignorance is concerned, you failed to address the specificity of the issue of samples and the costs of which -among other matters which are incumbent upon you to know when making your requests. While you claim to be a “successful” wahm “hairbow maker”, I do not agree it is within the parameters of your experience to assert that I or my material am/is “ignorant” in the same way that I -not being a hairbow maker- would suggest you are ignorant, the matter being outside the range of my purvey.

Christina
March 3rd, 2009
11:24 AM

When I send a product for review I consider that “sample” as payment for the advertising the blog is giving me. I could run an ad in a newspaper or magazine and not send a sample, but I would have to pay for that ad. Are the two really that different?

To me sending a product for review is better than putting an ad in my local newspaper, not only does the ad cost more than what I spend making a “sample”, but it’s only reaching people in two cities, whereas the blog review is reaching people all over the US and even other countries. Granted, a magazine ad would reach more people my local newspaper, but it would also be completely out of my advertising price range.

Now when I send a product for review I want the blogger to actually use it for a while before giving a review, I want them to be able to say things like “this sling has withstood multiple washings and is still as beautiful and supportive as it was the day it arrived” and I want them mean it, not just say it because it was in a press release that I sent to them. I want them to get it dirty and see how easily the washing instructions are. I want them to tell their readers if the wearing instructions are truly easy to understand. I want them to share if it the fabric stains easily or not. I could go on, but you should get my point by now. Now after it’s been thoroughly used and abused, what good would it do me to get it back?

April
March 3rd, 2009
11:29 AM

I can totally see where you’re coming from with this post although, as a blogger, I’m on the other side of the product review process. Still, I agree with you.

I’ve reviewed products and in most cases, the owner or PR person has offered samples that they weren’t expecting to be returned. When it comes to the actual product that they choose to send, its up to them as far as I’m concerned. I did a review for a kids clothing line where they offered us a few choices in various sizes and I’ve done reviews where they’ve offered a certain dollar amount worth of products and left the choice entirely up to me. But if they want to send me something that I wouldn’t be able to actually try – like a pair of boy’s pajamas in a size 8 when I have a 6 yr old daughter and my only son is a teen – then I would refuse and maybe even refer them to another blogger that I know who does have an 8 yr old son because sending it to me would be a waste of their time and materials. I could never, in good conscience, say something like “Oh I can’t use that. If you want me to review your product, send me a pair of girl’s pajamas in a size 6.” Its just rude. I see product review items as gifts.

Now I have done product reviews on items or services that I’ve never even used and I have no problem with that. For example, I hosted a giveaway that featured a really nice laptop bag and I just used the information I had about the bag when describing it. I was honest about it, I never claimed to have any personal knowledge of the bag’s quality, and I certainly never demanded that the company send me one for free (and to keep) if they wanted me to review it.

This whole review thing is a two way street. And if either side feels that they aren’t getting their money’s worth or their time’s worth out of it then they should retain that right to respectfully decline without worrying that they’re going to get attacked and bashed for it.

I really wish there were an easier way to separate the “bad apples” but other than checking out their blog and maybe even asking others in your industry if they can recommend bloggers to work with, there really isn’t. You could also try going through some of the review networks so that you’re only having to deal with one person who will work with the bloggers on your behalf.

Clarissa Nassar
March 3rd, 2009
12:16 PM

I really wish there were an easier way to separate the “bad apples” but other than checking out their blog and maybe even asking others in your industry if they can recommend bloggers to work with, there really isn’t. You could also try going through some of the review networks so that you’re only having to deal with one person who will work with the bloggers on your behalf.

**Maybe us bloggers should ask the PR agents/ companies we work with for quotes to add to our media kit? I am working with a group to try to help them develop a PR friendly page on their blog to help with this.** We DO have a list of “Recommended Bloggers” over at MomDot!

Considering the reputation of the site, you can be sure to get a very helpful and understanding blogger to work with. There are bloggers like Trisha & myself who work hard to create fruitful relationships with business owners because we are business owners ourselves. I make handmade children’s clothing and accessories and understand that there are a lot of people out there to “take advantage” of us designers however, I did my research and found that working with MomDot and others like Maternal Spark are very good relationships to have.

