Blogging, Social Media Agencies and Aspirations. A rant.

Posted by Lipglossiping On September - 16 - 2010

Maybe I’m missing having a camera more than I thought… maybe I’m just in dire need of a plate of KFC chips (don’t they make the best?). But I read this post on BritishBeautyBlogger (and the comments that followed) with interest.

I’m a blogger. I’m not a wannabe journalist and I’m not a professional writer. I didn’t study English at University and I haven’t paid my dues working my arse off as general dogsbody in London to earn the right to give myself a more professional title.

In the same vein (and far less discussed)… if you’re a journalist with a (oh so fashionable) blog… that’s great. But in my humble opinion you’re not a blogger. You’re a journalist with a blog. And that’s fine, your blog is probably great and above all else, well written! But, there is a distinction. You aren’t a consumer in quite the same way that I am.

There’s been much talk about ‘compensating’ bloggers which really sits at odds to the other current trend of ‘Hey, lets remember why we started blogging in the first place’.

I never started my blog to make money and I think that it’s very wrong to assume that ALL bloggers want to be paid for content.

Any money that I generate from my blog comes from the visual ads placed outside of my content. Sponsored posts are never organic. I read them in the same way that I would any advertorial… with a certain amount of suspicion. I’m not saying that’s right or fair… it’s almost a subconscious choice.

Receiving samples or attending events is something that helps include a variety of content and has NEVER influenced the outcome of a review. Above all else, I’m a beauty junkie and a diehard blogger… I live and breathe blogging and engaging with the readers that I’m lucky enough to keep. How could receiving free ‘just released’ products to play with and the chance to see brands in their own environment not excite and inspire someone like me?

I can’t let it influence reviews. If I did, I would have approximately 1/10 of the readership that I currently enjoy. People aren’t stupid, they’re really not. PR companies and Brands obviously don’t like negative reviews and sometimes that’s the last I’ll hear from them. In my (admittedly limited) experience, Social Media Agencies ‘get it’ better than PR agencies. I guess that’s their job… I’ve never been penalised or ‘punished’ by a SMA, though I do find they can sometimes be a little more pushy – probably because they have more to prove to secure their fee.

On the subject of freebies… I will say that samples and events have definitely put pressure on me to make space for a brand on my blog (regardless of the review outcome)… which is something that I’m finally starting to find the confidence to address.

There are so many bloggers with professional aspirations and networks muddying the waters between consumer bloggers, journos with a blog and wannabe journalist bloggers. What about those of us who just wanna blog and are more than happy with our lot?

Aren’t our blogs loved by our readers because we’re normal people with a huge passion about our chosen subjects. So much so… that in our SPARE TIME and UNPAID, we want to create these outlets that other people can read?

Don’t we stop being that when we all start demanding compensation for our time?

If your blog is a commercial venture. Great. If you make your living from your blog? Marvellous. Some of my favourite blogs are written by professional writers… all I’m saying (in a really overly long way) is that one size doesn’t fit all.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to make money from your blog. Hell, I’d like to make MORE money from my blog… but for me (and just for me), I’d rather it came from my ads rather than my writing. If I wanted to make money from the crap that springs forth from my brain, I’d like it to be in an environment that wasn’t my blog. Does that make sense?

If you’re a social media agency or a PR agency with relevant content and for god’s sake if it’s just video, make it INTERESTING. I’m happy to feature… take your fee… I don’t want a cut, just help me keep my blog engaging, current and fun for my readers. I’m no industry expert but I’m a grown up, and a lot of my blogging naivety ended the first time I took someone in the industry at face value. You provide me with relevant content that I wouldn’t normally have access to and if I think it’s right for Lipglossiping, then you’ll get coverage. I ain’t guaranteeing it’ll be good coverage… but that’s the exciting world of ‘social media’. The rewards can be great and genuine, but the sting in the tail can be painful ‘cos 90% of us like to tell it like it is.

Now, someone take this sodding soapbox off me before I unleash another one. I can feel it building. I’m talking about rants by the way.


65 Responses to “Blogging, Social Media Agencies and Aspirations. A rant.”

  1. Fabulous post. I’ve started receiving some freebies for review and honestly, it’s sometimes harder to write the reviews for products I’ve gotten for free and sometimes I’m even harsher on those products than I am on ones I buy myself… I continually question whether or not I would *really* buy the products if I hadn’t received them and it’s really an internal struggle in which I need to double check myself to make sure I stay true to my morals and … well, hell, myself!

    I generally shy away from press releases because well, they aren’t my writing style and it’s almost obvious that someone asked for the content to be featured and then of course people will be rude and ask (not the fact that they are asking but how it’s delivered) if I really like what I”m posting or if I’m just getting paid for it.

    I wouldn’t say I’m a very popular blogger now and I haven’t gone to any events or anything but I really want to make sure my readers know I’m being honest with everything I write.

    I’m not even going to touch on the different kinds of bloggers. I think there’s a mishmash of ones in the industry, ones that are kind of in the industry or have been and straight up consumers.

    Oh gosh, sorry that was lengthy. Either way, stay on your soap box as long as you like! I enjoy reading your rants… though I wouldn’t really call them rants considering they are well written and more or less objective! And no nasty throwing insults like some others.

