A bloggy question of ethics

by DaniGirl on January 27, 2010 · 11 comments

in Meta-blogging, Reviews, promotions and giveaways

The other day, I received an e-mail pitch about a recent kids’ movie that I had thought about taking the boys to over Christmas. Now it’s coming out on DVD, and a PR firm working for the studio contacted me with what was very obviously a mass mailing.

Usually, I just delete these, but I’d been interested in the movie initially so I e-mailed back and asked if I could have one or more copies to give away on the blog. I got a prompt response saying that there were no promo copies for giveaways, but did I want a review copy?

I waffled, and in the end said no. I feel kind of odd taking products for review now when I can’t share them with at least some of you through a giveaway. I’m curious, though — what would you have done? Why I am differentiating between this and the dozens of other freebies I’ve received and blogged about through the years is beyond me — it just seemed somehow greedy of me to accept. Weird, eh?

Maybe it’s because I had read this blog post not too long before. It’s a rather tawdry story of some really indiscrete bloggers who were accepting products, reviewing them glowingly and talking about how much they or their family loved using the products, and then selling the items on a Facebook page, proclaiming that the items were “brand new” and “never used” often with tags still attached. I’d have no problem with a blogger donating or giving away or even selling a review product they’d received and not used, but to be duplicitous enough to lie about using the product and then turn around and sell it? No wonder mom bloggers get a bad name!!

On the other side of the spectrum, I didn’t have to waffle at all when I recently deleted a glowing offer to become a “brand ambassador” for a popular daytime soap and another daytime talk show. According to the pitch:

Brand Ambassadors will:

* Get the inside scoop on show developments and segments
* Have direct access to the Daytime Team to share feedback on XXX
* Be asked to use their influential platforms to help spread a buzz
* Receive special perks and goodies. We just have to keep these specifics under wraps until the Brand Ambassador Team is selected!

Excuse me while I roll my eyeballs around in my head for a while. Maybe it’s because I’m not a soap opera kind of girl that I’m cynical about this. Heck, if Jeff Probst asked me to be a Survivor Brand Ambassador, I’d fall all over myself saying yes. Then again, if Jeff Probst asked me to play naked in traffic during the rush hour in January, I’d do that too. We seem to be off on a bit of a tangent here… where were we?

Ah yes, I was about to ask you your thoughts on all of this. I try hard to strike a balance between great freebies for you guys and not spamming you with consumer stuff. While I’d happily accept a free Nikon D90 for the pleasure of sharing the pix with you (hello Nikon, are you listening?) the idea of taking little things like DVDs or free breakfast cereal just seems kind of cheap to me — and yet, the line in the sand is entirely arbitrary.

If I had a few extra minutes today, I’d go back and parse this meandering ramble into a much more concise post, but this is as good as it’s going to get. What say ye on the subject of bloggy freebies? Would you or do you accept any and all offers? Do you ‘get’ my distinction or do you think I’m splitting hairs? I’m always interested in your opinions!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 trisha January 27, 2010 at 3:02 pm

i dont accept hardly a thing i get offered…i dont have time to be someones commercial. You have to pay taxes on reviews, i dont want my blog to be just that, and its a ton of work. Ill leave that to someone who cares.


2 colleen January 27, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Keep your integrity in tact. You are doing a great job.

3 Rebecca January 27, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Dani, all you can do is go with your gut, because as a blogger you are trusted (because you are awesome!)- in this case, I may have accepted it, especially since it’s something you’d want to watch anyway! You never ‘sell’ us on anything that I know you don’t really like yourself and you always seem so truthful. Because you always maintain such integrity, as a reader, I trust your judgement.

But I do agree, you should never give away promotion for nothing or for something that doesn’t fit!