I was able to turn my little at home business into a real money maker because of all the great bloggers I have met who have helped me with everything from SEO to marketing.

Clarissa Nassar
http://www.theposhpreneur.com

M
March 3rd, 2009
2:38 PM

If the editor at Fashionista and her commentors simply had any knowledge of copyright she would know she couldn’t use the photos without permission. That’s sadly the case too often, that people expect use of things that are not theirs and are offended when someone tells them otherwise.

Shan
March 3rd, 2009
5:10 PM

Your article brings up some good points, but bashing “Mommy Bloggers” is not the most brilliant tack to get your point across. I am a “Mommy Blogger” and I realize that, in your opinion, already gives me less credibility and one strike against me. However, what you failed to mention is that Moms make most, if not all of the financial decisions in the home, including what products to buy.

If I have read an unfavorable review of a product, I will not buy it. For example, my then 3 year old daughter wanted a play tent for Christmas. I went online to check out a very popular manufacturer of the product. They did not get good reviews for their quality or customer service. Hence, I did not buy from them. We bloggers do have some power, whether you want to acknowledge it or not.

As for asking a company for the opportunity to review their product on our blogs? Well, that is usually a win-win for both sides. The Blogger gets more traffic to their site and the designer (or creator, manufacturer, etc.) gets inexpensive advertising that will be able to be viewed for as long as said blogger has their site up and running. But if the product, or sample, sent for critique is not something that can truly be tested out, then how am I supposed to write an honest assessment? You cannot send me a size 2T outfit when my daughter wears a girls XS.

In these tough economic times, I cannot, in good conscience, give a “seal of approval” to a product that has not withstood the rigors of what it was intended for. I would not write a review of a Dyson Vacuum cleaner because I don’t own one. I cannot recommend your children’s clothing unless I already own it or you send me my daughter’s size to try out.

Moms want to know if the product holds up to rambunctious kid playing, several washings or just normal, everyday wear and tear. That is impossible to do if the product cannot actually be thoroughly tried out by us “Mommy Bloggers”. I am more likely to buy something that received a favorable write-up from a trusted “Mommy Blogger” rather than a paid endorsement from a major magazine or newspaper.

And for said review, which is time consuming, instead of dollars, we get to keep the product. What is wrong with that? I am sure that giving me a product to review and keep is far less expensive than advertising in a magazine or newspaper. I believe you are not only doing a disservice to your own businesses by not tapping into the power of the “Mommy Blogger” but also limiting your potential customer base by bashing us.

The internet is forever. You cannot just erase the offending posts/articles and expect it to be completely deleted. Someone, somewhere has already copied and posted this article. It will never go away and, therefore, “Mommy Bloggers” everywhere will read, and be offended by it. You have just lost a mass of customers because of your terse criticism and name calling.

Kathleen
March 3rd, 2009
5:26 PM

Your article brings up some good points, but bashing “Mommy Bloggers” is not the most brilliant tack to get your point across

I wholeheartedly agree -which is why I didn’t bash anyone. Besides, it’s very unbecoming.

You cannot just erase the offending posts/articles and expect it to be completely deleted. Someone, somewhere has already copied and posted this article. It will never go away and, therefore, “Mommy Bloggers” everywhere will read, and be offended by it. You have just lost a mass of customers because of your terse criticism and name calling.

uh, this I don’t get. The entry hasn’t been erased -you posted on it- and I don’t intend to erase it either. And name calling? I think you have me confused with another party. Lastly, it’s doubtful I’ve lost a mass of customers when I have nothing to sell them.

Kimberly/Mom in the City
March 3rd, 2009
8:34 PM

I think that some of your points are very valid. Each industry has its own spoken (and unspoken) rules. I think that it is helpful to inform one another from each side (pr/blogger). Even though I rarely write on fashion, it’s good to know the industry standards that you pointed out.

As a mom blogger though, I’m not clear why you felt the need to lump mom bloggers and fashion bloggers in the same category. The tone comes off as condescending which I assume was not your intention.