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    • I love press releases (as long as they’re interesting). I never copy and paste from one simply because they’re not my writing style and what would be the point in having my blog if I did that?

      A lot of my release info, new product info, event info (like the maybelline pop up shop) comes from press releases. I wonder how different things are in the UK compared to the US for things like that?

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  2. kristen says:

    lol..rant away..its your blog! I do agree with you, i read so many different types of blogs and get enjoyment from them all, but i must admit its the ‘grass roots’ types who maybe not be professionals, but truely enjoy reviewing products and give honest reviews, even if they have been given freebies.

    Ive only just started being given freebies myself to review..but i always state, just because they were given to me, doesnt mean im going to like them.
    Read recently about illamasquas recent launch of their new collection and flagship store. They allowed bloggers in before journolists, because they prefer unbiased oppinions of their products..so they can improve if something isnt working. What a nice way to be huh?

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    • I kinda got a bit hung up on the ‘freebie’ thing… maybe because it’s such a contentious issue.

      I honestly think that all types of blog offer incredible value to readers. Consumers, Industry Experts, Journalists, Makeup Artists… how could they not? But… I guess they’ve all been lumped into one huge BLOG category… and that’s where people start having different expectations about their own blogs and it’s financial worth?

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  3. Phyrra says:

    What I commented over there (and I’ll say it here) that bothers me is people emailing me, saying they’re a big fan of me, then not even knowing what city I live in even when I talk about it and it’s on my blog. It kind of invalidates all the (false) praise, and makes me disinclined to want to advertise them on my blog.

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    • Oh definitely, that goes for PR, advertisers, SMAs.

      I find the whole ‘industry’ can be quite false. I’ve distanced myself from experiencing it in one-on-one situations recently because I find it hard to play that game.

      There’s been a number of occassions when someone in the industry has been surprised that I’m being so ‘open’ or transparent. It always leaves me feeling that I’ve done something wrong and should have my guard up. Something I’m kinda rubbish at.

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  4. Tali says:

    Great post!!

    The last few months ive become quite the bitch blogger. If im sent something I wouldnt normally try or buy.. i send it right back and insist they ask my permission before sending things again.

    I do not want to feel obliged to have to write something in a certain time frame because I was sent it.

    I do not like companies contacting me pretending they read the blog. Everyone knows I have fake nails and a foot phobia.. so why send me nail varnish over and over again.. even when ive asked you not to *cough* eyeko *cough*

    There will always be something that prevents successful blogs running 100% smoothly and ethically but I am hoping that those with popularity have the same mentality and at least the same consciousness as you.

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    • Hardcore!

      I wonder if some of the more experienced bloggers/pro writers simply don’t have the same experiences as newer bloggers because established PR wouldn’t dare dream of trying it on with them?

      I’ve been nagged for a feature after requesting an image and press release on a few occassions. I just can’t see that happening with more experienced bloggers/writers?

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  5. Beautygirl says:

    Hey girl I agree with you. I read the british beauty blog post earlier as well. It’s a delicate situation it seems. So many girls are so into beauty that they cannot resist the temptation to get free products and money for their blogs and you know it is only going to get worse. They will go after every social media outlet possible. Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc. Also a lot of big beauty names like Sephora have their own blogs, Twitter accounts etc. It’s the wave of the future. I just hope like bloggers can be strong enough to remember why they started doing this. Also it is going to effect the reliability of the material we read in blogs. Before you know it will be swamped with not bloggers opinions rather free makeup driven predisposed thoughts…..

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    • I get what you’re saying… but that’s a different issue. I always hope that issue could be self-regulating if PR/SMA agencies took greater interest in the whole online phenomena in a way that extended beyond “here, have a sample”. I also think that those bloggers get bored of it after a short while.

      I guess I’m just musing about the different types of bloggers that get lumped under the one umbrella. Mostly, I’m moaning about “paid for” content. It’s being taken for granted that this is ‘the way’ blogging is going.

      Not for all of us it isn’t.

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  6. martine says:

    Very very well said. I love you blog- keep it real!

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    • Thank you, I’m not trying to extol the virtues of my blog… honest I’m not. There really is value in all types of blogs whether they earn money through their content or not.

      I’m just struggling to reconcile the direction that some bloggers want the ‘blogging thing’ to go with how I want to operate my blog and it’s interesting to test the water to see if I’m in a minority.

      I’m still not sure that I’m not!

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  7. Jade says:

    Fantastic post, this is all coming to a head at the moment in Australia with beauty bloggers, so reading this feels particularly relevant :)

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  8. You are brilliant!! I was trying to put together my own post saying exactly what you have just said and you have just said it soooooo perfectly I have no need to do my own. I am just going to link yours.

    As Jade said we are having this issue in Australia right now and everyone in my great country needs to read this!

    Thank-you for writing this post. I wish I could hug you!

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    • LOL, all hugs welcomed!

      It’s a really turbulent time for blogging isn’t it? Live and let live seems like a very apt phrase. I hope we all come out the other side unscathed!

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  9. Celina says:

    Here here! I couldn’t have said it better myself, wonderful read :)

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  10. Grace London says:

    I agree – for me, on my blog, ads should be ads, and content should be content.

