If it’s Free, it’s for me

When a blogger posts a review nine out of ten times I skim the post.  Unless there is a giveaway…then I’ll probably enter.   Unless I know I’ll never use it…then I won’t enter.

One thing that has always interested me is the development of sponsored content by bloggers.  Some times I’m jealous that it seems like they get items every day…other times I’m not jealous because I would never use these items.  It does make me wonder though am I blogging wrong?  Can you blog wrong?

When I first started blogging it wasn’t as commericalized.  Sure some people would have giveaways and it would be awesome…but it wasn’t a review+giveaway every other post.

The “Blogger side”: I get that the endless supply of cool new things is awesome.  Right now it seems like the hot new item on the market is the Vitamix.  Everyone and their mother has their hands on one…why can’t I get my hands on one?

Getting free stuff is awesome.  Getting paid to review stuff is awesome.  Doing something you love and getting paid for it is awesome…whether it’s blogging, being a doctor or whatever it is.

Does getting paid to review an item make it a fair review? No it doesn’t.  Even if you state that you were compensated it’s not unbiased.

If you are getting paid to review something your opinion of it already starts off liking the item.  If someone paid me 100 dollars to review their whipped cream and coffee…and gave me a free portion of it…I would already like it more.  (Sadly no one has paid me anything to review their items).

As bloggers it’s hard to turn down a lot of items.  You don’t want to say no…because it’s free.   As they say on Extreme Cheapskates “If it’s free, it’s for me”.  If you review products fit your blog and personality so be it…but don’t pretend to do things you don’t.

Readers view:

When I see a blogger doing a review I think to myself all of the following:

…how many reviews do they tend to do, is it sponsored, is it honest, are they an ambassador of said product?  If it’s a product I have no inerest in, I don’t open the post.  I don’t feel pressure to comment on posts that I would just BSing my interest in. If it’s a product I have seen online that I’m interested in then I’ll open and read it.

Seeing a blogger review product after product that they have gotten for free is grounds (for my personal blog reader) to be removed.  I read blogs for content, not how much free stuff they can tell me is awesome.

Final thoughts:

I think it’s really cool to get free things and I think everyone does.  Seriously thoughif you plan to review a product at least make sure you have actually tried the product and at least somewhat interested in it.  I really don’t think a razer, vacum or new pen is life changing.  What do I know though I’m cleraly blogging wrong.

Sponsored content doesn’t bother me unless it’s every post.  In that case I just stop reading the blog.

Question for you: Sponsored content, hate it or love it?


69 responses

  1. I like sponsored content when it is actually relevant to the blog and not part of every single post. It’s super obvious when people start to do reviews just for the money or freebies even though it’s not a good fit for their brand. I get the need to make money, but there has to be balance and I think all of the reviews and giveaways have become a little too much lately.

  2. I don’t like it when the said items being reviewed/sponsored don’t “line up” with the usual content of the blog – or, the product seems to come out of left field, and the blogger makes claims like, “I’ve been using this for years.”

  3. Somewhere in between, but much closer to hating than loving.
    I actually really like honest reviews of relevant products, and a sponsored review is most likely not 100% honest.

  4. I understand why people post sponsored content but it’s an immediate skip for me. Not that I think people shouldn’t write them, good for them for working that angle, its just not what I’m looking to read. The few times I’ve reviewed things were for companies that fully support my running not just with products but on a personal level as well and on a continual basis. Even then I felt like a bit off about it. That being said, maybe I’m in the minority because I read very few “big blogger” sites. I LOVE reading female running blogs but they have to be an authentic read about training and the ups and downs of their running life for me to enjoy it. Many of the bigger blogs have so much content it’s hard to weave through to the good stuff.

  5. I have a friend who blogs as her job and I hate most of her posts and don’t read them because they are all sponsored for stuff that’s all over the map, and her blog is just like reading an advertisement. I much prefer blogs like yours where you give your opinion of whatever your talking about but it’s not “sponsored”. I’ve seen some vitamix posts and honestly I don’t juice and have no interest so I skip those types of posts where runners post things they got for free because they are “fitfluential” or whatever. Free shoes? sure I’ll read and enter, but other than that I’m not interested. I don’t think I’ve actually ever bought anything based on a sponsored post either, but that’s just me.

  6. I don’t hate sponsored posts and I understand why bloggers do them(free stuff is fun!) but I usually skip reading them unless the product is something I’m genuinely interested in learning about or it’s something I buy regularly.