Just one note in regard to the perception of bloggers being seen as “greedy” for wanting actual samples to review. Personally, I don’t see how anyone CAN review an item that they haven’t personally seen/touched/etc. If the item is in limited supply/expensive/etc., most bloggers that I know are more than happy to return the samples as long as that is communicated up-front.

I think that on both sides, it comes down to honest communication. Yes, there are “bad seeds” on both sides – bloggers and pr/marketing people- but for the most part, I find that the majority of people involved in social media desire to do the right thing.

Qtpies7
March 3rd, 2009
9:19 PM

I am not a fashion reviewer, and therefore I do not ask for fashion items, however, I do understand what you are upset about, but there are also some misunderstandings on the other side of things.
Word of mouth is the absolute best form of advertising. I do not buy things that I see advertised in a magazine. I buy when I see someone’s child wearing something adorable and when I ask them about it they get excited in their response. If people I read regularily love something, I listen. I really don’t care what that random magazine person wrote, they are just trying to be in on a trend. Ads are biased and rarely completely honest. I want real reviews from real people.

If a blogger is asking for a sample that will fit their child or themselves, it is because we are absolutely commited to giving the product a proper try in order to give a review of it’s quality and function. Sure, that outfit looks so trendy, but if it falls apart or fades in the wash, I don’t want it. I want something that is worth the money I spend on clothing, or anything, really.

If a blogger is going to try something, yes, it needs to be something that is already on sale, not a preview of something to come. That is good information to know, because I would not know that what you are sending is confidential.

Pamm
March 3rd, 2009
11:10 PM

I’ve been following this debate in one form or another on many websites lately.

One mom blog networking site had a thread discussing whether or not mom bloggers should be required to return products after they’re done reviewing them. The majority of people were shocked and offended that they might be asked to do so.

I blog, and I include reviews. Reviews are NOT the bulk of my blog, I only post reviews of products that BUILD on my niche, instead of muddy it. I have a background in journalism (newspapers/11 years), and TO ME, this all boils down to a matter of integrity, and honestly to yourself, and your readers.

Let’s imagine, those that are offended, that you read about a certain product, say, a $900 laptop. The article in a newspaper sounded fantastic, and you felt buoyed by this article to go out and buy this laptop because you’re in the market for one anyway. You choose this laptop BECAUSE, at least partially, of this article.

Now let’s say it’s a POS. You might be ticked off right? You might feel misled? Now let’s say you find out that the newspaper was PAID to post this article. Wait, isn’t that a conflict of interest!? How dare they?

This is the exact reason that newspapers, magazines, almost all other types of media have policies against this apparent conflict of interest. At our paper, anything over $40 was donated to a local charity. Anything that could not be eaten (that’s why people LOVE food at these places) had to be declared to the editor, and turned over.

So, are we journalists? writers? or are we JUST “mommy bloggers.” At some point, we’re going to have to define ourselves, because shady business practices on the part of some bloggers is defining us for us. And be careful, because now that I truly understand how reviews work on the mommy blogging circuit, I am less likely to trust a blog about a product. We are shooting ourselves in the foot, and if we’re not careful, any credibility with businesses and our readers that we have will be gone.

Sorry for the long post….thank you for opening communications from your industry to ours. I suspect those that get offended by your constructive criticism in this article are uncomfortable with their own blogging integrity. Why not take this article as “Hey! Someone on the inside is giving me advice, I’ll use it to better myself, my blog, and my business relations.”?

Alison Cummins
March 4th, 2009
5:43 AM

I think an essential difference between journalists and bloggers is that journalists are paid, either a salary or per story, by the magazine or newspaper or whatever. That is what allows them the liberty to practice journalistic integrity. (Of course any media company that has advertisers to satisfy is not itself without constraint. But the individual journalist is not swayed directly one way or another by gifts.) If a blogger has no other source of revenue, then they trade reviews for goods. They lose the freedom to practice integrity, and their blogs should be clear about the inherent conflict of interest: this blogger was paid in kind by the manufacturer to review this product.

