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Blogging, Freebie Policy, and the New York Times

Just the other day, the New York Times got me ranting about Target, and now I find myself annoyed with Times. Yeesh!

If you read the popular beauty blogs, you are likely already familiar with the story. The New York Times ran an article (free registration required for reading), portraying beauty bloggers as women who exist to beg for swag, and who write as slaves to the product companies. The paper interviewed a number of popular and influential bloggers, several of whom have taken issue with the resulting article. The common theme among them is generally that the Times’ reporter entered into the project with an agenda and practiced selective editing to meet a preplanned goal. Thus, statements from the bloggers were taken out of context and information was presented inaccurately.

Most of the bloggers interviewed have posted reactions: Beauty Addict, Bon Bons in the Bath, Jolie in NYC, Shake Your Beauty, and My Inner French Girl. A number of bloggers who were not interviewed have have also posted reactions. For example, you can read some more thoughts on the matter at: Sugar Shock, Beauty Blogging Junkie, Jack and Hill, Temptalia, Canadian Beauty, The Beauty of Life, Spoiled Pretty, The Life of a Ladybug, The 15 Minute Beauty Fanatic, The Non-Blonde, and even on the Beauty Blog Network Blog.

Those women cover the topic quite well, so I don’t plan to dwell on it except to state a bit about my own freebie policy. First off, yes, I get freebies from various companies. I do not beg for them– they tend to contact me–and I generally do not get swag of the types mentioned in the article. Trips to Paris? I wish!

I also strive to provide accurate reviews of products whether I purchased the items or received them for free. I do not promise positive reviews, and I have never been made to feel like a company would blacklist me or otherwise retaliate if I posted something negative about their product. Many of my reviews observe both up and downsides to any given product. Although I am frequently asked to do so, I do not accept compensation for reviews or for any substantive content on my sites. I do, however, have sidebar advertisers and use affiliate links.

I have never made a conscious effort to indicate when I received a product compared to when I purchased it. However, I do often mention that I “received” an item, meaning that it is a freebie, and I often mention where I made purchases. Thus, things are usually pretty transparent. I will try to do more of this, but in all honesty, I don’t want my writing to become a formula that includes plugging in product disclosures simply because the Times decided to write a negative article. So here is what I ask. If as a reader, you ever want to know about where I got a product for review and it is not clear from the article, please feel free to leave a comment and ask. I will happily tell you!

Oh, and if I do ever really get some serious swag doing this, I’ll let you know that as well. I don’t do this for swag, but darn if I wouldn’t accept it and enjoy it. I won’t hold my breath waiting for it though.

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  1. Bonjour, and thanks for the mention!

    My policy is to mention that I received a product directly from the company or its publicist. However, I will say that I don’t really care one way or another if a site host gets her products comped. Quite frankly, I think it’s insulting to hold beauty bloggers to a different (dare I say higher?) standard than, say, book reviewers, film reviewers, theater critics, and sports writers, all of whom receive free passes and/or merchandise.

    I’ve mentioned it in another site, but I suspect that one thing at play here is the perception of beauty bloggers as being dim-witted airheads who are in it for the free swag, as implied in the article. As you mentioned, they’ve no idea how much work it is to maintain a full site, almost as if it’s a part-time job. And the article made it worse by referring to it as a “hobby.”

    What about all those other bloggers — invariably mostly male — who take their blogging seriously and consider it a serious business venture? Why single out beauty bloggers as fun little side gigs rather than a serious attempt to provide an alternative — and free! — source of honest reviews, one that’s not tainted by the intimate relationship between beauty mag glossies and advertisers? Is there some misogyny at play here, by any chance, or is it just me? The beauty business is just that — a business — and yet some sectors still consider it a frivolous distraction, despite its multi-billion-dollar capitalization. Is it because women make up the vast majority of its customer base that we can’t seem to take it seriously?

    Anyway, that’s just my two cents. I think the article underestimated the intelligence and discernment of women. I think we do a pretty good job of singling out those sites who do nothing more than copy-and-paste the company’s press releases. The article wasn’t just insulting to bloggers but to their readers as well.

    And yes, I’m like you. I never contacted the beauty companies; rather, they always contact me. I would have no problem if a blogger chose to contact them, however. It’s a business, and that’s the only way you can afford to maintain quality content, is if you had the products to review. As someone wrote elsewhere, no amount of free lipstick tubes is going to pay my rent.

    Having said that, I admire your amazing site. I love that you have the advertising because you can make some income from your site but it doesn’t detract from the focus of it: your content. I’m trying to figure out how to move into that myself, so I’ll be using yours as a template.



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