Blogging

Blagging – Would a Blog Review Persuade You to Buy?

Well, it has been a busy couple of days on the blogosphere. Kicked off by this post  by Sian at Mummy Tips, swiftly followed by Mummy From The Heart, asking if she is a blagger and the journalist’s view from Joanne Mallon.

Sian noted that increasingly the service Response Source, which is used by PR companies to find journalists and bloggers interested in writing about their clients’ products, has been overrun by bloggers looking for products to review. Particularly “Mummybloggers” are giving bloggers a bad name, by badgering PR companies with emails sometimes several times a day. Sian has decided not to use Response Source since there are so many bloggers “on the blag”. I am left wondering what RS must be making of all this. Presumably they are not too happy with the developments.

 

 

 

Obviously this has set off a chain reaction of bloggers hotly defending themselves and their ilk, checking their review to normal post quota, and a fair bit of huffing and puffing.

To be honest, it is no surprise to anyone who has been blogging for a while. Have a look at any of the blogging platforms that offer networking and advice to parenting bloggers – whether Netmums, Mumsnet, Britmums – when you scan the blogs on these sites, there are a lot of reviews. Sometimes I will click on a blog that sounds interesting, only to click away immediately it becomes apparent that the blog consists of review after review after review. Or offering the chance to win an item, with very little content other than advertising.

I don’t mind a review or two, but if I am really honest I don’t often read them (although I did read Joanne’s Wii review this week and bought the game recommended by her).  Actually, when I think about it, Joanne’s Playmobil review was the post that led me to her blog. If you are going to write a review, try doing one as well-written, well-researched and as amusing as those that Joanne writes.

What is worrying is that there seems to be a trend of people starting blogs purely to write reviews and most of them are neither well-written nor amusing. My pet hate is a post that seems strange, and when you get to the end of the post there is a clumsy link to a product. I have seen one recently for an insurance company and it was so obvious that the blogger did not really think much of the company but had been paid to write the post.

With only a slight bit of jealousy, I will admit that I have never been asked to review a product. I do sometimes look enviously at bloggers such as Mummy From The Heart who admits that she receives “well over 50 emails a week” offering a product to review. No idea what makes me uninteresting to PR folk, perhaps my living abroad, or that I am not a typical Mummyblogger with young children or babies. Or because I have never gone looking for a review opportunity.

But seriously, can you blame bloggers for doing reviews when they are getting 50 emails a week offering free stuff? Particularly when many Mummybloggers are stay at home mums with a) time to blog and review and b) perhaps only one full time wage coming into the family. Can we blame bloggers for taking what is being offered?

There is a fair bit of co-dependency between bloggers and PR companies. Bloggers are sponsored by companies when they wish to go to a blogging conference (I have sadly not found a company willing to fly me over from Geneva to London for a conference) and in return mention the company on their blogs. I recall reading about a conference a while back where the bloggers were given bags and bags of goodies from companies hoping for a favourable write up.

Do take a moment to read the comments on Sian’s blog as there is a great debate going on, with companies and PR professionals adding their views. I was particularly interested in the comment the owner of a brand that targets the parenting market. They wrote that they are constantly inundated with freebie requests. Interestingly, when they did approach a blogger to ask her to do a review, they were surprised at the result:

 

Given that she is one of the biggest names in mummy blogging, I was stunned by how low the click-through rate was. The ROI was a tiny percentage of that from Adwords or other established marketing techniques.

 

Of course it is difficult to measure the success of a review, as the reader may not click straight through to Amazon and buy the item, and the review is another way of building brand awareness for the company. Still, it is something to be considered. As long as the brands and their PR feel that their product is benefiting from the reviews, they will continue to offer products to bloggers. If there is the feeling that it does not bring enough increased revenue, then the issue may well resolve itself.

 

What do you think?

 

Have you ever bought something because it was reviewed favourably on a blog? If yes, did you look for a blog that reviewed the product as you were interested in buying this product or did you discover the product when reading a blog that you subscribe to?

Do you put more faith in the review being truly independent and honest if the blogger did not receive the item free from the company?

22 Comments

  • helen

    hmm interesting article, I have to admit I am slightly jealous of bloggers that get sent cool kids stuff to try for free that I can’t afford but then I am neither a mummy blogger (and don’t ever intend to be) and I am not sure what products my blog could try anyway!!!