From a news journalist (paid) who also blogs (for free, does not review products):
http://wockner.blogspot.com/2009/02/quaint.html

I walked out on the front porch and picked up the morning paper from the step and this twentysomething walking by on the sidewalk gave me a look that said, “Isn’t that quaint.” And I thought to myself: Within a year or two this could be as much a part of history as walking out on the front porch to fetch the milk from the insulated box the milkman left it in.

“The twentysomething gets his news on his computer or his cell phone, for free. But, of course, if (make that, when) the newspapers go away, Google and Yahoo! won’t have much real news to link to, bloggers won’t have much real news to spew about, and Mr. Twentysomething won’t have much real news to read online. The current evolutionary process leads, more or less, to news extinction. So, someone somewhere somehow has to come up with a new paradigm that will allow your city’s one big news operation to continue to put 100 or 300 reporters in a big room and pay them $70,000 or so a year each to focus narrowly on a “beat,” or news as we know it is kind of kaput. Selling little ads on your Web site doesn’t do the trick, not even close. It is a major conundrum.”

(I think cable television is part of the answer to this journalist’s query about who is going to pay the journalists when newspapers are no longer financially sustainable, but that points out the problem: who is going to write those long analytical articles?)

Anyway. This is why Consumer Reports does not take advertising. If you want to be the Consumer Reports of bloggers, you donate everything you receive, but then you don’t get paid and you can’t afford tp blog. If you keep what you receive, then guess what – you no longer have the credibility of Consumer Reports.

It’s a conundrum.

Miracle
March 4th, 2009
9:29 AM

So, are we journalists? writers? or are we JUST “mommy bloggers.” At some point, we’re going to have to define ourselves, because shady business practices on the part of some bloggers is defining us for us.

You bring up valid and thought provoking points. I love your response.

I do not buy things that I see advertised in a magazine.

This is treading thin ice because it’s difficult, and misleading, to define the actions of the many by the particularities of the few. On a general scale, a popular magazine editorial will move more product, for the seller, than a popular blog editorial. It may not motivate you, and others, but a lot of companies that get routine editorial placement can count on tens of thousands of dollars in revenue for those products (and others), while there are few blogs that have that impact.

So, I think the blog placement is solidifying the consumer’s third party information about the product, and can, as part of managed efforts, help increase the ranking. Typically one link alone won’t do it, it’s getting multiple links across multiple sites that works in the favor of SEO.

Personally, I don’t see how anyone CAN review an item that they haven’t personally seen/touched/etc.

I don’t think it’s the question, I truly believe it’s the approach. I think there are a lot of bloggers who lack tactfulness and feel entitled to product because they truly believe this is what the entire media industry does. It’s all in how you approach the situation, and while this may not pertain to you, many present their requests in a greedy and imposing manner, as though you must.

Some will even go so far as to boast about how much influence they have to bring in sales, when a lot of times they only bring in more people wanting freebies and the client, the company that is donating product, doesn’t sell ANYTHING because the blogger really has little consumer influence.

Now, if there was an educated approach about the benefits of blogging, i.e.:
Third party reviews to increase consumer confidence
SEO benefits through link building
Reposting, tweeting and other social media methods of awareness
Trusted name “endorsing” the product

Then the approach would be different. But I cannot tell you how many times bloggers rudely demand product that is out of demographic for their blog (like high end beauty from a blog about crafting, for example) or out of price range (like $500 handbags for a budget and thrift blog) or demand excessive amounts of product from a PR firm’s multiple clients (women’s, kids, home, jewelry, beauty, etc) and gives the impression that they believe it’s a shopping spree.

Liz Gumbinner
March 7th, 2009
11:24 AM

I’ve been following this debate with great interest. You make a lot of excellent points Kathleen and I wanted to jump in as a review blogger who is not of the mind that “a sample” (semantics aside) is fair compensation for a review. Compensation should come from sponsorship, and the sample should be a tool for a review – where it goes afterwards needs to be determined between the blogger and the reviewee.

On the other hand, a small company should not be wary about sending product to popular, influential, well crafted blogs. We most often hear from our readers that they can trust Cool Mom Picks because they know that we’re moms just like them, trying out products ourselves. Our giveaways are handled with great integrity and drive a lot of traffic and sales to small shops and designers.

