The New York Times runs a story about bloggers reviewing products, and the fact that this is a marketer’s dream. The article’s author, Pradnya Joshi, talks to both popular bloggers, Izea’s Ted Murphy, and the Federal Trade Commission who is looking into this form of paid reviews.
In the words of Joshi:
Marketing companies are keen to get their products into the hands of so-called influencers who have loyal online followings because the opinions of such consumers help products stand out amid the clutter, particularly in social media.
Bloggers are a soft target for PR agencies and manufacturers looking for non-ad mentions online. Some buy sponsored posts, while others rely only on their product and sends out samples. Either way, the idea is that bloggers aren’t as tuned to reviewing as professional journalists, hence you’re more likely to get a positive one.
I believe this is true, having worked as a games journalist for a long time and with thousands of reviews under my belt. I’ve seen sites pop up, getting free games to review, and being so giddy about it that they publish something positive. It usually happens when an inexperienced reviewer gets something for free to play with, the whole thing is flattering.
Or, in plain English: If you’re not used to doing reviews, you probably won’t be as critical as people doing it for a living.
That being said, I’m not sure it is such a bad thing. When I wrote a lot of reviews, I always dreaded to fall into that awful elitist jargon of the Big Boys. It gets to the head, being the one in power.
So marketers love getting amateur reviewers, being bloggers in this case, to write about their products. They’ll generally get a better result than with the regular press. This makes old media grumble, and there is a lot of talk about covert ads and whatnot.
However, in the end it is all about opinion. If the blogger is credible, I don’t care if he got the product for free or not. In fact, I’d like him (or her) to get more products for free so that I can read more reviews, since I’ve already established that I trust this person.
So yes, marketers are trying to use you, dear blogger. As long as you know that, it is all in your hands. You can be a puppet, or you can have integrity. It is your call.
Thord Daniel Hedengren is a designer, writer, and blogger, and also the former editor of The Blog Herald. He used to be a hotshot in the gaming industry in Sweden, but sold everything and went International. Most recently he wrote a book called Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog, and does loads of kickass design.