  7. I read reviews by people who have experience/interests related to the product being reviewed. Maybe it has some cool attributes/features that I’d like.

    Sponsored posts are weird. You shouldn’t talk about how much you love your kid and then suddenly talk about applesauce.

    • LOLZ, applesauce.

      I agree that I’ve found good products through reviews, I just don’t (and will probably never) understand why bloggers and people review things that has no meaning to their blog.

  8. I skip reviews and sponsored content. But I don’t have anything against the bloggers that do it, most that I know of, this is their job after all…

  9. I’ve reviewed a few things I got for free (never been paid to review). I’m honest with it, but if I have the opportunity to try an item for free and review it, if it’s something I’m interested in, I’ll do it. I’m trying the Vega Recovery drink right now for a review, but I’m actually interested in recovering from workouts quicker and I tend to use vegetarian/vegan nutrition products, so it was a good fit (spoiler: I think it’s a good product, but it’s too pricey for me to use often).

    Last year, I reviewed a protein powder, VeganSmart, and loved it. They didn’t pay me, just gave me free product to review, and now that’s the only protein powder I use. I’m glad I got to review it, otherwise I would’ve never tried it or used it (hooray for one with no digestive issues and it’s way cheaper than Vega or Shakeology!). However, I’ve also been sent free stuff that I wouldn’t use again.

    What gets me is when someone is an ambassador for a product or sells a product (This happens a LOT with multi-level marketing deals) and every single post is about it, full of hashtags, etc. It seems like it takes away the blogger’s identity. I don’t mind reviews, even reviews of things you’re just doing for fun like your diner reviews and my occasional restaurant reviews, but when the blogger becomes more a brand than a person, like you… I will stop reading.

  10. Running blogs (at least the ones I read) seem to be over-commercialized. I will admit that in the past I have bought products after reading sponsored and unsponsored posts, but I now avoid reading blogs that seem to try to plug every product under the sun and/or attract new sponsors.

    I like reading your posts because you are a very talented runner and I have always loved your mantra, “train consistently and without injury.” You are not just into blogging to get sponsors and make money off your blog, though I am surprised you do not a lot of companies interested in using you as an ambassador.

    • That really means a lot to me thank you! I really enjoy running for Oiselle and I think staying with them is good with me. I would love to make some sort of income from blogging but I don’t want to change my personal blogging to do so!

  11. I don’t mind sponsored content as long, but like you said as long as it’s not every post. I also have an issue if it is something not related to the blog. I.E. If it isn’t running or fitness or health related… WHY are you promoting it on your running blog?

  12. I think done well, reviews can be excellent…for the company, blogger and readers. I don’t like the ones where people have been given a large press release to copy and paste into their post. I read a writer’s blog for their words and opinions, not to reread the exact same words I’ve probably already read on someone else’s blog!

  13. There are some people who claim to LOVE every product for which they do a sponsored review and only say positive things about it, and I tend to slowly drift away from reading their blogs bc it just seems fake. There are others who do occasional sponsored posts and seem to be able to give a more balanced opinion, so I try to take into account that their review will skew positive but still find it useful.

  14. I’m ok with sponsored content, because I know it’s how a lot of people pay the blogging bills, so to speak. (Hosting and all that jazz gets expensive, so something to offset the costs definitely helps!) But I try to only accept products I would use myself. One time I got something that I absolutely did NOT like and I knew I couldn’t blog about without giving it a terrible review. I actually e-mailed the company, gave them the feedback, and asked them if it was alright if I didn’t post about it on the blog. I think that was my best option because I didn’t want other brands to be scared to work with me!

    *Phew* End long winded comment 😉

  15. There are definitely some strange reviews that I have seen…. like one girl who did a sponsored post for a pregnancy test – and I just don’t want to read those things. But other times I’ve found out about a really cool products that I would love to use and giveaways for those products are always fun. I do like it when they are spaced out quite a bit – like 2 a month tops seems like a reasonable amount to me! I haven’t followed anyone that I’ve had to stop following because they do too many reviews but I think if that did happen I’d do the same thing as you and just stop checking up on that blog.

  16. Man I want freebies!!! Am I blogging wrong too!? Lol. I personally don’t mind sponsored product because the bloggers gotta make some money somehow but if the whole thing is “omg I love it so much” with no substance/actual information on the product then I just ignore it.

  17. I really want to applaud this post. It’s great in terms of both structure and content, and it’s also far more concise (and far less bordering on an emotional rant) than anything I could put together, even though I’d be attempting to express the same sentiments.