Speaking of which, someone above compared the influence of a national magazine to the influence of a blog, which is unfortunate. Who do you think the magazine editors are getting a lot of their scoop from these days?

D.
March 9th, 2009
6:59 PM

I’m with Liz. Compensation should come from advertising (including banner ads, direct email, sponsored giveaways) and the sample is a tool, not the reason, for the review.

I run one of the most popular blogs that moms read (not a mom blog). We’re not a review site but we prominently feature products as a service to our readers. Essentially, that’s what all review blogs are doing – performing a service – telling their readers about products they may not have heard about and giving them the scoop on whether it’s worth their money. By telling it like it is, our readers trust our opinions, buy what we recommend, and then return to our site and bring their friends. When they do that, we build our traffic and are able to sell advertising which is how we pay the bills, including paying our reviewers. Our revenue model has always been advertising, just like it is for review blogs – or at least they want it to be – just take a look at all of the affiliate and network ads littering the sidebars.

If their business model is truly pay-per-post (or in-kind via keeping the samples), they need to be transparent with their readers about that. Are they reviewing things positively in exchange for being able to keep the products? After all, if they write negatively about the product, that will certainly dry up the pipeline for other products from any manufacturer. But really, at the end of the day, there’s a reason there are so many review blogs right now. They realized that other women were able to get free stuff and they wanted in on it. That’s their revenue model. Free stuff. If you think you’re such a hot commodity, maybe sell subscriptions like Stroller Queen does. I’m not sure how that’s working out for her but at least she’s honest. I trust her opinion a heck of a lot more than someone who has nothing but wonderful things to say about a stroller because they want to keep it!

I’ve learned a lot of things as a blogger for the last five years and one of those is that you do not always need to see something in order to review it. My site’s policy is to request samples of products only when it is necessary to properly review the item. For example, strollers, high chairs, slings, toys, hair clips that claim to be the least slippy, etc. are products that we must try out in person. There are other categories that we don’t need to use that we don’t request like clothing, bibs and burps, etc. I regularly attend tradeshows and previews to check out products in person. I’d actually rather not receive product because they clutter my home and really, how many diaper bags could I possibly use in my lifetime? We actually donate a lot of product to charities because returning all of the product we receive could be a full-time job!

I understand that not everyone can attend tradeshows in their area so they should request hi-res images to examine closely and be willing to return product they really need to check out in person, provided the manufacturer pays for shipping. They can also write about the product and then follow up by requesting samples for an in-depth review. By being flexible and giving manufacturers a taste of what being featured on your blog may yield, they’ll be more willing to send and let you keep product in the future. Develop strong relationships with publicists: be pleasant to them, show their clients some love, don’t get greedy, and they’ll take care of you for years to come. If you can’t send them traffic or sales, maybe you need to focus on being better able to do that and less on getting them to let you keep stuff.

CheekySweetie
March 12th, 2009
3:33 PM

I find it interesting that the author of the article left a comment like this untouched:
“I can’t believe how rude, selfish, immature and tasteless bloggers could be in requesting samples just to have for themselves. Exposure on a blog is not the equvalent of quality printer or otehr media advertising.” And yet not only was there complaint about another that called the article itself ignorant being a direct attack, but it was actually edited. The comment quoted above is a pretty personal attack, but hey, it supports the author, so it’s ok? Editing a writer’s comment is one of the most offensive things I can think of someone doing. Our words are our product, our craft. How would you like it if someone took apart one of your pieces and put it back together the way they felt it should be? It’s not different, unless you are haughtily looking down from a pedestal you have put fashion designers on to the lower status that you deem writers to have. And if so, perhaps that is the *real* motivation behind your disdain for mommybloggers-a class issue: “How dare those mommybloggers think their time is worth as much as a fashion designers?” *shrug* That’s how I feel when I read posts and articles such as this one.

