The other day I went out for dinner with a friend who, in the nicest possible language, asked if I feel at all like a sell-out for reviewing products on my blog. I wasn’t insulted. If you review things on your site and haven’t asked yourself this question, you should. It’s easy to get caught up in freebies and lots of stuff and lose site of the bigger picture.
I was able to answer her honestly with a “no.” I am particular about what I review and what I say. I’m not swayed to say good things about a product simply because I got it for free, although I am certainly more likely to talk about something that I have been able to test out myself. I will only accept review items that intrigue me for some reason so I usually don’t struggle to find something good to say. On the other hand, I am someone who thinks about things critically. I rarely have trouble finding constructive criticism either. Unless I’m reviewing something like soap. I mean, how much can you say about body wash?
The truth is that I like reviewing products and services. I am an early adopter and I’m always curious about new things on the market. I’m a sponge for information, whether I’m checking out a new gadget or hotel or learning everything there is to know about Mozart or the history of chewing gum (ok, I haven’t really read about that yet, but I may). On top of that, I love connecting with other people, sharing ideas and brainstorming. Blogger events are always a good time!
My friend’s question did get me thinking, though. What is it that I really like about doing reviews? It’s not just about free stuff, believe it or not. There are 5 reasons why I enjoy review blogging that have nothing to do with freebies:
- Having the opportunity to learn about and try new products and services before other people.
- Sharing feedback with manufacturers and service providers about their products.
- Serving as a resource for friends and family, as well as others online. People often ask me for purchasing advice (especially in regards to the products I review on About.com) because I’ve had a chance to try out a lot of different products.
- Receiving invitations to blogger events. As I said above, connecting with other bloggers is really important to me.
- Getting “insider” information and tours. As I mentioned in my Peapod review, I love a good backstage tour!
With all that said, it’s important to me that my blog not just consist of product reviews. I know a lot of bloggers like to keep a separate review blog, but that’s counterintuitive to me. I believe that what makes blog reviews powerful is that they are trusted sources. And I think they become trusted sources as we get to know bloggers as people. Having reviews next to other types of editorial provides context for my opinions. I’m not using products in a sterile testing environment. I’m testing out cupcakes at a birthday party and I’m dancing along to music with my kids as part of our daily fun. These happen to be “review products,” but could just as well have been things I purchased at the store. The point is that they become a part of our lives, if only temporarily. It makes no sense to me to talk about them separately as if they aren’t. Even more importantly, I don’t want to give the impression that we spend our days testing out product after product.
So, no, I don’t think I’m “selling out” by trying new products and talking about them on my blog. If I am influenced by free product, it’s merely that I have had an opportunity to try something that I might not have tried on my own. And that I may be even more knowledgeable about the things we are testing than I normally would be. I know that I’m holding true to who I am as a person and what I believe as a parent. I think that’s the challenge that goes out to all bloggers whether they do product reviews or not. And, in the end, I think that our readers will vote with their feet (or their eyes in this case) to visit the bloggers that are authentic and with whom they feel a connection.