Should bloggers be paid for product reviews?

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015
As a blogger and a person who works with bloggers, I have lots of insight and opinions on the blogging industry.

I  spend several hours each week doing social media, blog outreach for beauty companies, and blogging on my own, I have come across from all different types of bloggers. First off, I am a blogger.  I have had a very successful green beauty blog for nearly 8 years.  I also blog for other companies.

I would consider myself a pro-blogger.  I have consulted with dozens of bloggers on how to improve and monetize their blogs.  I have been interviewed and featured in multiple publications for my blogging. My blog has provided me with tremendous career growth.  It is BECAUSE of this blog that I have landed writing jobs for publications such as USA Today, was introduced to JamberryNails, and met the amazing folks at a body care brand I blog and do social media for. I have made numerous professional contacts through this blog.

I want to talk about money and blog reviews today. It's been on my mind.

If you are not a blogger, you may not realize that popular bloggers receive up to several thousands of dollars per year in free full-sized products. I receive at least a dozen pitches daily from brands wanting me to review their products or host a giveaway.

Then we receive advertising requests, are members of affiliate networks, get invited to swanky events, are often provided with free services, etc.

I have had a winter coat custom made for me just for the mention on my blog. I got my brows shaped and waxed at a local brow salon for a post about brow sculpting, and have been invited to some really great blogger functions. I've received free dresses, jewelry and nail services in Los Angeles (which I gave to a friend in the area). I've been invited to lunch with company owners and receive Christmas gifts from PR firms. I've been able to try expensive gizmos I would not have purchased on my own.

There truly are some great perks to being a top tier beauty blogger.

There is a line, however, that must NOT be crossed.  A blogger loses all credibility when she begins selling reviews.

I remember being more than just a bit offended not long ago by a PR rep from a high end beauty brand.  I was offered several skin care products to try, but the brand uses parabens and test on animals.  I kindly replied that I was uninterested in doing a review because of the ingredients and animal cruelty issues. The PR rep actually wrote back and asked me if I would reconsidering doing a "pleasant review" for a payment of $150 via Paypal.

I was left in shock. My opinions cannot be bought. Nor should yours.

Another time, while doing blog outreach for a company, I offered to have 3 full sized products sent to the blogger with the possibility of doing a review.  She responded that she expected payment in order to write the review.  When I gently explained that she would be receiving multiple full-sized products at no cost, she had a virtual tantrum via email about how hard bloggers work and how hard it is to write up a review, so bloggers deserve to be paid to do them.

First of all, from the stand point of a business, a reputable business should NOT buy a review. I believe this to be unethical. If you owned a business, suppose you sent someone $75 and they posted all over the Internet how horrible your eyeshadow was? Would it have been worth it?

Bloggers are beginning to see that money can be made. And many are taking shortcuts and doing whatever they can to make an extra buck.  It gives reputable, fair, and legitimate bloggers a bad reputation. This is only a growing problem.  There are websites out there promising bloggers "between $20 and $200 for each product review."

There is a line here and it is clear.  Everyone wants to be paid fairly. I am not saying one shouldn't make money off of their blog. I do via affiliate ads (which are fully disclosed) and side column advertising.  I have received $50 and free tequila for a sponsored post from a tequila company.

Product reviews are different. Reviews are personal and they need to be candid and truly honest. Being paid in addition to receiving lots of freebies crosses that line of ethical vs. unethical.

But wait! It takes time and effort to do each review!

This is a common argument. Yes, it takes time and effort for a review. I test skin care products, for example, for weeks to be sure they deliver promised results.  Sometimes I have a reaction and have to stop using something and end up with 3 days of blotchiness and Benadryl to cure the effects. Then there is the nitty-gritty of sitting at the computer to put my thoughts in order.  Each review takes about an hour of my time. Then I need to photograph the product or make a fun collage via PicMonkey or Polyvore. My time IS valuable. I am a mom and I work and it seemss I am always on a deadline.

However, haven't I already been paid by receiving a $40 cleanser or $70 serum? Or box full of hair care? Or a new dress? Or shoes?

Accepting cash, or even worse-- DEMANDING it -- is wrong. Plain and simple. A reputable business will never offer you cash in exchange for a positive review. And a reputable blogger will never accept it.

What do you think? Should bloggers get paid in exchange for a good review?