Do You Accept Products for Review?

Do you accept products for review on your blog? Do you think it is a bad practice?

The last couple of days I have had some interesting conversations with bloggers about what they should do when approached for product reviews, and also from bloggers wondering why they are overlooked by companies.

My conversations on the matter started when I wrote about the subject of approaching bloggers from the marketers perspective and linked to Chris Brogans “Is Your Blog for Rent” post.

In twitter direct messages and emails I got some immediate feedback. The reactions subsequently ranged from:

  • Free review items are bribes
  • This is damaging trust in all blogs
  • Google will ban you
  • It’s all good providing you provide clear disclosure
  • No disclosure necessary, how is it different from print and TV?
  • Where do I get me some of these freebies!?

Personally I think if you disclose how you came by the product and do not promise anything over and above trying it out, then everything is fine. I have been sent loads of stuff to review and most times I do review it on the most relevant blog I write on, but some products that I really like I might mention several times. This isn’t because I got it for free but because I really do like it. In fact the products I have mentioned the most (Macbook and Nokia N95) I paid for myself!

My reputation matters a lot to me, and I won’t risk it just for a free book or whatever. Accepting a product to review is not the same as promising to give a good review, nor is it a promise of any review whatsoever, but you should make that clear.

A fair review should not draw any attention from Google. It’s not a “paid” link, especially as many review items have to be returned. I think if they go to such extremes then they will finally have lost what little remaining trust they have with webmasters, but would probably have to rely on other webmasters snitching to do it anyway.

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So how do you get products to review? It helps if you have subscribers, reach or traffic, preferably all three. I write on quite a few high traffic blogs across everything from business, tech and blogging to photography, so it’s a little easier for me to get noticed. If companies are not approaching you then you need to approach them, but do your research. You will find their PR company is much more savvy and aware of bloggers than the company itself a lot of the time, but you would be surprised how many smart marketing people there are in even the most buttoned down companies. The best contacts are through twitter or friends of friends.

Even when you get the correct person and you have tons to offer, it doesn’t always work out. I asked the PR company for a particular popular small video camera for a review item when I was off to Chicago, they were eager until they found out I was based in the UK … even though I have tens of thousands of US-based readers combined. Sometimes you have to think “their loss” and move on. As it happens I was very happy with my n95 video performance ;)

Over to you, what do you think about bloggers being sent items for review? Would you do it or do you prefer to buy your review products? Please share in the comments …

View Comments (11)
  • I’m okay with bloggers being sent items for review. What’s important is that there is adequate disclosure of how a blogger came about with that particular item, and that the review is not biased toward the positive.

    Bloggers are mostly honest, I tend to think. Most would review products or services that they buy themselves. A few are sent freebies by companies or PR firms, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, unless there is an explicit agreement for the blogger to give a positive review instead of a candid one. There is, after all, still an issue in the blogosphere with paid reviews.

    I, personally, have received books, CDs, and other items for review. I haven’t always highlighted the positive things about those items and services, and I make it a point to disclose the fact that they were sent in. Some review items are a
    actually loaners (like laptops or such). And of course, no PR company has actually paid me to do a review.

    And – I always welcome invitations for food/restaurant reviews! Yum!

  • PS – even though I live in Southeast Asia, companies and PR firms have been more than happy to ship over books and other small items for review. No one has sent me electronic items, though. Probably too complicated.

  • No problem with it – as long as somewhere it’s mentioned that the product was a freebie.

    This puts blogs above MSM. Think newspapers and mags pay to send reporters on those fantasy trips? (or any trip for that matter) and then review?
    Sports writers have a feast at their disposal before during and after events.
    Books, CD’s, food, etc. all free to MSM. Morning TV has become one long informercial under the guise of “morning news.”

    Sure, if they offer (and they do) I’m accepting it as I would any other gift – except if I don’t like it, I don’t hesitate to say so.

  • Product reviews are certainly not paid links.

    If the product can help your readers, why not? I think all bloggers should start with the audience in mind.

    It is a disservice if you know how to help readers but fail to do it.

    But it’s important to be honest. I usually don’t write a bad review. Either good review or no review.

    At the end of the day, blog audience will know if you do that just for the sake promoting (and perhaps making money via affiliate commissions.)

  • I agree with Hendry. Your audience will know, from your past blogging, if the review is genuine or fake positive.

    You can also survey readers beforehand to learn if reviews will be beneficial for them.

    Several wholesalers advertise on one of my sites and the corresponding blog. I’m considering writing reviews, but if my readers don’t want it, I won’t start.

  • Very interesting topic. At one blog I work on we are almost treated as journalists and often get review samples from pr companies. Having said that, I bought my own iPhone so I feel I can be totally impartial – not that you can get a review iPhone anyway!

    Disclosure is key elsewhere, plus an understanding that you will do companies no facours just because they gave you something free.

  • I occassionally receive books for review. I try to remember to mention that in my blog posts, although looking back, I can be more diligent about that. I do feel like I am more critical of books that have been sent to me for the purpose of review.

    I also try to review it from the point of view of my audience (small business owners). I have reviewed books that I enjoyed, but have steered my readers to other books on the same subject that I thought were more appropriate.

    I also participate in BzzAgent ( word of mouth campaigns. I always state up front when I am reviewing a product through that program.

  • The top professional blogger from India Amit Agarwal survives on paid product reviews, most of them aren’t reviews at all. At times he would distribute free licenses so people don’t mind. But I don’t think he has the guts to openly say that the reviews are paid reviews, readers won’t take that nicely.

  • I think it is ok to get free products to review. I would love to do a few of those myself. I usually blog about my everyday products that I buy, but I would love to learn about and review some new products! After all, you have to know that product is there to buy it, and if someone approaches you with something new, why not give it a try!

  • I’ve been approached by so many brands to do a review on their products. Same as being turned down by many brands as well. I do accept reviews but I’d only review something I’d buy in the near future or that I believe my readers would to read about.

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