I’m not a review blogger, though I do post quick blurbs about things I stumble across that look cool or things I already use and love. But I do buy things, and I make pretty much every purchasing decision for my household and for the gifts I purchase. As do all of my friends, both in real life and my blogging friends. I don’t trust advertising alone to guide my decisions. What I want is a recommendation from someone whose opinion I trust. And how can they truly recommend the product other than a “how cute!” if they haven’t held it in their hands? How can they attest to the quality if not given the opportunity to see how it stands up to regular use? A little, “hey look at this” blurb may get me to check out the product, but before I buy it, I am going to Google it to look for reviews from people who actually use it. It would save me a step and ensure my interest does not wander to a competitor’s product if the review was right there as well.

I also think its important to think about this issue in terms of today’s economy. Most of the country is feeling the pinch, so other than those products that are really only of interest to the richest of the rich, most products are considered heavily before being purchased. If I need to get a wedding gown, for example, I want to make sure that the designer I choose has a reputation for creating the highest quality gown within my budget, in a style I love. A magazine ad can tell me about the style, and contacting the designer may get me the price information, but who is going to tell me if they beading stayed intact through the entire wedding, reception, and the dry cleaning afterward? Only a bride who actually *wore* the gown will be a credible source of that information to me.

The recommendation from PR firms who do recognize the buying power of the readership of mommyblogs is to have a PR notice on our sites. Why don’t you designers do the same thing? In your media kit have a statement about whether you do give our samples or not, if you expect them to be returned or given away, whether you accept particular sizing requests so the product can actually be tested, what are the minimum traffic requirements for a site to request samples, and so forth.

If you get anything out of this comment, please let it be this: I was a reader long before I became a blogger. A review that does not include physically using the product or service is not a review to me. It is an ad. And ads do not mean one tenth as much to me as a review does. My money is more valuable to me and my family than ever. I won’t spend it unless I can confirm that someone I trust -be it a blogger, a friend, a relative, a colleague- has confidence in the product, or unless dozens of people I don’t know publicly agree on the value, such as on epinions.com.

By not recognizing that the majority of consumers feel similarly-particularly when you are talking about online boutiques which tend to require customers comfortable with the internet, the person you are hurting the most is yourself.

Kathleen
March 12th, 2009
4:20 PM

I find it interesting that the author of the article left a comment like this untouched [redacted for brevity] And yet not only was there complaint about another that called the article itself ignorant being a direct attack, but it was actually edited. The comment quoted above is a pretty personal attack, but hey, it supports the author, so it’s ok? Editing a writer’s comment is one of the most offensive things I can think of someone doing. Our words are our product, our craft. How would you like it if someone took apart one of your pieces and put it back together the way they felt it should be? It’s not different, unless you are haughtily looking down from a pedestal you have put fashion designers on to the lower status that you deem writers to have.

To save yourself future embarrassment, you should probably assess more carefully before making such statements. None of your assertions are correct. If you’d spent any time here, you’d know I am a writer -not a fashion designer. Writing is how I make a living so accusing me of demeaning writers to favor designers diminishes your credibility (besides, any professional writer is very accustomed to being edited). Your other assessment, that of comments favorable to my position were left intact, is not logical because none of these were directed at any person directly. My policy is that comments that attack me are left intact altho I’ll usually edit out any curse words (page ranking). Personal attacks against other visitors are removed so my position is precisely the opposite of what you claim.

More importantly, the comment you mention wasn’t edited, the content was not re-arranged as you claim it was. Rather, the comment was shortened to include a link to her entry that she’d pasted here verbatim. Having duplicate content across the web on separate pages downgrades one’s page ranking. Google thinks it’s splog. So your criticisms notwithstanding, I did not edit her comment to favor myself as she’d written the material she pasted here well before I ever wrote my entry. Now, had she tailored her comment specific to the situation rather than wholesale copying, it would have remained intact. Furthermore, the entry as she copied and pasted it was quite lengthy; spanning several pages.

It’s an issue of professionalism and courtesy. When posting on other blogs with continuing thoughts, it’s best to include links to related content regardless of who has written it (just because you wrote it doesn’t mean you should post a three printed page comment when you should excerpt and link). It is not appropriate to post previous entries verbatim in the body of a comment unless it’s excerpted.

Kathleen
April 8th, 2009
8:59 AM

Via IP Law: New Federal Trade Commission Proposed Rules on Blogger Product Endorsements: What brands and bloggers need to know. The summary is, bloggers must disclose whether they got free product or were paid to write the review.

