Tuesday, May 29, 2007

[Product Reviews] Good or Bad

Lately I have been getting a few mails asking me to review this and that. I have to admit I have mixed feelings about this and am not sure how to go about it.

Do any of you do reviews for products and items and mention them on your blogs?
Or do you have a strict rule against such reviews?

I'd love to hear more about the reasons behind your choices and the pro and cons of such things.


This Post was written by Meeta from What's For Lunch, Honey?


Erika said...

I've been getting a few product review requests as well. I decided to divide them into two categories- food and non-food. Most offers ask if they can send me a sample or a coupon or their book, etc. My decisions have been to accept the book/DVD/gadget and do a review, letting the requesting party know that my review will be honest. I had one turn me down when I said the review would be honest.

With food items, I don't feel that I can give a proper review if I'm not invested in it myself. So I politely turn those down. All the food and drink reviews I do on my blog are a direct result of my money purchasing them- so I am invested and can decide if they are really worth a portion of my grocery budget.

bee said...

someone asked us to promote thier gardening item. they then sent us a free sample. we used it and gave an honest review.

as for food items, i'm not that sure. for instance, if it has transfats or high fructose corn syrup, we will not be prepared to even taste it. if it is a healthy brand of something that interests us, maybe.

William Conway said...

A while ago I got offered $500 to write a post on sauerkraut. That's a ridiculous amount, and I almost did it.

I never followed through. I just couldn't get excited enough about it to actually experiment and write something. It felt really cheap.

Since then I've just flat out ignored those requests. I'd only do something if it was really really interesting to me.

I didn't start my blog to get rich. I just do it for fun.

Janet said...

Well, I haven't been approached about a product review yet. But if was .... once I got over the initial euphoria of being asked, I'd have to really think hard about whether it would fit in with my blog. I'm not against it, I just think you'd have to do it in such a way that you maintain your blog's integrity - if that's possible.

Derrick said...

I do take products for review--most notably books and wine--but I have an explicit policy that I don't promise reviews and I don't promise to not write a bad review. For things other than books and wine, which just appear, I think about whether they'll fit in my blog and add new content. I turn down lots of gadgets because I'm not a gadgety cook. I've turned down foie gras because it was a rebranded foie from Hudson Valley, which I've recommended in the past. On the other hand, I took grass-fed steak because I wanted to see if there was a difference from different regions.

No matter what, though, I always disclose that the item was sent to me for review in the post.

Amy Sherman said...

I follow a fairly similar strategy as Derrick for books, gadgets and food. I don't always disclose that what I am reviewing is a review copy because I don't think it's relevant. Journalists don't disclose it either, they just consider it their job. I won't accept money in exchange for a review, to me that is advertising or advertorial.

I only accept products that sound interesting to me, and only give them a good review if I actually like them. I try to consider value even if I haven't paid for something. I have only twice reviewed a restaurant where I received a comped meal--and neither of those were completely positive reviews. But at this point I'm unlikely to review a comped meal, ever again.

Dr. Biggles said...


I figure it's up to you. As far as I'm concerened? Free stuff? YES. I ain't getting paid for Meathenge so I figure it's MH paying me back for my time effort. As far as ethics? What the other fine folks said.


Meeta said...

None of the people who approached me have offered any money. Like Janet, I was really excited but was not sure how this kind of thing works. If it is something one should or should not do. Is getting paid for it normal or not getting paid for it? How one goes about it?

There are so many questions. I see that it is up to each individual person of how and if they want to do it.

Cate said...

On my own food site, Sweetnicks, I don't do reviews. We do get quite a lot of opportunities for them on the Well Fed site though, and do them there. Like others, we don't guarantee that it will be a positive review, just honest.

Sam said...

After being cajoled to try it ot for a few items, I now turn everything down because I prefer to discover things for myself, and find it's much more fun than letting things that are need of promotion discover me. More honest, more me, more of what I am about not to accept.

Cybele said...

I've been approached a lot (as you can imagine, since I run a candy review site).

