Blogging Should Never Be About Freebies

Free StuffI recently came across a comment thread between a blogger and a product representative. In the thread, a handful of bloggers made the point that free products are their payment for doing reviews, and it’s an insult to a blogger to offer a small sample rather than a full-size product for the purposes of a review.

The minute you consider review units and other free products to be payment for your review is the minute you lose all integrity as a blogger. Let’s face it: Human nature is what it is and the moment you see a prospect of more free products in the future tilting the review in order to get more is too tempting for many people to resist. I’m sorry, but I’ve seen too many home product and affiliate-filled rubbish blogs do little more than kiss up to companies that offer free products to writers only to jump to negativity when the writer has either paid for the product themselves or merely heard it wasn’t worth buying.

If your business model is based on getting freebies, then your credibility is basically zero.

I’ll write a negative review about a free gadget just as quickly as I’ll write one about a gadget I paid good money for. My integrity is not for sale, ever. Neither should yours be.

I have spent thousands upon thousands of my own dollars on gadgets I review. On the rare occasion that a company does loan or hand over a product in order to receive a review in return, it doesn’t sway me one way or the other. I’m not in it for the freebies. I’m in it to keep food on the table and write about a subject I enjoy.

Sponsored posts are touchy subject, but there is a clear difference between posting a sponsored post and requiring free product in exchange for reviews. You can pick and choose sponsors, and they don’t pay with product. They pay by actually helping keep the lights on with your blog. The rules of disclosure are also very different with sponsored posts vs. review units. Disclosure is just as important as any other measure of integrity. I wish I could list all the sponsored posts I’ve turned down over the past few years because the products either didn’t live up to expectations or weren’t something I’d put my name behind.

Am IĀ  standing on a high horse and saying that I’ve never accepted a review unit? Absolutely not. I have, however, gone out of my way to alert a company as to any issues I’ve come across during testing.

Companies give out review units to make the public aware of their products and spread the word. It’s the blogger’s job to give an honest review and disclose the facts surrounding said review.

A lot of bloggers I’ve communicated with over the past five years fall into the trap where they review products they like and are afraid to give a bad review. They believe that companies will cease to send review units if they give a bad review. Often, a fan of the company will spam a comment thread and call you every name in the book for being too dumb or incompetent to realize the true glory of whatever inanimate object you wrote about. Get over it. Your integrity is more important than that.

Bloggers get a bad rap for being freebie hounds as it is. Don’t add to it by calling review units payment. The moment you think of a review unit as a form of payment, you’ve already lost all measure of integrity. Give full disclosure and be honest. Think of review units as opportunities to give your audience an honest review of a product rather than a form of income and your blog will be a lot more fruitful to you.

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Let us know in the comments below.

Image: 100% Free Blue by Kosta Kostov

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Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.