Liz Gumbinner
April 8th, 2009
10:15 AM

hi kathleen, I’ve been following that FTC proposal with great interest. There’s a terrific analysis of it here: http://getgood.com/roadmaps/ I think it’s going to be challenging as is, considering some bloggers are just independent people talking about what they do and don’t like.

Not every blogger is akin to a journalist or an editor, nor do they want to be. I also find it hard to believe that a single product in many cases (think a travel size container of shampoo, a self-help book, a baby onesie) can reasonably be considered “compensation” for endorsement by anyone with half a brain. But then…there’s the CPSIA. So I suppose anything is possible.

Alison Cummins
April 8th, 2009
10:56 AM

Liz Gumbinner wrote: “I also find it hard to believe that a single product in many cases (think a travel size container of shampoo, a self-help book, a baby onesie) can reasonably be considered “compensation” for endorsement by anyone with half a brain.”

All you need to do is assume that your *readers* have half a brain. If you say “I was given a free a 25 mL sample bottle of shampoo to review,” that meets the requirement of disclosure and it also allows those of your readers with more than half a brain to determine whether they consider that amount of payment to be likely to influence your judgment.

Why would anyone have a problem with free and open disclosure of this type? For one thing, it circumvents sneaking suspicions that “I bet she was paid thousands of dollars for that glowing review.” It’s all to your advantage.

Liz Gumbinner
April 8th, 2009
11:31 AM

Alison, I couldn’t agree more. I think disclosure and transparency are essential and I have an issue with pay for play reviews as I expressed in my first comment above. The idea of selling out one’s integrity (and reader!) for a diaper bag is pretty much disgusting to me.

I think the challenge here is my use of the word “endorser.” An endorser is not the same as a reviewer. An endorser has an agreed (perhaps contractual) relationship to promote a marketer positively in exchange for goods, services or money. A reviewer has no such obligation. The distinction should be made clear.

I don’t need to read about whether Florence Fabricant did or did not get those Armani Chocolates for free before writing a glowing review of them in the New York Times. In fact, I hope she did try them first!

Kathleen
April 23rd, 2009
10:24 AM

The Wall Street Journal has published an article called Paid to Pitch: Product Reviews By Bloggers Draw Scrutiny which discusses the controversy further. A recommended read.

Christine Mack
May 14th, 2009
8:11 AM

I am a blogger but more a food blogger than a mommy blogger (although I am a mom). I can understand your views 100%. I will show you how I do things.

1.) Major companies who approach me will offer to send a sample. I ask for another one to be given away and then require that person who wins to review it HONESTLY. They send me a sample because I do several blog posts about it not just one. Such as a Health Master Juicer worth $200. I came up with a recipe contest. They had to post it and link back to the Health Master site. The company was excited about my creativity.

2.) I do reviews and product announcements without physically having the product which I will be doing one in the near future. Because of this the company want to send me a product in August. That is perfectly fine I think. As long as I am provided with a nicely detailed picture and information about the product I have no problem writing about it.

3.) I do offer to return the item and will be with the product called DEMY which is worth $300. I can understand it. Its a brand new item that is barely on the market.

4.) I have a giveaway going on right now with several etsy artists in it. I didn’t take the product for myself but I am giving it away. The person who wins will review the products honestly. AND I am paying for the shipping to the winner myself.

Am I unethical? Blanket statements are offensive. Nobody likes to be ripped off. Maybe I am different who knows. Momdot.com is very professional. But just like anything….you get a group together there are bound to be idiots in the crowd. Just like designers and clothesmakers want to be seen as individuals so do bloggers. We can’t let a few rotten apples ruin the whole barrel.

Amanda
March 2nd, 2010
11:01 AM

Hi. I just got some… I was going to say samples, but that’s not what they are according to your definition. They are items already on the market. I didn’t actually ask for them, but I accepted the offer and wrote a detailed review on my blog. The company rep said I could keep the items afterwards, so that’s what I’m doing.

There’s some useful information here, so I’m glad I found this post…. but your tone strikes me as kind of self-righteous. What’s up with that?

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