    If it’s a brand I’m interested in and want to write about, I don’t need or expect compensation to attend a demonstration, or write about a product that I might be sent. On the flip side, I can’t be induced to write about a product or brand with the promise of compensation if it isn’t something I’m interested in.

    I do agree with Phyrra’s point – I know that PRs/SMAs/websites can’t read every single post on every blog and I’m cool with that, but just don’t pretend that you read my blog every day if you clearly don’t. That just comes off as totally fake.

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    • It’s just the easiest and most obvious ‘cut off’ for a consumer blogger. I have no control over google ads – though I wish I could work out how to ‘ban’ those fake MAC website ones… The others I do, but haven’t seen any reason to censor any yet.

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      • Grace London says:

        You can get rid of the fake MAC ones – they bothered me so much I figured out how to do it. You ban the base web address from running ads on your blog through Google Ads. It’s in Review Settings, I think.

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  11. Naomi says:

    Very well put. I am tiring of seeing people create blogs just so they can ‘get free stuff’. It was the furthest thing from my mind when I started my blog and continues to be, which I feel is a good thing.

    People read blogs because they are honest and without the bias that is placed on magazines and professional websites by advertisers.

    I find it quite liberating to be able to say a product is rubbish if it is, or it is fantastic if it deserves to be called that – all without strings attached.

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    • I honestly don’t have an issue with free stuff. But then as someone who get’s free stuff to review sometimes… I would say that wouldn’t I?

      I think the majority of bloggers (though certainly not all) are confident enough nowadays to say what they truly feel about products regardless of whether it’s a sample or not. I do get pissed at brands that drop all contact when I give something a negative review. I get huffy and rant at my husband and announce that they should bloody grow up and not play with bloggers if they only want to hear positive things.

      But I do have the utmost respect for those who aren’t lured at all by the temptation of samples. Though sometimes wonder if that’s just because they haven’t been offered any yet!

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  12. LeanneOCD says:

    Fantastic post Lady Lipglossiping. Totally agree! ;o)

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  13. VexintheCity says:

    Well you know what I think …fab post, well thought out and straight to the point.

    If I’m offered a sample of a product I’d like to try, I don’t feel pressure to write nice things about it. I don’t care if it sent to me or not, I’ll always tell the truth i.e I hate that new Decleor cleanser that some of us were recently given and I said so. You can’t like everything!

    I’ll always rate the beauty blogs written by the ordinary girl next door, who makes time to take their own pictures of products (whether they were sent by PR or bought themselves) and personalise their posts than the ones who use PR images for every single post (I hate that!) and every single post is about a PR freebie – 2 wks after they’ve started a blog! No prizes for why you’ve started one then, eh?

    Those were (and still are) the blogs that inspired me to start my own and that I still get inspiration from for new posts.

    Re: Sponsored posts – I’d rather be paid for ads than those. I don’t think there’s any way you can be paid for a post without feeling under pressure if you have to review the item in question.

    I don’t want to be told what to write about, my blog isn’t supposed to be a form of homework. I left school years ago, thanks. So yeah, being given items for review and being paid for them? No thank you.

    I have loads more to say, but I’ve rambled and now I’m bloody late for work!!

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    • PR puppets… you know better than anyone how much that used to wind me up. I don’t get quite so indignant about it now… but I do wonder how much those kind of blogs impact on how PR then expect the same from other blogs yano?

      I guess as a community, we send mixed messages to PR? We’re all in such a transitional phase.

      As you say, sponsored posts aren’t organic… there’s always gonna be some kind of forced effort put into them. Perhaps the exception is if the writer is particularly skilled? So perhaps Sponsored Posts are fine for experienced writers… but just come across as suspicious and out of place for us ‘bedroom bloggers’?

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  14. Being paid for writing my blog, would just kill everything for me. My blog isn’t something I want to be paid to do, its my hobby, I love nothing more than sitting and writing a post for my readers. I don’t want or need paying for it, Gareths brings home the bacon for us.

    I have been contacted several times by SMA and the content hasn’t been right for my blog. It still wouldn’t be right if they were offering to pay me. I wouldn’t be comfortable writing it, as it wouldn’t be something Im familiar with. Plus my readers would basically think “this is a bit out of place on Jo’s blog”. Plus, I have my own style of writing. I put in links if I want to put in links (well if I remember ha). If I was being told what content to include and how to right it, then there’s my fun gone. Its not me writing it is.

    I do publish press releases on my blog, but only if they interest me. Only if its a product Im interested in and I know my fellow beauty addicts will be interested in too. Basically for me, start involving money and the fun’s gone. Gone from reading and gone from writing.

    Anyway Im really crap at expressing my thoughts and I probably don’t make the slightest bit of sense, but I just wanted to post. You can pay me later :D

    Love ya Char!

    xxx

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    • That did make sense and the cheque’s in the post :D

      I wonder if maybe I’m just not being contacted by the same SMAs that other people are! I’ve had proper contact with about 3. The only negative experience was with a group that only provides video content… and they were VERY pushy and I ended up getting cross with them and spelling out that what they were trying to offer wasn’t even remotely relevant.