    As for what I think of bloggers writing about products they have not independently bought I just tend to ignore the review as part of me thinks how can you review something critically if it has been sent for free as if you reviewed things negatively PR companies would stop sending you stuff. Does that make sense?
    If there is a competition attached I am even more suspicious as that will of course draw readers to the blog so there is no way the blogger will give a negative review. Can you imagine, “this stuff is shite but you could win it for free!”

    I am about to review some items for a website, they were free but the majority are to be given back. It’s not me being actually sent the stuff it’s the website to which I have no real connection so I can say what I think about the product.

  • Kylie @kykaree

    I’ve been sent stuff twice, once baby toothpaste arising from the MAD Blog awards, and the second time a toy. The toy company ran a facebook competition.

    Despite my high readership, no one touches me with a barge pole as I write some tough stuff.

    And I don’t care. The only reason I have reviewed these two things are relevance. And I’m quite happy to do the odd review to break up the content on my blog which can be heavy going at times.

    But some blogs I just don’t read anymore as they just seem like advertising blogs to me.

    I have bought some cool pyjamas for Joseph based on a review. I do think reviews have their place, I have found lots of cool bespoke baby and toddler stuff through blogs, but if I am looking for a review of a product I go straight to bambino goodies, if your going to do blog reviews, do it right, and they are the experts.

  • Joanne Mallon

    Thank you so much for your kind words about my reviews. I always look at reviews before I buy things, I think that these days when we all have limited income, we think more carefully than ever about our purchasing decisions. And for example with Wii games, most of the mainstream reviewers will be 20something gamers, not always who the game is aimed at. I sit down with my family and play these games, so I hope the reader gets a sense of what the game has to offer their family, and they can make a more informed decision before they plunk down their £30(or not).

    One thing that’s very important to me is having something fresh to say, so I only tend to review things that aren’t on other blogs, and will steer clear of campaigns where 20 bloggers are reviewing the same thing.

    I think that what has changed now is there’s a sense that a parent blog *should* contain reviews, and that they will be of stuff sent by PRs rather than things you’ve bought yourself. It seems like many new bloggers see cosying up to PRs as part of the territory, which is a big shame.

    • mmelindor

      I guess that the reviews started when bloggers recommended items that they had bought themselves and it was seen to be an avenue worth exploring for brands and PR companies.

      There are very few parenting blogs that do not contain reviews, but if the bloggers are being contacted by PR companies, I can see why they would do it.

      Not just for the freebies, but also as it would be flattering to think that your blog is being taken seriously.

  • Robyn/Tee

    I do not rely on Blogger reviews as, so far as I am aware, they are paid for their reviews and are, therefore, not impartial.

    Paid for reviews are worthless. Who is going to tell the truth if they hate something if the company is paying for them? It’s why companies like Consumer Reports, in the US, do not take advertising. So they can be unbiased.

    I do know a few bloggers who put disclaimers (as you do, MmeL, I believe, when you review things) saying they are not being paid to review.

    I am much more likely to search Amazon directly and read customer reviews on there than I am to worry about what some blogger is paid to say.

  • Joanne Mallon

    Just to clarify Robyn/Tee – in general blog reviews are not paid for. If they are then this should be marked as “Sponsored post” and is similar to advertorial/advertising feature that you might see in magazines. I would never ask for or accept payment for a review as I value my independent voice.

    People do generally get to keep the item (though not always, sometimes it’s a loan and has to be sent back). Most people regard this as a freebie, though I don’t, I regard it as a tool with which to write the review and it definitely doesn’t sway my opinion. Reviews take a lot of time and energy to arrange, write and promote and if you value your time there’s nothing free about that.

    • mmelindor

      It is a fine line to walk. As Tee stated, a review that is sponsored (even if this means that the item need not be returned) is likely to be less honest than if the blogger had walked into a shop and plonked down their hard earned cash for the product.

      Yes, it is work to research and write the review but not all bloggers are as conscientious as you, Joanne. I have read reviews that have been hastily and badly written, and were not a good advertisment for the product.

