Blogger blackmail or blagger blunder?

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Today in “things that depress me”:

One of the biggest points being made on Twitter is that bloggers don’t get stuff for free, but are working for their reviews. I wholeheartedly agree. There is nothing wrong with a blogger being compensated for their work through an experience, goods or money. That doesn’t make them a blagger as some would suggest.

This is Ryan Wenstrup-Moore, a social media manager at Equator, writing about “blogger outreach” and #bloggerblackmail.

Trading goods for coverage is something journalism has tried to avoid for years (but which has happened), but seeing it so normalised in blogging is rather dispiriting.

This is from the blogger in question, defending her actions:

In return for the time it takes to attend a blogger event at the restaurant and the subsequent blog write up, I usually receive a complimentary meal (which is usually pre-defined as a number of courses and drinks, say 3 courses with a bottle of wine), or a set of complimentary items from a brand.

The Shameless Reviewer

You might want to note that she reached out for a freebie to review, not the other way around:

I contacted a bakery in High Street Kensington a few months ago, to see if I might be able to engage with them as a blogger, come in and try the product, and write something about it on my blog.

You might want to note that standard journalistic practice for restaurant reviews is that the reviewer pays their way – and books under a pseudonym – to prevent bias and special treatment from the restaurant.

And this is the shop owner’s account of what happened:

She did come with a friend and introduced herself to our shop team who were just about to grab her little stash and offer her some drinks when she asks for 3 large boxes of Muffles, Marshmallows and Macarons, plus two drinks. That’s almost £100 worth of stuff!

It’s interesting that neither side see the readers and the information they receive as a key element in this transaction – and that’s what it is. Content for cookies.

Chasing the freebie

I suppose that this is an inevitable result of lifestyle bloggers getting so popular that brands want to court them with the same sorts of PR that journalists have often received. And then second and third tier bloggers follow up with more than an eye on the freebies they think they can earn. I note the blogger in question writes about:

London restaurants, bars, hotels, holiday destinations and luxury products.

Gosh. I wonder why she chose those?

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.