There was a sensible blog post behind an inflammatory headline I read the other week that asked what lengths bloggers would go to in order to get free stuff. (If you haven’t clicked the link, the clickbait headline was “Do bloggers have babies for free stuff”, the answer is a qualified “probably not but a lot of them do bombard the PRs the second they find out in order to get free stuff“)
I thought I’d take my comment on the post and expand it with here say and anecdotal evidence because that is what is at the heart of a good blog post.
My comment read like this:
6 or 7 years ago you used to see heated debates over whether it was appropriate to take part in a campaign for Nestle because of the baby milk in Africa stuff. You don’t really see that now.
I think what we have is a growing parallel between the world of celebs who always get referred to by their first name- you know, the Kims, the Coleens, etc- who have commoditised their private lives, and the world of bloggers.
These celebs have photo shoots for their wedding, “unveilings” for their babies and are snapped walking to the shops. They get paid for the photo shoots, they get paid by the brands for using their equipment and wearing there clothes that they get photo’d wearing.
That’s where I see blogging heading.
So I see a world out there of celeb commoditisation of life, and at the extreme I see bloggers looking enviously at that and wanting in. It’s natural I suppose but it’s a bit depressing. I’ve hear tell of bloggers getting dresses to wear for preview (not premier mind you) screenings of new films, introducing themselves as the countries top blogger to others, descending on London for half a dozen events in a day, with the sole aim of getting as many PR contact details as they can, and reviewing anything they can get their hands on, regardless of whether it’s suitable (for example, I once saw a blogger review a nursing pillow when she didn’t have any babies to nurse).
I’m conflicted (to a point), as a lot of bloggers now run their blog as a commercial enterprise, and it’s a good source of income for a lot of stay at home parents. A lot of the old timers I followed 7 or 8 years ago now hardly write about their kids at all, so I end up reading Facebook updates for what would have been a blog post a few years ago. Conversely a lot of the newer blogs seem to has skipped the “I write about my family” stage and have been set up almost entirely to get some of that sweet sweet payola. Again there’s nothing inherently wrong with that but it’s the dishonesty that often ruins it- the review of a device, right next to an eBay widget that’s selling that same device as unopened and unused. As anyone who’s bought a second hand review unit pushchair off of us knows, the damn stuff gets used and used hard. Or the comment in a closed FB group that they got paid hundreds of quid for writing a review that doesn’t even disclose they got to keep the product.
I must admit I can be guilty of the whole ego thing myself at times- I was dutifully standing in the line for a preview/press screening of the new Alvin and the Chipmunks film on Sunday morning when two badly dressed orange girls walked right to the front and straight in. Apparently somebody knew who they were and they didn’t have to queue like us plebs. I caught myself though; how many people are lucky enough to get cinema invites to the West End to see stuff for free before it’s released? That would have cost our family over 50 quid in tickets alone, not including the snacks we were generously supplied with.
It turned out one of the orange girls used to be on one of these reality shows that I don’t really understand (The Only Way is Essex?), so I shouldn’t begrudge her 15 minutes of fame really. I bumped into (literally unfortunately in more than one instance) a load of other celebs there too: the chap with the specs from the Gadget Show, Vanessa Phelps, Michelle Heaton (sorry about the rucsack), Kate Garroway, someone called Stacey Solomon(?) and a few others I recognised but couldn’t put a name to. There were plenty of bloggers too, as the Vue holds a lot of people.
You can see the line blurring between bloggers and D list celebs already…
Of course, much like there are bad PRs (you know, the sort that send you unsolicited time embargoed press releases, or generic “Hi, we wanted to reach out to you” template emails for products that aren’t even targeted at the right gender let alone the right individual), there are bad bloggers. There is a line between being proactive and being grabby and that line is a difficult one to delineate. But sometimes it’s easier to draw than some bloggers make it.
I read a post in a closed blogger group on Facebook asking for advice recently. Some poor photo blogger had contacted a camera manufacturer asking to review (and keep) a fairly high end camera. Their dilemma? The manufacturer was willing to gift them the camera but not to pay them for the review as well. Didn’t the manufacturer know that writing a review of a £500 camera took time and time wasn’t free? I’d like to say it surprised me but it didn’t. What did surprise me were the comments. Nobody said get in the fucking sea but there were sympathetic mutterings all the same.
If you’re in doubt, I don’t think payment is appropriate for reviewing expensive products, regardless of whether you get to keep them or not. If you’re paid, that’s an advertorial, not a review. It’s difficult enough to review something that costs hundreds objectively if you get to keep it anyway, which is why I much prefer themed campaigns- LG gave me a 4K telly before Christmas to take part in their Christmas movies campaign and promote their competition. It’s a lovely telly, and looks great in our bedroom but how objective would a straightforward review have been?
If you’re excited at getting couriered a box of cereal to review and think you’ve made it, well done. And believe it or not I genuinely mean that. If you think that getting a free £500 camera isn’t valuing you enough, you have an issue with your self worth that needs addressing.