    I’m very much on the ‘I loathe sponsored posts’ side. I miss the days of blogging when it seemed like an even playing field and you could at least trust that people weren’t making undisclosed and/or undeserved financial gain from their posts. All we had to worry about then was if people were making up some picture perfect life and lying about what they ate…oh, wait 😛

    Anyway, there are so many bloggers who I resent for all the free shit they get and the fact that they are FT bloggers. I have obviously been blogging ‘wrong’ for nearly six years (between all the blog deletions…) since I’ve never been offered anything at all: I’ve only had two opportunities because other bloggers recommended me, and those were relevant products I already used. In some ways I suppose I couldn’t accept a lot of sponsored posts anyway, because I would NEVER do a copy/paste post (integrity…what’s that!?) or endorse something that contravened my ethics.

    I would love to be able to support myself through blogging, simply because then I could work from home, make my own hours and never have to see or socialise with anyone. It annoys me that people with no mental health problems get to work from home because I feel they don’t really need to, whereas I can’t support myself any other way. I am bitter and somewhat of a bitch, so I will deliberately not give anyone with lots of sponsored posts pageclicks, particularly if they are a FT blogger. I don’t want to support or help them in any way. It would be different with you, because you have enough talent to be a sponsored ATHLETE, not some charlatan HLB with specious qualifications in ‘nutrition’ who only posts content that amounts to common freaking sense. I could post exactly the same information because it’s so obvious…I just don’t have a snake-oil degree to back me up.

    I was part of this blogging group (I say ‘was’ because I’ll get kicked out if they read this, but I who cares?) that had a link-up thing whereby everyone was supposed to comment on everyone else’s posts (I wasn’t comfortable with that kind of disingenuous circle-jerk in the first place) and someone had the cheek to complain that some people weren’t commenting on a bunch of shitty sponsored posts. One of the other bloggers who I really admire stood up for herself in the classiest reply ever (I wish I could quote it here but that wouldn’t be fair on her), and I loved the fact that most people were NOT on board with boosting the pageviews of people who can’t even be bothered to write their own content. I really hope the blogging ‘industry’ completely collapses at some point because it would serve certain FT bloggers right. Isn’t it strange how once someone goes FT the quality of their content always takes a nosedive? You’d think it would be the other way around since they have bugger all else to do with their day.

    TL;DR. These people don’t care about their readers. You do. And that’s bloody refreshing with all of the generic, crappy blogs out there at the moment.


    • Oh, and I absolutely disagree with everyone above saying ‘oh, it’s okay because they have to make money somehow.’ At the expense of your integrity? With a view to exploiting your readers? NO.

      • I guess I should have been more clear in my own opinions. I understand that if a blogger wants to make money and review a product that goes along with their blog then of course go for it! What doesn’t make sense to me are bloggers that are reviewing life changing vacuums or random junk. Your blog was built before you made money and if you begin to change it once you do…you are selling out.

      • Yes – if someone is reviewing running shoes or fitness gear then fine, but random junk…well, there’s no excuse.

        I also hate those blogs that basically have one giant ad as their background. It just says to me ‘my blog is a product and I have no soul.’

  18. Reblogged this on One Step Closer and commented:
    Not a lot to add, because I will just start one of my characteristic rants. But this is an excellent post on a subject that never fails to provoke a pretty intense reaction from most people. Read it!

  19. Like many others here, I don’t mind them as long as they make sense with the content of the blog. I do care about other runners reviewing shoes, clothes, headphones, nutritional stuff – because it applies to them and their content. If you can get paid to review things you actually use and enjoy (or would make sense for you to use), then more power to you.

  20. I don’t mind it, as long as it’s not all the time! I haven’t gotten anything free yet but it would be pretty cool if I did one day! And I agree- how can we get our hands on one of these free Vitamixes to review?! 😉

  21. Haven’t been blogging long but I agree with all your thoughts on this one based on what I’ve seen. I am not one to get excited over too many products and the whole “get excited” attitude about products makes me want to just click away from the page. Reviews kind of bore me. I’d much rather read someone’s actual thoughts over any type of review. When I want reviews I go to amazon or something!