      Then again, the PR companies have the choice of bloggers, and if they don’t bother to check the blog beforehand to ascertain if the blogger is good or not, then they deserve what they get.

    • Robyn/Tee

      I think it’s great that you are so conscientious Joanne, but I know for a fact not all bloggers are. And that some let the almighty cash sway what they will say.

      So to keep myself sane and not waste my time, I don’t go by bloggers reviews of stuff.

      As MmeL says, it’s a fine line.

  • Jennifer

    As a new blogger, I’ve been following this debate with interest. I don’t have any reviews on my blog, but I do discuss places that we’ve visted, and try and give tips for people that might be visiting themselves. It’s all things we’ve paid for ourselves though.

    Product reviews put me off a blog. The reason is that I’ve yet to read a negative review, so I can’t believe that a reviewer is being impartial. Although product reviews may raise awareness of new products or brands, if I was searching for reviews of a product I would not fully trust a blogger’s opinion.

    It’s a shame when you discover a promising new blog, and then suddenly they become all about product reviews and sponsored posts, and I lose interest. Especially when the products being reviewed are just not relevant to the content of the blog.

    I enjoy writing reviews, and like most parents we’ve spent a lot of money on baby and child equipment, some good and some bad. I’d like to honestly review some of the things that we’ve purchased to help others, but I worry that this would put people off my blog because they will assume if it’s a good review that we got the item for free. It’s a shame, because honest and impartial reviews of childcare products are something which I think many parents would be interested to read.

    • mmelindor

      Yes, I agree that it is tricky. To be honest, any reviews that I had done (and I have never been paid for them) were positive. So perhaps it would appear that I were being dishonest. If I review a product or recommend a place, then it is due to my liking of it. I don’t use my blog to criticise product that I disliked.

      I do find it hard to believe that a blogger who reviews dozens of items a month would like each and every single one of them.

  • Mrs B @ crankymonkeys in london

    I have never read a negative review of something that had been sent to a blogger. That tells me these reviews are never impartial.

    I would love to get stuff to review myself but I’m not interested in reviewing toys or baby products so that probably takes me out of the main loop straight away. It seems that only Dulwich Mom gets make-up products sent to her 🙂

    When I started blogging a LONG time ago (note the all caps to make sure you notice how important I am 😉 ), there were no reviews and no Klout and no Tots100 and no Twitter/Facebook competitions and the blogworld was fun.

    Now it’s all about free stuff and 99% of the time I don’t participate in any competitions, especially if they want me to follow them on Twitter, retweet their message a 100times, like them on FB and so on. I’d be happy to participate if all they wanted was a comment…

    Anyway, let’s just keep writing about stuff that is going on in our lives and that interests us – that way we can all just enjoy the social part of blogging! 😀

    • mmelindor

      Good point about the competitions. It is all about promoting the blog, and lets face it: that is the least exciting bit about blogging. I do think that some bloggers spend more time doing that and less on constructing good and interesting blog posts. And it shows.

  • Simple Miss P

    Interesting post but you know what? If I go to have a look at a new (to me) blog, and it is post after post of giveaways and reviews, I get straight out of there. I like to read peoples thoughts, ideas, tips for anything and everything, not their reviews. If I want a review of something I will look at the reviews on Amazon or on Ciao etc.

  • fiddlerintheloft

    I’m pretty new to the business of blog reviews so your post was very enlightening. On the whole, I’m with Simple Miss P, I don’t generally bother going beyond the home page of the giveaways-and-reviews style blogs, just not what I’m looking for in a blog.

  • Michelle Twin Mum

    Thank you for the link love. I expect the only reason you have not been approached is because you are abroad.

    You are right it is tough to decide what to say yes or no to and some PR’s do not want to take no for an answer. I have to end up getting quite firm after a while.

    I commented above to the fact that I am always honest in my reviews, I tell the negatives as well as the positives because what is a down point for me will be the reverse for someone else.

    This has definately been an interesting debate moving accross the blogsphere.

    Cheers Mich x

  • Middle-aged Matron

    I’m like you. I don’t blame parents wanting to review products and if retailers are happy to send them out for that purpose then noone’s losing out, but I enjoy blogs for the glimpse into other people’s lives – like peeping through lighted windows from a passing train. I always click away if it turns out to be a product plug.

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