      Love you too J xx

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  15. Very interesting! I totally agree with you!
    I blog for fun about my passion for makeup and beauty, but that’s not a job (which would make it less fun IMO) and that doesn’t need to pay for my bills. No obligations, no sponsor to satisfy. I don’t even have ads on my blog, I can’t be bothered.
    Of course, if I get freebies, that’s great, and if I get press releases about new products before other people, that’s fantastic – but I really do not expect anything else from blogging!

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    • That’s my favourite thing… the feeling that I’m getting privileged information! It’s great to be the first to know!

      I’m a bit too lazy to chase after it though!

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  16. liloo says:

    you got it totally wrong and i totally disagree: mac donalds does the best place of chips ;)
    brilliant post and beautifully written.
    ‘consumer bloggers’ for the winner and these are the type of bloggers i prefer to read. Not sure if you saw my tweet, but yesterday i found myself ‘raspberry trufle’ elf shadow from reading your post based from your review with the drawing. never heard of it before, not even seen a swatch just your words of your recommendation which i trust, unless it’s a blooming cream eyeshadow which i just can’t agree with :)

    have a good day and keep being gorgeous
    another tweet which i forgot to reply to today.
    you said “http://twitter.com/lipglossiping/status/24513690135″
    “note to self: there is a fine line between good smudged kohl and bad. .Stop crossing the damn line” >>> you could have black pencil smudged all over your face, you would *still* manage to look gorgeous & sexy.

    one of your 986 fans xx

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    • McDonalds chips are THE SOG. Practically flacid.

      LOL, Raspberry Truffle is lovely… dark… but lovely!

      I do think that all types of bloggers offer something different and valuable, but perhaps the time has come to distinguish them a little better? Though God knows how that would be possible… I don’t think it is.

      Love ya Tsu x

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  17. Get Lippie says:

    I think this is a great post. I had an “advertorial” on my blog one time. I didn’t like the feedback, or the fallout, so can’t be doing with having them on Get Lippie again. I did think that the one I took was a good fit for my blog (it was a how-to, rather than an ad) and I still got to say I thought the brands other products were rubbish, but no, won’t be doing those again.

    My blog is also a hobby, and I want it to stay that way. Personally, I don’t understand why SMA’s getting a fee and not forwarding it to the bloggers could even possibly be an issue. I’ve never been paid to attend an event, nor have I ever been paid to write about an event, no matter who has arranged it, be it SMA, PR firm, or media network.

    The only thing that will get me to attend an event is ME. Specifically, ME having an interest in the brand or products being talked about at the event. Likewise, the only thing that will get me to write about an event is ME too. Sometimes something is just too dull (sorry, brands) to write about, frankly.

    I’d like to make an income from my interest in writing, for sure. But I don’t think Get Lippie is the place for writing for money. It should be, as ever, to be MY place for MY thoughts, unsullied by the needs of other people, or businesses, come to that.

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    • I agree, I can’t say that I’ve come across SMAs with ‘hidden agendas’ either – it’s all been as upfront as traditional PR contact for me so far. If a touch more ‘matey’ which I’m ultimately wary of because you never know how genuine it all is.

      Though on the flipside, I’m not naive enough to think that all SMAs are as kosher as the ones that I’ve had experience of and I’m also aware that my experience may well be limited in comparison to other bloggers.

      Do you think that blogs with backgrounds in proper journalism or the beauty industry in general might be regarded with less suspicion in terms of sponsored content? I think that consumer bloggers often have more to prove to their peers and readers and perhaps this is why integrity is SO crucial and ANYTHING that could bring it even remotely into question is such a sticking point?

      We really are all in such a privileged position to be able to write about products and brands with no ‘real’ pressure to say specific things about them. That’s so valuable for me as a blog reader.

      I’m in no hurry to give that up to be compensated for my time.

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  18. Anitacska says:

    Very well said. Agree with everything. xxx

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  19. I’ve never been paid to review anything and I don’t expect it to start any time soon. I post a review every other day without fail, and 99% of what you see will have been bought & paid for by me, for the love of products.

    I DO have an English degree and I love writing. If I wanted to be paid for my writing, I’d be channelling my career elsewhere, away from the job I already have. I started my blog because I was bored and wanted something createive to do with my spare time. It was never viewed as a potential commercial enterprise.

    As a side note, I am aware of someone (not UK based) who is a “Professional Blogger” and their entire attitide has changed. No longer being a bedroom blogger who has a 9-5 and limited disposable income has given this person an ego the size of a planet and they now view anyone else who passes constrictive criticism on her views as a jealous wolf, trying to bring her down. As a result, she might be getting all the income and products she wants, but her attitude and paranoia has damaged her reputation no end.

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    • All we have is our reputation and we work hard and honestly to build it up and protect it. That’s a sad story… I really wonder if it’s the direction things are moving?

      Has her integrity really been compromised to the point of PR puppetry or is it a bit of jealousy on the part of her peers? Both? I don’t know who you’re talking about by the way… but I’m totally trying to suss it out! LOL

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  20. rhamnousia says:

    I totally agree with everything you have said (no change there then!)

    I seldom do press releases on my blog, I have done a grand total of 3 since I started blogging and I only do them about items/events that interest me.

    And I totally agree with everything Yinka said, I have read one blog where nearly every item featured was a PR freebie and most of the posts had no specific content, just a dodgy swatch of the item in dark lighting and that’s it, no information on where you can buy it, what they liked about it etc..which to me, is a bit pointless.

