I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: monetising a blog is a tough job. Walking the line between speaking your own words with undiluted thoughts and keeping brands happy when you’re building relationships? Not easy. Throw money into the equation and that shit gets harder. Which is why I’ve never and will never accept money to review a product. The sample issue is different, expectations from the start are different and brands are well aware that you may not review a product favourably or even at all just because you received a sample. Bloggers who call in their shopping lists can piss right off though.
I’m talking about accepting money…
I accept money to feature products, state their existence, bring awareness to brand campaigns and promotions. But to trial a product and report to you on its efficacy? To tell you whether or not I believe you should go and spend your money on a product because it’s fab (regardless of whether or not it is) when I’ve had my pockets lined to do so? That’s something I don’t feel comfortable doing.
On the way up, bloggers took every opportunity to blast magazines for their bias toward advertiser’s products. We promoted the medium of blogging as an impartial, independent and unbiased alternative but just this last week, I’ve received two sponsored post pitches from big brands, both requesting that I review the product they’re interested in promoting. It honestly killed me to turn them down, not least because I probably would like the product anyway (or at least, not dislike it), but frankly because I can’t afford to turn down opportunities like that when this is my main source of income.
The thing that’s prompted me to write this shitty Blog God post (and I kinda hate myself for doing it) is the knowledge that there are bloggers who have already accepted the type of sponsored posts that I’m turning down more frequently, thus giving justification to brands and agencies who are delivering these shitty proposals. It’s not that I want to shame the bloggers or even really question their motives, I just want to say: “You don’t need to accept these opportunities from a brand or agency”.
As bloggers, we need to take a step back and re-evaluate who we are and what we’re doing. Without our readers, we really are nothing when it comes to making any pennies. Our words aren’t read and our pictures aren’t flicked through because we’re so damn aspirational. Our opinions aren’t trusted because we’re experts in our field, hell… those bloggers are few and far between. It’s simply because we’re relatable that we’re valued.
Don’t let brands and agencies who haven’t targeted their campaigns properly, damage what you’ve built. They’re not being sly… they’re not being underhand, but sometimes I think it becomes clear that they still don’t quite get what blogging is about. It’s not about having a million 12 year old You Tube fans or being the coolest kid on Instagram. Or (and now I’m doubting myself), if it is… then I don’t want any part in its future.
It’s about creating pockets of communities online, sharing common interests, and making a connection. That thrill of getting a new comment, the fear when you post something like this… finding a reader who leaves you such a hilarious comment that you think they must be your long-lost twin and you hunt them down on Twitter for lifelong companionship… what?!
If you are wanting to monetise your blog (and you do it carefully, with full disclosure, it’s something to be applauded – doing what you love and getting paid for it? BEST. JOB. EVER.), you think brands won’t want to provide sponsored post opportunities if you don’t review their products? Bullshit. They still want their Facebook competitions linked, their You Tube videos embedded. They want a human voice to give context to their latest campaign, plough through all that Brad Pitt crap that no-one normal thinks is anywhere near as amazing as those who created it do. This is why blogs exist and why they thrive so well alongside magazines and other media.
But you cannot physically accept payment to review a product and then call it “shit” on your blog. And if it is shit? What do you do. Not write about it and still keep the money? Not bloody likely.
If a sponsored post opportunity doesn’t deliver true value to the brand, you, AND your reader – it isn’t worth doing. Make brands and agencies work harder at creating something amazing for this relatively unexplored (commercially) blog medium, paying for reviews is the easy option for them. Not for you and certainly not for your readers. By all means, sell a legitimate service but don’t sell yourselves.