  22. I tend to not like sponsored posts because most of the time the blogger is trying to make the content fit. Susan of Nurse on the Run has done sponsored posts on nursing quite well. It fits in with her blog theme and she gives interesting info and insights into nursing. Another blogger did some sponsored posts poorly. Out of nowhere there’s a product that the blogger claims to love and use all the time. The blog post is void of any meaningful content (e.g., it’s great because antioxidents are good for you!). Unfortunately in my experience, most sponsored posts are dull, so I skip over them.

  23. I don’t mind the occasional sponsored post but they are definitely not my favorite reads. I don’t read any professional blogger blogs as I’ve found the content is terrible and they post 6 days a week just to post and don’t have much to say unfortunately, I do some sponsored posts occasionally but only if it something I’m interested in and I actually find use in the product. I’ve received a product before and disliked it and told them I didn’t feel comfortable writing a post.

  24. Sponsored posts… It depends and I tend to agree w you. I feel like if you use the product and love it already… And do a sponsored post or giveaway then that’s fine. If it’s some rando thing you never read are or tried… Nah. If your whole blog is always giveaway after giveaway… No. I’m doing a polar watch giveaway right now on my blog… I wear the same watch and hr band everyday tho. In that case I think it’s a fun thing to do. But in moderation.

  25. I hardly ever read blog posts about product reviews because I just don’t care. I have read some sponsored posts though where the blogger is like “I tried this and it sucked.” I appreciate that kind of honesty!

  26. Agree 100% on sponsor based reviews. They’re is always some bias involved. The reviews I typically read are those where the blogger paid their hard earned money for the item they are reviewing. That’s how we handle things in every day life, friend buys something, they will tell you if it’s worth anything or not. But at the end of the day, free stuff is pretty cool lol

  27. A very poignant post. I just started doing contests with my blog, but I approach the companies (not the other way around). I go to the companies who make the stuff I like (and talk about anyway). I’m certainly willing to try out new items if someone wants me to, but I’ll only give a positive review if I truly like it. Credibility and reputation are of utmost importance to me… and making people laugh.

  28. I don’t think bloggers are trying hard enough if they think that sponsored posts are the only way to make money. That’s if your intention is even to make money on your blog, rather than have it as a channel. Making money is not an excuse for poor content – most sponsored posts are boring. The only thing that makes me want to read/share a blog is good content

    • I agree. Just watching, it looks like quite frequently bloggers want to get paid easily-quick money without working hard. Other jobs don’t work like that and neither should blogging!

  29. I interned at a local outdoors magazine at the end of 2012 and the magazine was constantly requesting and was sent products to review. I was tasked with reviewing a pair of sport headphones, so after taking them out for a run a couple times, I wrote an honest review to be published in the magazine. My review was largely positive, but I included a couple comments that could be seen as negative, one saying that I thought one of the features was more of a gimmick than actually doing anything, and another about the sound quality. My editor removed both those comments. I was upset and I ended up coming to the same conclusions as you in this post. I take most sponsored reviews with a grain of salt now.

  30. I’ve done what a previous poster said–I’ve contacted companies so that I can try their products because I’m interested and really want to test it before I shell out the money. Usually, because it already had my interest anyway, I end up liking it and say so in my blog post.

    But I completely agree that it’s a HUGE turn off when a blogger repeatedly does reviews. Then it seems like their blog is solely to get free stuff. I actually just took a blog off my reader yesterday for this reason.

    One of the reasons I love your blog is because you’re so completely honest. You can tell people like you by how many visitors, comments, and followers you have 🙂 Keep it up!

  31. I’ve both contacted companies and been contacted by companies to review/post about their products.
    If I’m contacted by a company and the product isn’t something I’d spend my money on, I’ll usually turn it down. My personal rule is that I’ll only review products I’d be willing to spend my cash on. However, I’m pretty certain this isn’t true for all bloggers – I’m sure there are some out there who post positive reviews because they feel pressured to. I’m opinioned enough that I won’t. I’m also certain that probably turns off some companies from my blog. I’m okay with that 🙂

  32. Don’t remove me. The past few weeks I have been hit up with LOTS of products that I either already use or really want to try which made me yesterday stop and be like WHOA it’s getting bad over here! I’m a group fitness instructor I teach classes everyday on top of my own workouts so when companies reach out to me about gear and wearables I’m always game. I’ve had some experiences that were HORRIBLE (think Elle) and some that have been fantastic. I try to give my most real review. Plus lots of my readers are busy working moms so if I can help them sort through the clutter or bring them something new I feel like I owe it to them to be real. More times than not I say no to opportunities not yes.