    I feel that if you have so many PR items coming in and can’t blog properly about all of them, be selective, quality over content!

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    • I love press releases about sales, deals, freebies…. especially if they haven’t already been covered 100x. Oh… new releases too..

      I do try to do a quick google to see if they’ve already been blogged before, but for me… it adds an extra interest ‘cos I’m wary of being a complete review blog. Which I don’t want to be. Whether it’s my own stuff or samples… I don’t wanna churn out review after review with nothing else.

      PR puppetry damages blogging. There’s a fair bit of it about purely because people have seen the sort of things that bloggers can get sent. Samples are a (truly lovely) perk not a fucking motivation.

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      • rhamnousia says:

        I only do press releases that interest me and I have to type them up myself like you because I feel strange copying someone elses words onto MY blog because those words could be copied the world over.

        I try hard to make sure my blog has a bit of it all in there, I know there have been times when it has been too review heavy so I’ve moved away and done other things but I think I have the balance just right now.

        Re. the PR puppetry, I totally agree…the free things are a nice perk but the majority of stuff on my blog is stuff I have bought myself, not saying that those who get a lot of free stuff are more likely to lie. There are two blog who get a LOT of PR stuff because their blogs are brilliant but I trust every word they type.

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  21. *creative. I do have a degree in English, honestly!

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  22. Shortiee31 says:

    I have something against putting ads on on my blog (wierd I know) but apart from that, you’ve pretty much summed it all up so all I am going to say is… Hear hear! :)

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    • It’s not weird at all. If we all felt the same, the world would be a very dull place. Ads are ugly, but I do like the pocket money that pays for the hosting and a little something something (nearly always makeup!) for me each month.

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  23. Jan says:

    Timely and interesting post.

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  24. I read and commented on the post on British Beauty Blogger too; it’s such a contentious subject area! As a blogging newbie, I’ve never been contacted by agencies or PR’s, but have already decided that if that time comes, I’d say a flat no to any products or content or events. It just means I’ll never be compromised in any way, and know that everything I write about will be because I’ve bought it and wanted to use it.

    Also, I don’t want to amass hundreds of products that I don’t have the space or need for, and keep having to palm them off of friends and family. I know that sounds crazy because I won’t ever get to try previews of products but honestly, it doesn’t matter that much. If I ready about something and want it that much, I’ll wait and support the brand by spending my money on it.

    The key issue I have is no matter if you give a product a good or bad review, either way you’re providing free content for a brand that you possibly wouldn’t be without having received the freebies or gone to the event. Any coverage I give to a brand will be borne out of my decision as a consumer to try their products. That’s just what I want to provide as a blogger, no matter how small or large my readership may be.

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    • I’m not sure how to respond to that. I’d say it’s honourable.. except that by juxtaposition I fear that I’d be calling myself and many others who do choose to accept samples dishonourable!

      It’s honourable that you’re so steadfast in your decision though.

      Back when I started beauty blogging… there were literally a handful of bloggers. Before brands stepped in… it’s fair to say that many reviewed the same brands. The latest Barry M or MAC release LOL.

      I think there were about 3 or 4 who would review higher end products. Possibly because the domain of a beauty blogger is often that of a young woman. Many of us are in the same demographic with the same incomes and the same shopping habits.

      Brand involvement (if you want to look at it from a positive angle) has meant that your average consumer can access a whole variety of reviews from women with different expectations of a product. They don’t have to wait till 3 months after a skincare product has been on the market before they can google a review from another consumer just like them.

      Brand involvement of course, isn’t all positive… but that’s one good reason for it being there in my humble opinion.

      xx

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  25. Elsie Barley says:

    Don’t apologise for your writing – it is really good, I love it! I am full of admiration for a woman who can write as beautifully as you do, buys and reviews all these lovely things, takes amazing pics and even more amazing drawings, has time to paint her nails AND is a wife and mother of a small child. You are amazing!

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  26. Jasmine says:

    I’m an awful blogger and I know I just can’t cut it – it takes a lot to blog well, not just determination or a penchant for consumption and review.

    As a reader of loads of personal and genre blogs … (at my highest I read about 200 a day), I can frankly say that not all blogs are equal even if they enjoy the same sort of readership numbers. I can read loads of make up blogs, and while some may feature things that I’ve not heard of that may catch my attention … when it comes to quality of reviews and genuine dedication to readership, there’s barely a handful — and I’m extremely glad to say your blog is definitely one of them.

    It’s hard to do the honest thing in blogging, but I’m certain you will be well rewarded for it. Go for gold! Love your entries, soapbox and all ;)

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    • That’s really kind of you Jasmine. I’m not virtuous… I’m just bloody stubborn (and a bit opinionated about blogging).

      I truly love having readers more than anything else.

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  27. Kirstie says:

    I think the BBB point was to do with the fact that SMA’s are basically a whole new industry created to wedge themselves between a brand and a blogger or website owner, and they don’t behave in the same way a traditional PR company does, precisely because they’re not targeting ‘professional’ writers, so it’s my perception that there’s a lot of fairly pressurised stuff going on to get naive bloggers to feature x, y and z – often when it has no relevance to your content – and it can be hard to say no because fundamentally most people shy away from being rude.