I have turned down dozens of PR pitches because no matter how free, if I don’t use a product or don’t want to or it doesn’t fit something my readers may be interested in, I don’t accept. I think I’ve done 3? paid/free product reviews lol (and have made it clear) My intention is to get together a proper PR Pitch like Andrea has but like you, sometimes I don’t accept for no real reason at the time. The other thing is sometimes I just blog about a cool product or place just because I think it’s cool!

You have a great balance, keep doing what you’re doing!!

4 Amber January 27, 2010 at 7:38 pm

I have done two reviews, and neither of them involved giveaways. However, that’s still two out of however many I’ve been offered. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that either way, as long as you’re clear that you’ve been given the product. The situation that you’re describing sounds less than clear, and that’s a problem.

My line on the sand with reviews has more to do with content. I have visited blogs that are completely review-based. As long as it’s working for the bloggers, that’s fine, but I didn’t personally find it very engaging. So I don’t care one way or another about a giveaway, but I do care about honesty and I do care if the content is generally interesting and engaging.

5 Scatteredmom January 28, 2010 at 2:16 am

The companies that I have worked with and loved most have been local deals that I loved even before they sent me something (I blogged about them first, then they sent me something). I am offered really very little, to be honest. I do get books, though.

Personally, while like you I’d trip over myself for a new camera or a nice gadgety type thing to try out, I’m not into hocking breakfast cereal and whatnot. I’m not a review blogger, and somehow it seems like a waste of my precious blogging time and space to be reviewing $5 products when I don’t even like reading reviews. I prefer to blog about products because I personally love them and if I contact a company and they like the idea too, all the better!

6 kate January 28, 2010 at 3:30 am

I only do reviews for books that I think I and my readers would enjoy. I might also do a review of something related to education or women’s health, since I also blog about those things, but I turn down the other stuff. Oh, and maybe some peanut-allergy related products. But really only stuff that is relevant to what I discuss on the blog, and only occasionally.

7 Jody January 28, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Back in the early days (2005), I did a few reviews and kept the books. Now I don’t get offers, so I don’t have to think about it. But in this case, I might have been tempted to split the difference by taking the review copy and then giving it away to folks who commented on the review.

I don’t really know. The whole “comment lottery contest” aspect of mom-blogs really started only after my blog had passed its peak.

8 Ralph January 28, 2010 at 12:59 pm

In regards to the Brand Ambassador, I agree totally, but with the PR firm sending a review copy, to me at least, that’s a different ball game. I know most production companies don’t just give away copies(some do, but very few), but it is very common practice to send out review copies. I think if the film in question is one that you’re audience would appreciate a review from (being a children’s film I don’t see why not), your actually giving back to your audience in a diferent way… possibly saving them the $20 or the cost of a rental if the film reviews poorly. I wouldn’t percieve it as greedy when your audience can gain from the review.

9 smothermother January 28, 2010 at 7:50 pm

go with your gut. i sort of appreciate that you aren’t very review-y and that you always try and have something to give to your peeps when you do. i too get a little bored with blogs that do too many reviews.

i do sort of wish that i would be offered to review a camera of flip video like i saw so many on the blogosphere this past holiday season. instead i just keep being asked to review febreeze products! ick.

10 coffeewithjulie January 29, 2010 at 8:13 am

Heck, Dani, you spend countless hours writing this blog. If you wanted to watch a DVD for free, I certainly wouldn’t hold it against you!! Besides, I like it when other parents watch movies and tell me about it because my daughter is ultra-sensitive to scary events and characters and this way I can know in advance what’s in it.

11 Nat January 29, 2010 at 8:15 am

I suppose I am too far off the radar for this to be much of an issue. But I have accepted a few things, mainly on the running blog. (I did really really really great jeans once — jeans still great, NO I won’t sell them.) I go by feel, and I make it clear that there is a possibility that I won’t like it AND I will blog about the problems as well as the high points. (For instance, the laundry detergent for running gear that was $25/ itty bitty little bottle worked no better than the usual stuff and would mean I’d have to wash my running stuff seperately.)

I think the key is to be honest.

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