  33. I don’t mind the occasional sponsored post, but if it gets to the point where every second or third post is sponsored, then I usually stop reading. Some people can actually pull off reviews in a pretty creative way, and if they’re smart about it and the product is something relevant to their blog then I don’t mind supporting them. But there are definitely other times where it’s just like… no. And hey, vacuum cleaners can be life-changing, buuuut that might just be the OCD neat freak in me 😉

  34. As bloggers, we need to be selective when reviewing products–and be honest. One thing I have mixed feelings about is campaigns; like when it seems like everyone is reviewing a specific product. It’s like a long commercial that never ends!

  35. LOVE this post! I personally won’t do sponsored posts just because I don’t like reading them. I understand why people do them, but it seems that the vast majority of the offers for sponsored posts that I’ve personally received are for products that are completely irrelevant to my blog. I almost always skip over them in my reader unless I happen to come across a blogger who does them exceptionally well, which is rare. I don’t mind uncompensated product reviews (obviously the product would be free to the blogger) or giveaways as long as the product is relevant. I’m super picky about what I’ll review or giveaway because the integrity of my blog is really important to me. And honestly, blogging takes a lot of time! I’m not going to write about something I don’t care about or am not interested in just to get it for free. No thanks.

  36. Totally agree! I have to be paid to review anything, but just received my first comp product. I’m excited to use it and give an honest opinion. (Bio Skin calf Skins).

  37. This is interesting! I just got asked to review my second product ever…and actually I contacted them first just asking if I could try their product. I do FOR SURE think it has to be relevant to your readers!!! I like to read posts on products that have helped them in their running and recovery and I like it when they are honest in their post! Not everything is AMAZING…give me the pros and cons! Running gear can get expensive so I like to read about stuff before I plunk down the money. A vitamix IS SUPER if someone wants to give me one to test and review then I am A OK with that!!! 🙂
    I did a review once for Pro Compression socks and I really do love them. I did get a free pair but I have purchased probably 6 pairs since then out of my own pocket.
    I am now doing a review for VegaSport. I asked them because I am trying to get better about my recovery nutrition and I have heard of them. If I can try them for free and tell other runners about it then I think that is a win win! I will be honest though and I think companies and bloggers appreciate that!

  38. I don’t mind sponsored content as long as I trust the blogger and they state clearly that the review is honest. And as long as it isn’t in every post. If I find a new blog with a ton of sponsored posts I don’t even bother looking around. But in general, why not let them have their fun and let us know their opinions on things?

    • I understand that side completely but can a review truly be honest if you are getting paid for it? I’m not saying products can’t be good but can every product be life changing?

  39. I totally understand where you are coming from. I’m a blogger and have reviewed products on my site as well. I agree that as a run blogger it makes absolutely no sense for me to review products that do not fit my brand, like floor cleaner or baby products. BUT with all due respect I do have a different view on this matter as well. I think some readers turn to blogs as a way to stay up to date with the newest trends, products, gadgets, races, etc. So I feel it’s important to expose my readers to new things, if I think it’s relevant. Sometimes I review new products that I bought on my own just to share with readers that there is a new product on the market. Also I know that before I invest money into a product I always ask a friend if they’ve used it and ask for their opinion. I’ve turned down my fair share of product reviews because I just wouldn’t use them and would feel like a sell-out.

  40. I’ve done a few reviews. Most of the time I review a product that I use without any input or request for a review from the manufacturer.
    I see these give aways as gimmicks to add more followers and never enter these drawings or contests.
    Not to sound like one of those spam robots but: you seem to have a successful blog doing what you do. I wouldn’t start doing product reviews or soliciting products from vendors because opther blogs do it. The shoe review blogs seem to be the most popular, I have no desire to write that type od blog. If people like my little stories, they’ll follow me. If they find me a bore, there are 100M more blogs to go and check out.

  41. I can’t really stand sponsored posts. If someone is going to review a product, it means more to me if they have always used that product, always bought it themselves, and always loved it. If someone is an ambassador for a company, hopefully it’s because they love the product and use it and fully endorse it. But all too often, with bigger companies, that is not the case.

  42. I hate reading reviews and sponsored posts. I ignore most of the emails I get to review products, unless it’s something I really love, or if I can just give it away.

  43. Your blog was sent to me because I was trying to figure out if I should do all the reviews companies are requesting of me. You helped to really clear things up for me. Thanks. I’m deleting a post that was supposed to go live tomorrow. It doesn’t fit my blog. And I don’t really like the product anyway.

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