    So bloggers put it up and then feel used. That’s not always the experience of course, but I think the ones that have approached me are nothing but cheeky feckers and they can feck off. I detest how they pitch as well, it’s always ‘it’d be great for you/we’re looking to have you do this’ etc. OH ARE YOU?

    Because this new industry middle-man has been created by itself and earns a lot of money from brands for pushing products and services on bloggers, it makes my blood boil because it can be so cynical – they’re essentially sending out a few demanding emails and then sitting back, laughing and counting the posts and mentions they’re getting, with no two way street in place. Oh, and raking in the cash.

    Where they differ from PR again is with engagement and collaboration. It’s all ‘you do this’ and yes, while PRs are of course doing the same thing, they tend to be less wolfish about it. You can build relationships which are valuable, they’ll often help you with stories you’re writing, source tips, quotes and images and there are other things like events, products and trips, all that jazz that journos take for granted.

    So that’s where the unfairness with regards to payment or compensation stems from for me: SMAs seem to be such a one way street, it’s all demand and insist with no mutuality. Let me say I do not think anyone should be paid for content or writing a review – after all, it’s editorial, not an ad, and that is a huge difference that’s very obvious and known to anyone who writes for mags or newspapers but maybe not so much to new bloggers. It’s fundamental for credibility.

    I don’t (obviously) have a problem with ads in the slightest and I think that bloggers get more savvy as their blog grows and the costs mount – ads become necessary to pay the bills. Our server costs alone are huge; we pay our contributors, we have lots of expenses, of course we take ads but we don’t take money to review products (occasionally we run a promo) and we don’t let SMAs take advantage either.

    I’ve been doing this blogging lark a good while now and write professionally too – which sprang from blogging – so I sit between two stools. No matter where you stand on the SMA issue, having integrity is the single most important thing you can have as a blogger. If the content you’re offering fits and you can use it, do. If it doesn’t, have absolutely no worries or hesitation in saying no.
    It’s your blog, your reputation and you make the decisions.

    Long, rambly and probably not too helpful.

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    • Hi Kirstie,

      Gosh.. where to start to do your well thought out response justice?

      I felt that BBB’s post was a bit demonising to all SMAs. I think it shocked me a little because I got the impression (I may be wrong) that it was suggesting that they have hidden agendas and should be passing on part of their fees to the blogger. I’m not sure if J’s going to comment on this post… or even see it and I don’t want to pick apart what was written but it seemed so at odds with her wise words and warnings on bloggers becoming such entitled so and sos in the past.

      I really do agree that SMAs are generally a little pushier than PR… but I’ve experienced some pushy PRs too and I wonder if perhaps because some of you are so well-respected in the industry that you may have different PR experience from some of the bloggers who are newer to the scene?

      Perhaps SMAs are giving you guys (sorry, I don’t mean to lump you all together like that – I just mean… those with media experience) a taste of what we get from some PR folks because SMAs don’t always ‘know’ you in the same way that PR people do?

      I’m completely hypothesising on this purely because I really don’t see a huge difference between the actions of the SMAs that have contacted me and the PR people I’ve dealt with (it’s all been mostly positive)… but I’m trying to understand why (in general) I might be having such different experiences!

      I should clarify that I’m not saying PR peeps have been horrible to me! Most are really lovely. It’s just, there’s definitely been a few that sound more like the SMAs you’re describing in terms of demands. Anyway, I think I may have beaten my point to death a little.

      I’d love to know if you think blogging is heading towards more “paid for” content or reviews? Even through the ad network that I’m on… there was mention of ‘product reviews’ as part of an ad campaign. It’s something I’m not comfortable with… but do fear may be being perceived as the future by brands, network owners and advertisers. I guess that if bloggers don’t want it… it won’t happen. If they do, what the hell am I bitching about right?

      That was helpful and I do appreciate your response.

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  28. Rocaille says:

    Perfectly written rant, Charlotte, I have nothing to add :)

    On a slightly different note, I do sometimes feel a teensy bit jealous about never being invited to any events or sent anything to review, but then, it makes me feel so independent and free; I can blog just about anything that crosses my mind :) xxx

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  29. SCforM says:

    Thought provoking as ever! I love when you take the time to just write on your blog, you’re obviously very talented at it :)

    So I’ll preface this by saying that i’m not a journo and started my blog at home… on the couch watching Friends… Firstly, on journalist-written blogs. I don’t think journo blogs are any less ‘real’ than any other kind of blog. It depends who your reader is. Not everybody is a complete makeup junkie. A lack of swatches or product pictures doesn’t make a beauty blog any less ‘real’, it’s – like you said – catering to a different reader. The mere fact that those blogs get just as many readers as ‘bedroom bloggers’ goes to show that there are people out there that love them.

    I wholeheartedly disagree with your belief that journalists aren’t consumers in the same way you, or any other bloggers, are. Journalists often write these blogs because they want to write about brands they love but wouldn’t be allowed to feature in a magazine or newspaper. Similarly it gives them a chance to trash things they don’t like. Beauty journalists get through a hell of a lot of product and they have those no-strings-attatched blogs to write about their favourites.

