You know how sometimes things come back to bite you in the butt? It just happened to me.
Recently I wrote a piece about accepting a free water purifier. At the end, I pointed to Katie’s Nesting Spot, where Katie wrote a long, enthusiastic post about the pitcher and offered it as a giveaway. I wanted to show that even though I was not willing to do this, hundreds of other bloggers were, and here was a good example.
Being new to blogging, I forgot that Katie could see where her hits were coming from. After a few days, she sent a comment to the blog post:
“I have been watching this comment thread with some interest. I have to say that I do not consider the pitcher a freebie. I consider it a form of payment for the PR post I wrote and giveaway I managed. I consider it along the lines of an advertisement, and unlike ad buttons this one wasn’t up front and center for an extended period of time.
“As one of your readers pointed out, I did clearly state that I was given the pitcher to review and that the opinions I gave were uninfluenced by the sponsor. In fact, I was told to post whatever I wanted even it was negative. No parameters were put on the content.
“I have turned down several compensated posts and review offers because they are not something I would really use or are not appropriate for my family. In terms of review blogs I am very, very, small potatoes so I was rather shocked to be “called out” on this. My blog is not even primarily reviews. If you had a problem with my post, you should see what some of the bigger blogs put out. I always add some personalization to my posts, but a lot are straight from the PR materials.
“It seems to me from your replies that you did not even bother to read the full post and to the bottom before deciding to criticize it and by extention me. Are you opposed to all sponsored reviews by bloggers? What is it specifically about mine that you picked it out of 4000 to “spotlight”, a dubious honor for certain.”
Gulp. I decided her response was important enough to make it a separate post. It made me realize I applied my journalism standards to a mommy blogger who liked telling her readers about products she believed in. Now I’m struggling with whether to feel bad. She’s a kindergarten teacher who does crafts projects, after all, not a hard-boiled reporter.
She got the pitcher from a website called The Product Review Place, where bloggers put up notices asking for free products to review and give away. The problem is that bloggers tend to write super enthusiastic reviews in exchange, even when not asked to do so (clearly spelled out in a disclaimer on Katie’s blog).
In print, advertorials are in special advertising sections, designated as such at the top, and never written by staff writers. While designed to mimic a publication’s editorial style, content and layout, they are clearly separate and do not reflect endorsement by the publication.
When Katie says above she considers her endorsement like an ad, yep, that’s exactly what it is. But it’s in her blog, as editorial.
The other reason I chose Katie’s post was it came up easily in Google. Apparently she’s a master at crafting headlines that rise high in the search engine.
So readers, am I being to harsh in applying my journalism standards to Katie’s blog? Let me have it, pros and cons.