I have a candy review policy published and make it clear that I am free to not review or give products a bad review or just give the stuff away.

I have given bad reviews to candies that I've gotten as samples (quite a few actually and I've never heard from those marketing people again ... oh well) and I've also not reviewed stuff. Not every freebie means that I'm going to like it, though I was worried for a while.

I do not accept any compensation for this, only the candy itself.

I have been offered products as a thank you for reviews that I did when I paid for the items myself, but I declined them.

I've also been offered products to review that I wouldn't ordinarily include on the blog (drinks, books, entree products) which I also declined. (I did direct those publicists to other bloggers who might want them though.)

Janet said...

As a former journalist and current blogger, I think Derrick has the right policy. No guarantees of any review, let alone a positive one.

In addition, I would never accept payment from a vendor for a review of a product. That sauerkraut just couldn't help but taste better with $500 to season it. When you start writing paid "review," you'll lose your credibility, and then what do you have to offer your readers?

Andrew said...

It is pretty standard in the wine fold to receive samples and more recently I am receiving several foreign trips. For the trips I view it as continuing education. For the samples, if they have gone to the trouble of sending me stuff, I owe it to them to review it. Same goes for books and other stuff.

It might take me a while to post a review (and, if on the odd chance they are reading, the more you hassle me the less chance of it ever coming to screen!) and I wont promise it will be favourable. But I give things a fair chance.

Nika said...

Because I write for various Well Fed blogs, I have been doing product reviews. I like doing them because it a chance to do different types of writing (expanding one's repertoire for writing types is always worth the time). I try to make it a value added review where I talk about how I used the product and how that worked out for me.. satisfying my own sense of priorities around blogging as a form of exploration, community involvement, and personal development.

I tend to put these posts also on my personal blog as a means to expand the exposure for that writing and for Well Fed.

I have not done a lot of product reviews for my blog specifically. I have gotten inquiries which I have sent on to Well Fed as a means for putting it under that umbrella.

I have gotten inquiries for me to do it more just on my blog and they were for high ticket items. Those I have turned down because I am not in that head-space right now in terms of reviewing a product that is reallllly expensive and which would represent some added responsibility I have to the reader (I think it boils down to the fact that I am not a person of considerable means so I do not buy luxury items and am not the sort to condone or encourage others to spend gobs o money on trivial things .. its hard for me to write that.. I did it once and I had to wring the brain a bit to get it out).

Lately, I have been doing a lot of shooting and relationship building with a local food oriented company which has afforded me many interesting food related experiences. I have been writing about these but not really in a way for one to go out and order the products with my affiliate ID attached to it or anything.

Now, if Canon wanted to send me a 1Ds MrkIII and a tilt shift lens, it would be a completely different story (Are you reading Canon? Thought so). I would be able to review that product without impunity because I agree with the price point and the technology, etc.

If you blog, sooner or later you will get the ad-wannas. If you give it a try, no harm done. If you like it, do more. If you dont like it, dont.

There is no vast kharmic damage if you do either.

Truth is, if you are a lower second tier or third tier blogger, very few people will even notice! (Today, I am feeling like a 4th tier blogger :-) Forget the 1st tier, those spots are engraved in marble, they aint budging and the media has little impetus to expand that horizon.

cybele said...

To those who say that they won't accept free items for review, do you go to trade shows and sample items there and write about them based on that? How do you draw the line?

Kalyn said...

My feelings about this have evolved over the last year and a half. When someone first offered to send me a cookbook to "review" (read: promote on my blog) I was thrilled to get a free cookbook. I'm sure the first few times I was too eager to write about the products and too generous in the reviews.

Now that I've had the experience a few times of getting things I ended up not wanting to write about, I've realized it can be a mixed bag. These days I would only write about something if I thought it was a product my blog readers would absolutely be interested in and that I would buy myself.

I am planning to write a better "about" page for the blog and make it more clear what my policy is about product or food reviews.

