June 11, 2010

Still selling out, still buying in.

A few months ago, I was digging through my archives searching for something when I came across an entry about our trip to Vegas last year where I wrote glowingly about the Kids Fly Safe seatbelt system.  I did not even think twice about linking to it - after all, I had paid $75 for each seatbelt thingie, so why would I not talk about it?  The system was awesome and allowed us to shoot into Vegas without lugging carseats (we rented them from the rental car company - one of my top travel tips for flying with kids!)

However, after all of the hoopla these past few months about disclosures and how the greedy, grabby mommyblogging community whores itself out for free stuff , I cringe when I read old posts because I wonder if folks even realize that my site includes virtually no free stuff - I believe I did receive a free book while cooking up the Fetus Formerly Known as the Freeloader (aka Arun).  But I do not remember if I disclosed that I had received the $15 book for free.  I know, I am such a whore, right? 

In all seriousness, I have been blogging for nearly 6 years now and have had no problems with linking to folks left and right for free, for products which I willingly forked over my grubby cash.  I consider it the same as having a conversation with friends and we are just comparing our experiences with various products, right?  I do not mind reading about your experiences, so why should I not write about mine?

When I signed up with BlogHer Ads in 2008, I created a review site, Queen of the Free Bees,  specifically for all of the free shit that I anticipated swelling my mailbox.  You see, in 2008 I had made the explicit decision to open myself up for business.  And then, I quickly realized the dark side of freebies.  Things piled up - DVDs to watch, then write about.  Books to read, then write about.  I could not keep up with it and so, I backed down - I have not done a review since last October.

I do plow through a limited number of PR pitches, link requests.  My inbox is by no means flooded, but as a small business owner myself (Foreboding sense of forthcoming shill..... get your gift cards at Snapgifts.com, folks!), I do consider pitches carefully because often, they are sent by real folks actually hitting the "send" button.  Also?  Getting links is serious business and damn y'all, it is a hard knock life out there to get them. 

Last year, the folks at Garage Sale Tracker approached me about mentioning their site - at the time, I declined because the site had very limited results when I looked at it.  Last year?  The site was not useful.  This year?  The site is now useful, with more data and even an iPhone app.  I don't mind throwing out a link for them, uncompensated.  It took me all of 3 minutes to include this paragraph.  And most important of all, the guy who contacted me last year, contacted me this year pointing out their expanded offerings.  He did his homework and actually followed up with knowledge of why I had declined them last year.  Dude, you get an "A" for Effort on that one.

A few weeks back I was contacted about Tire Safety Week and was asked if I minded linking to a Tire Saving Tips page on Michelin - again, uncompensated.  Not a penny towards me.  Why would I bother including something about tire safety?  Because I believe it is important and useful - as the Road Trip season is upon us, tire safety is something that we should remind ourselves about, no?  And typing this took me all of 2 minutes.

And most importantly?  Both of the folks contacting me did prompt, polite, thoughtful follow-up and they knew what they were talking about. 


Recently, I did receive two review offers that piqued my interest - products which I will receive for free.  One is for a DVD - a movie adaptation of a book I recently read, one that is part of a series.  I really want to see the movie before I continue reading the rest of the book series, so I thought it would be fun, even useful for me.  The other offer was for hosting a cooking party - the materials are covered and some of the side dishes are provided by the sponsor company.  Cooking food from fresh ingredients, from scratch is a hot topic for me right now - the opportunity to host a party for my friends and teach them two of my favorite dishes was simply not one that I was willing to pass on.

This post really has no point.  Throughout the year, I muse on whether I should continue to do ads.  I reflect on what my goals are with Rancid Raves and if it is filling my needs or not.  For now, I like the status quo and have decided to not change a thing.  Ads are still up, full feeds are still pumping and I will continue to selectively open myself up for reviews every now and then.    And even if I decide to pull ads, I will still always maintain a review site. 

Do you care about reviews?  Are you irritated by review sites or do you wish it was all on a single site? Do you view links on sites with suspicion or am I the only rube out here? 


Average Jane said...

I got an e-mail today offering me the chance to meet Jewel when she's in town next week, which couldn't be more random. I had plans that day already, so it was a no-go no matter what.

CPA Mom said...

I often wonder the same - why people read my review site - is it just for freebies?

stephanie said...

My understanding is that you only have to disclose when you ARE paid to review something or receive the reviewed item for free/discount, not that you have to disclose when you pay for something with your own precious money. I assume that unless otherwise noted, people pay for things they blog about themselves. My lord, could you imagine if you had to put in a disclaimer any time you mentioned any product or event ever? No one would want to read anything anymore!

I generally do not seek out or click through to review sites. I have no problem if someone puts a review on their main site... I generally just skip that post anyway unless it is something that actually interests me (which usually isn't the case). If reviews start outweighing original content, then I probably will stop reading, but only because it means the person isn't writing about things I find interesting anymore.

meno said...

I am not very interested in reviews, as long as they are not the sole reason for your blog, which they are not. But i have stopped reading sites that do only or mostly reviews.

Christine said...

If you mention a product, either here or on the review site, I'm likely to look into it. If you were sitting at my kitchen table and mentioned something you liked, I'd check it out. Reviews for me are more about the person behind them. If I have no relationship with the writer and the blog is mostly reviews, I'm out.

There's one writer I've pretty much dropped in irritation. Her reviews I could handle, mainly because I read one that was obviously such crap it was funny (do the reviews have to be positive?), but the constant begging for free stuff got offensive.

Jane said...

How did you open yourself up to getting companies sending you free stuff to review? Since I only work part time now I have left Uni (no student loans) I could do with extra cash and I have a lot of spare time.

Review websites, I like the fact that there are a lot out there because some I like yet some I dislike. I like being given the choice.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

I probably phrased that awkwardly - I did not specifically go looking for relationships with PR agencies, but I did realize that if any came to me looking, I would be willing to consider it. And to be sure, there were no PR agencies waiting breathlessly for me to even open the doors. Heh.

Unfortunately, I have no advice for how one goes looking for those relationships. Gulp. Sorry. If you know any folks or have friends who are serious about the review business, I would approach them for tips. :-) They would be far more helpful than I would be, since I think my review site is proof positive I have been not been serious about this.