Blog posts for sale II

In reply to my post on Blog posts for sale, Michele said

The real matter that needs to be resolved is not whether the reviewer keeps the product or not but whether the promoter is willing to accept that not all reviews are going to be positive and that they do not expect them to be so ie. they are not bribing people to give them positive reviews

That is the key.

So what Michele is saying is that bribery for a review is alright but bribery for a positive review is not. While Michele’s is definitely an interesting perspective it is certainly not one that I would subscribe to.

I think Fergal put it very well in the comments on my last post when he said

it’s easy to honestly review something you’ve paid your own money for, but when someone else is covering the cost, you’ve got some sort of obligation (especially if you want the cost to be covered again next time). and sometimes that obligation seems more important than your obligation to your readers.

And that, in my humble opinion, is the key.

Accepting payment for a review by definition colours your perception of the product – disclosure of that payment to your readership is the best way to allow them to take this into account when reading your review and return of the goods after the review period removes a lot of the obligation that Fergal talks about in his comment.

10 thoughts on “Blog posts for sale II”

  1. So what Michele is saying is that bribery for a review is alright but bribery for a positive review is not.

    Bribery. Hmmmm. Bribery is giving someone an incentive to do something they would not normally do in order to benefit you. You’d bribe someone to change the natural flow of a system which would result in you gaining something. Are you bribing bloggers for telling the truth?

    I wouldn’t have classed it as bribery if you were given a product and asked for your opinions on it and allowed keep the product. Though I was thinking more of something with a small value. If the stipulation was “you can comment positively or negatively or you don’t have to comment at all” was added would it change things? Would there be less of an obligation to be positive about the product or would the fact that someone loves you enough for your opinion soften you?

    How about if Company X who was asking for opinions had another obligation that if you are going to give an opinion then you have to disclose that you were given the product by Company X and that you will be handing it back or that it is worth Y Euros. That’s pretty transparent, is it enough?

    In regards to the value of the product, would there be a cut-off where if a product is worth say €20 returning it wouldn’t be necessary, but if it was above that would have to be handed back? Or do you think everything bar consumables would have to be handed back, no matter the value?

    You mention that study about most reviews for stuff getting 4 out of 5, but there is rather a large niche online for people giving harsh and tough reviews of products too. People might be a bit freer to speak their mind online.

    What do you think of Hugh Macleod’s idea of giving away free bottles of wine to bloggers? The old attitude would have been to give this wine to the wine buffs but instead giving it to a bunch of folk who just converse a lot and are just like a regular consumer might be far more beneficial.

    Joe Soap would appreciate “That fella down the road said the wine was shit, but that jumped up shit in the broadsheet said it had a good bouquet with hints of sychophant. Yer man down the road speaks the same language as me so I’ll believe him.”

  2. Surprise! My experience during the past eight years has been that all tech companies in Ireland will present gadgets to journalists for “long term review” and comment. If you don’t publish a review or if your review offers little reason to buy the component, you may be asked to return the product for review by another (disinterested) party. I routinely get software valued at more than EUR 200 posted to the Irish Examiner for my consideration.

    Blogging about gadgets might review the same industry expectation. If you want phones for life, ensure your blog has a valid postal address for the courier.

  3. take this down to something simple like arts – books, movies, music etc. do the music and books pages acknowledge the freebies? take one of the a-lister journos who gets to interview a-list stars. it’s usually an expenses paid trip, and it’s not unusual to find negative interviews getting you taken off the future invite lists (giving a negative interview to sean young was how joe queenan got kicked off the invite lists years ago, not that it actually hurt his career). it’s not so much down to payment constraining you, as to continued access constraining you. sometimes the best you can do in those circumstances is write a coded piece that’s ostensibly blanced but is pretty clearly negative to those who read you regularly enough.

    the whole thing gets even more complicated when, in order to get the access, you not only have to be upbeat and positive, you have to sell out on copy approval (see,,1468351,00.html ).

    to be honest, i don’t think it’s a big issue for bloggers. most of the ones who whore products do so so ineptly that the simple fact that they’re whoring the product is itself more than enough of a turn-off for me in the first place. there are some blogs i know who’ve initially given positive upbeat reviews of the latest gizmo, only to realise that the public tide is actually against it, so they have to do a volte face and air-brush out their previous praise-singing. more than damaging the product’s brand, they’re damaging their own brand.

  4. Tbh Damien, it was Michele who introduced the word bribery – I was merely trying to point out the inconsistency of his argument!

    Having said that, it is a very tricky question you have raised – I think it depends very much on what you are being asked to review – obviously a bottle of wine can’t be returned after a review, for example, but a laptop could and should.

    I think the most important thing is to be transparent so your readership can judge your motives while reading the review.

    I think Hugh’s idea is great and very innovative (I haven’t heard of anyone else in his industry doing this) and I commend him on doing it.

    there is rather a large niche online for people giving harsh and tough reviews of products too. People might be a bit freer to speak their mind online.

    Maybe so, but speaking their mind may mean they might not be given very many gadgets to review either – as Bernie almost said!

  5. Another thing though with bloggers and if they did follow some transparency code is that if they are constantly giving golorious reviews of products it will be noticed and probably even measured.

    You’d see things like

    Blogger Y has reviewed 15 products and without fail has praised them all, yet she praised some stuff that everyone in the world says was a heap of junk. No doubt the analysis would be wrapped in a blog post titled “Blogger Y – Corporate Whore – The Facts”

    If they didn’t follow a transparency code then the conspiracy theorists would I’m sure come out to play.

    Also, if companies are going to come online and start to be more open and transparent about their processes I’m sure they’d get flack for not submitting product reviews to certain bloggers who are known to be very honest.

  6. True Damien,

    and I think you’d also see things like

    I was given an xyz phone to review (and keep subsequent to the review) – I wrote a mixed review of it because it lacked features a, b, and c – Blogger Y, however gave it a glowing review and never mentioned the fact that as reviewers, we were given the phone to keep – you gotta wonder!

  7. Yeah, spot on. You can’t get away with anything for long in this digital world. *Begin Scooby Doo reference about pesky kids interfering*

    As Adam Curry says: “There are no Secrets, Only information you don’t yet have”

  8. Pingback: Bribery?

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