As a general rule, I don't think there's anything wrong with accepting products as long as you make it clear to the PR people that you can't promise you'll review them or give a postiive review and as long as you disclose to your readers that you received the product for free. When you do that *and* you love the product, it can be a win for everyone. But for me, that doesn't seem to happen too often.

I did recently have a company who loves Weekend Herb Blogging ask me if they could send me a plant. They never asked me to write about it, or even implied that I should, just said they enjoyed WHB and would like to send me something. The plant was amazing, and I did mention it. But I wouldn't have if I hadn't been impressed.

KT said...

I agree that I don't think there's anything wrong with accepting a "review copy" of something as long as you're honestly reviewing it and not merely providing free advertising in exchange for a free product.

I tend to ignore free product e-mails only because I know that my personality is one where I would feel compelled to write a review of something I received, even if I ended up not to feel like reviewing it. I don't want to give myself the pressure, so I just ignore the free products, although I will go to an event I am invited to. That's fun! And I feel like it's a chance to write about something not everyone can experience so it makes an interesting story.

Meeta said...

Thank you everyone for your opinion and feedback. I really appreciate it. I think I understand where to go with it now. Reading your feedback really helped.

Kirsten said...

This is a great topic.

I work full time in marketing and PR (my day job) so I am HYPER critical of PR people who pitch me to review products, etc.

I was a journalism major in college and signed a code of ethics as a journalist and take those same standards over to my private/hobby blogging world.

If I think the product/item fits my editorial mission and I think it may have value, I will evaluate something, but will warn anyone with language like (separating me from bloggers that do not have editorial standards) "I would like to try a sample of the products - however, in the spirit of full editorial disclosure, I reserve the right to not write about them, or write what I genuinely feel - good or bad."

Truly professional PR people would have already assumed you are a professional and would only consider/review something if your readers wanted to know or should know! :)

nika said...

Kristin: the vast majority of bloggers are not journalists and the same number have not had professional exposure to oaths like you refer to. Most bloggers are simply sharing their lives, its not about getting rich so when this ad business factors in it can be confusing. Bloggers should feel like they need to sign oaths or go to J school to figure it all out.

If you look back through previous discussions here its obvious that there is some non_negligible number of PR types who have no respect for bloggers, professional or otherwise.

They seem to forget one key thing: bloggers are content producers AND consumers, ones with a voice.

nika said...

obviously that was a "shouldnt" :-)

Kirsten said...

That's a good point Nika...

I tend to view everything from my own "filter" which is PR/journalism, but you are 100% correct that most bloggers don't see themselves that way, and many PR people don't either.

sabrina said...

I think it's up to everyone to decide what they do on their own blog, but if someone is offering you money, they're paying for advertising not a review, and personally if something is paid for, I always make sure to say so. I also currently have an if I don't like it or don't think it's interesting enough, I won't write about it approach - but I'm sure someday I'll say something mean.

There was a really interesting article in the WSJ last week about TV bloggers and how the networks are woo-ing them. The same can be said for food industry folks and food bloggers. One blogger is even quoted as telling the networks she'll add whatever they needed. Definitely an interesting read.

Sam said...

I am a person who doesnt accept products for review but I have been to trade shows and tried samples there so I guess my line is drawn between the two. The tradeshow has over 1000 booths and I am only going to mention anything there that really stands out from the rest. And the trade show participants are trying to get people to buy their stuff, they really arent interested so much in press so I don't feel I am being targeted in the way I am by PR people.

Just because I choose not to accept free gifts/products it doesn't mean to say I think people who do are wrong. It's a personal choice. It makes me uncomfortable and I won't do it. My blog is not intended as a commercial vehicle for anyone at all. My blog is to reflect my life, not reflect my life as a blogger.

If bloggers are writing about a review product on a blog and they don't diclose that it had been given to them for free then I might be disappointed because I prefer transparency. But again, this is my own personal choice and I don't expect other people to act the same way I do. I am not judging anyone, I am just choosing a different path for myself.

Cybele said...

Sam - I like that attitude ... it's kind of like being a secret shopper at shows!