    Now I assume you’re thinking that journalists aren’t ‘true’ consumers because they either get free products or have a hidden agenda/loyalty to brands. However, are you telling me that bloggers don’t do the exact same thing? There’s nothing I hate more than when bloggers become self-righteous during these sorts of discussions. For every journo blog that may be dishonest, there’s a bedroom blogger doing the exact same thing. I mean you may say you don’t fancy yourself as a ‘beauty writer’ but other bloggers (myself included) do. We put in enough hours and effort, dont we?!

    I judge blogs on a case-by-case basis. If I trust the writer, i’ll trust their content – no matter what their experience, how their blog looks or if they’ve decided to write a sponsored post.

    For a lot of people, blogs take a lot of time, effort and money to run. I don’t see any issue in wanting to make money from your blog. If you’re a complete PR-whore and you write a load of crap sponsored posts – people will stop reading. It’s as simple as that.

    However, if you develop a reputation for being honest with your reviews I see no problem in being paid some money to write a sponsored post. That money usually goes towards the blog anyway, be it for new products to review, web hosting etc. I could pay for hosting my blog by writing 3 sponsored posts a year or I could slap ads all over it and wait for the pennies to trickle in. I know which i’d prefer. Perhaps you’re in a position where you have enough readers to make money from ads but the truth is that others don’t. Should they be penalized because they don’t have enough traffic? Does wanting a bit of extra change in exchange for constant, good-quality content make you any less of a beauty blogger? I don’t think so.

    As long as you’ve built yourself a good reputation, I couldn’t care less if you’re getting paid or being sent product. If you have enough integrity to trash products when you don’t like them, I’d be willing to bet you’d turn down a sponsored post for a shitty product. And if you don’t have that intregity, well, I probably wouldn’t read your blog in the first place! I think bloggers deserve to be paid a bit of money and there’s no harm in it. It’s all well and good if you don’t want paying but I dont think there’s any grounds to be self-righteous about it.

    It’s not as though we’re talking about thousands of pounds, we’re talking small amounts of money that – as I said – bloggers will probably put right back into their blogs. I agree with your statement that one size doesn’t fit all but I think you should apply that to the way you think about blogs and money too.

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    • Firstly, the one thing I didn’t want to come across as being was self-righteous. I really do apologise whole-heartedly if I did.

      Secondly, I’ve never said that journalist blogs are of less value or less real. Never. I just called them different and I stand by my opinion that they are. As I said, for one thing… they’re generally better written!

      You’re making a terrible and dangerous assumption that I’m announcing journalist blogs as dishonest. I honestly have no idea where this has come from?

      Many people who I class as friends are journalists with blogs. Show me where I have made any connection or statements that suggest that journalists shouldn’t have blogs because they’re somehow less real.

      What I said was that they weren’t consumers in quite the same way as me. And you know what? What I should have said… was “aren’t consumers in quite the same way as I WAS”.

      I’m far more cynical now. I understand how brands work better than I used to and I have far more knowledge of ingredients and products. I’m not the same as the consumer I once was. I’ll happily admit that and it’s interesting food for thought.

      Journalists have worked in the industry… they’re not looking at things through the same fresh and innocent eyes as out and out consumers. But you’re right. Neither am I anymore.

      But please… the rest of your comment is quite invalid and you’re making some unfair assumptions about my post.

      I have no problems or issues with anyone who fancies themselves to be a beauty writer. I’ve never said that I do. I’m responding to a trend that I’ve witnessed that sees bloggers wanting to be compensated for writing their blogs (not just in Jane’s post but on other blogs too).

      I haven’t even said that I have a problem with this, if you want to be compensated… that’s fine with me – you have aspirations to make it your livelihood and I appreciate that.

      I just didn’t hear any opposing voices saying “hey… if you give me great content… I don’t mind if you get your fee without sharing”. I’m not even sure that that’s what Jane’s post was getting at. But I know one thing, you’ve really misunderstood mine.

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  30. Charlotte, I was putting the issue out there, because paid for content will come. It’s really for individuals and their own blogs to decide whether this is right or not for them. For the record BBB has, in two and half years, taken one ad. There is no charge, hidden or otherwise, for anything that appears on BBB and although I’ve been asked if I charge to attend events I wouldn’t even dream of it. As if. I’ve met great SMAs and not so great ones – clearly, I should have gone into greater depth on my post but chose to keep it simple, but my objections mainly lie with SMAs that write, for example, ‘dear bbb, we love your fashion/lifestyle/beauty blog and we’ve created this amazing content (cue video of girl applying ‘amazing’ cream) so you can share it with your readers. If it’s that blatant..and it often is..then I classify that as an ad, not something ‘of interest’ to my readers, and they should go through the appropriate advertising channels. Kirstie is right – SMA is a self-started middle-man, and, in some cases, looking to rake in an income via bloggers at any cost, and I don’t think that is fair. Few have a clue how to engage correctly with bloggers. Sometimes raising an issue is the best way to focus how you really feel about something rather than allowing it to just seamlessly merge into reality without having gone through the ins and outs.

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  31. Olivia says:

    Thank you so much for writing this!

    You’ve really hit the nail on the head when you say that there are so many different types of bloggers out there. In my experience as both a blogger and a ‘Social Media Strategist’ I have come across such a wide range of blogs and bloggers, and although I haven’t directly discussed with many bloggers before their views on payment, freebies, events, etc, I have come across those who obviously EXPECT payment (i.e. “here is my rate card”, “a sponsored post costs £XXX”)…and on the other end of the scale I’ve come across bloggers who would never even dream of asking for payment, as that is not why they blog and the assumption that they’d take a kick-back is almost insulting to them.

    So, being a SMA is a big challenge in that, as you so insightfully say, there is NO one size fits all in this “industry”.

    I agree with BBB that bloggers should be rewarded (although not necessarily with a wad of cash) and definitely not obliged to post after an event or after being given a freebie, and totally condemn any SMA (or PR) who is overly pushy and aggressive in their tactics. However, as a blogger (albeit a new and maybe still overly-excited one), I am so grateful and humbled by being given free products. I couldn’t afford to write my blog without those products to be honest. At least I wouldn’t be able to offer nearly as many product reviews as I simply couldn’t afford it! And I agree with you totally that those reviews should be neutral: if you like it, say so, if you didn’t, say so and explain why.

    A brand, SMA or PR who understands blogging and is ready to embrace the medium fully will not hold a negative review against you.

    I think for brands, SMAs/PRs, and bloggers to work together, the future has to be mutually beneficial to both, open and collaborative. That is genuinely what we try to do in my company, although there are challenges, believe me!

    You were spot on when you said that SMA’s have more to prove to clients than PR’s (in my experience) in terms of measurement and accountability. Where PR’s have the upper hand with the strong relationships they have with the press and in some cases online journalists and bloggers, we have the know-how when it comes to tracking and measuring online activity (I’m generalising, but you get the gist). We have to measure EVERYTHING if we are to keep getting brands to engage with bloggers through us. Clients want to know what their return on investment is on every product they’ve handed out and every penny that they pay us. That means it’s not always easy to please clients whilst not upsetting bloggers who don’t want to share their traffic figures or include trackable links or whatever it is that we’re being asked to do… and please believe me when I say I don’t want to upset any bloggers as I truly respect the time and effort it takes to build up the community you have, trial products, photograph products, write reviews, interact with your readers..etc etc.

    Whatever the right answer is (sponsored posts? Free products? Affiliate deals? Banner advertising?), blogging is only going to grow and brands would be foolish not to try and work with bloggers to promote their products – because the reality is that consumers are beginning to trust bloggers more than traditional press, advertising, or advertorials. So blogging really is the future of marketing – that is, if the bloggers want it to be. For us to work together, as I said above, we need to be open with each other about what we’re willing to give or be given, and what each other can gain from the relationship. It needs to be mutually beneficial so that we can all benefit from this new form of communication.

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  32. Frances says:

    Your blog is wonderful to read, intelligently written, clever and witty, and full of interesting, helpful reviews. Big kisses from across the pond in Chicago! My friends and I love your blog.
    And as a journalism student, you should know you write better than many of my peers :)

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  33. Tina says:

    You make excellent points and by reading the comments above me, I can say that your post sums up a lot of bloggers’ feelings on the subject, including my own!

    I too think it’s ridiculous to have sm1 dictate what you can and cannot feature when discussing a product on your personal blog… I mean, isn’t that exactly the point, to see each product through the eyes of each blogger?
    If I wanted to look at an advertisement, then, it would be SO damn easy to do so! Of course, the companies (or is it SMA nowadays) don’t seem to care all that much about that(most don’t anyways)!

    What I personally hate about these 100% proffessional “blogs” is that they never feature the products USED! All they say is how great they are. No swatches, no looks, no talk abt what skin colours or types they ‘d work on, heck, they ‘re all so great, all the friggin time! These ppl here in Greece are the only ones that get invited to brand events and get the freebies, (I ‘m guessing this is due to the fact that true Greek beauty bloggers live throughout the country and up until a while ago didn’t even exist), but WHY do these ppl need the freebies, when they don’t even take a damn picture of the actual product???

    It’s not that I don’t know why. It’s incentive to feature the brand on their sites. But, then, what does that make me, the non-proffessional blogger, that purchases the item full price, makes swatches and looks with it and ends up featuring the same exact thing on my blog, given that I do this as a hobby and with my limited budget? Rhetorical question (although the word “fool” has come to my mind in the past). Clearly all companies enjoy getting the publicity, and if it comes to them for free, then even better!

    Of course, that’s the deal here, I know that in the UK, things are completely different and a lot more complicated. In any case, it’s a situation that’s made me a lot more conscious of what I want to feature on my blog and what to leave out.

    But it’s still somewhat of a sore spot for me, and even though I have never accepted anything (not that so many have rushed to offer anyways), firmly believing that it’s more honest to myself and to my readers to buy the products myself, I do get upset when I read that a proffessional blogger received the same product for free, when the only thing they feature on their blog is basically text and photos from the press release…! In fact, it makes me upset seeing “next-door” bloggers receive products and not even add a swatch, but that’s a whole other story…

    We need the consumer aspect, that will never change and nth can substitute for it imo, I just wish that becomes clear to all parties involved, from the brand’s pr department and sma’s, to the journalist blogger and the “next door” blogger as well, and from what I can tell, there’s many ppl in all of these categories that need to understand this…

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