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January 31, 2008

Comments

Kristen

I am really ticked by that article. While I don't disclose freebies, I DO blog about freebies that suck, and I DO frequently choose not to post about products that are mediocre. I said as much to the reporter, in no uncertain terms, but of course I was made out to be the blogger "who won't bite the hand that gives them perfume." Ugh. I'm regretting ever being interviewed for it.

Jackie Danicki

Much more interesting would have been an article about how the entire beauty press is run on freebies, including ad buys. I mean, when you open a magazine and all the ads are bought by (for example) L'Oreal-owned companies (does the average reader know how many brands are owned by L'Oreal?) and all the editorial is stuffed with positive reviews of those brands...Isn't that more intriguing and doesn't it have a bigger impact?

Kristen

Totally agree. The article as it was written doesn't have much of an impact at all, other than portraying bloggers as a greedy bunch who are rejoicing because they no longer have to "beg for products." I never once begged for products, and I'm betting the same can be said for you. The whole thing just came off very petty.

When I agreed to do the interview it seemed that the piece was going to be about how beauty companies and agencies are recognizing the increasing influence of bloggers. Even that would have been more interesting and impactful than what it turned out to be.

You bring up an interesting point about a potential piece on the influence of ad dollars on editorial. It would be great, but who would run it? Even the Times takes a hefty sum from the beauty companies.

Jackie Danicki

Yeah, just to confirm: I have never begged for products. Indeed, the volume of products that arrives on a weekly basis has become a bit of a problem for me. It's certainly jaded me a bit toward all products, because I see just how many are utterly mediocre and how few are really worth the big money being asked for them.

Kristen

Regarding the volume of products I will say this: there are several shelters in my area where the women now have really great hair, makeup and skin. :)

Jackie Danicki

It does beg the question, though: Why not disclose? Not to do so is to give critics a stick with which to beat you. There is nothing worth hiding, is there?

Kristen

Nothing worth hiding, I just think at this point it's assumed that some things come from PR.

I've been slammed for positive reviews of things that I bought myself (one person even went so far as to accuse me of being employed by Smashbox), and slammed for negative reviews of products that were PR samples (ironically, also a Smashbox product). But it doesn't happen too often. If I started seeing more comments from readers questioning my credibility, I'd consider regular disclosure of samples. But as it stands now, there's really not enough noise for me to consider doing it.

Personal preference, I suppose. I couldn't give a hoot whether you tell me something was free or not - I trust your opinion anyway. Some other blogs, not so much. I like to think I know honesty when I see it.

Either way, it's a touchy subject and the Times article did nothing but make it more so.

Also: this discussion is fun. Let me know when you're in NY, would love to meet up sometime.

Joy

I'd guess that a lot of the beauty bloggers are "hobbyist" writers and have no idea that freebies should be disclosed. Or that a rewritten press release does no a "review" make.

Once the swag comes rolling in, it's really hard to stop accepting it.

Jackie Danicki

Joy, do you speak from experience? I'm curious to hear from those who have it (and am not dismissive of your comment if you don't).

Frankly, I don't know who would read or link to a blog that just regurgitated press releases or only wrote fawning, adoring product reviews. If I wanted that, I'd buy a magazine.

Mikaela

This article seems to have everyone up in arms, and rightly so...

There is nothing worse than the sites who just do the constant press releases, I'm sorry - I only write about products I truly use and love.

Jaime

I would say the article was just a little too much anecdote, not enough research. I have worked tirelessly to keep my blog active and fresh. When I do get product, it's because I reach out to companies. Believe it or not, I consider that work. It's my job to follow-up with companies and p.r. folks.
Here's another point to consider:
It's a free country ... I can buy what I want and write about it if I want. A company can choose to NOT send out product, but I don't think they can stop me or anyone else from walking into a store, buying anything and writing about it. I could blog about orange juice if I wanted to -- and wouldn't it seem dumb to blog about OJ if I didn't try it first?
I don't see any harm in beauty bloggers. After all, we're talking about lip gloss and hairspray -- not heart medicine.

Christine

When it comes to disclosure, I think it is important to note it, but at the same time, it can definitely inspire jealousies and a backlash of its own [as I have experienced in the past].

I think the biggest discrepancy that distinguishes any free goodies bloggers receive vs. a magazine is that the majority of bloggers are running advertisements that have nothing to do with what they receive. It isn't like Y brand who may buy ad space in X Magazine, and thus there is pressure to portray Y products in a good light. I know for my blog that advertising pressure does not exist whatsoever. I feel completely entitled to skip a product, review it honestly, or love it if I indeed do.

I sort of feel that the advertising revenue magazines get from the very beauty brands they review is a link people may not see in relation to the article when thinking about bloggers.

Searchie

This morning while I was home, sick in bed, perusing an actual dead-tree copy of the NYT, I took particular note of this article. Jack & Hill is one of the few beauty blogs I read, primarily because both writers routinely disclose the source of the products they review. (And the writing is intelligent and informative, of course.)

I have a slightly different experience with beauty swag, which I think illustrates at least part of this dilemma. I have taught and written about makeup application for blind women for many years. My classes have been conducted primarily in the United States and throughout Eastern and Central Europe.

Throughout the years, I have approached cosmetics manufacturers about providing free samples for my classes, since instruction works best when each woman has her own full set of unused cosmetics in her workspace.

I have been routinely turned down. Each time, I have purchased my own makeup for these classes, at sometimes considerable expense.

All that swag ... so little charity.

Gaia, the Non-Blonde

I considered posting something on my blog, but then decided the whole thing just isn't worth it. I don't even take ads and lately I've been refusing almost as many offers for free products as the ones I'm accepting, because they either don't interest me or I feel they don't fit in with my personal style and the blog's.

While I don't put a disclaimer on every freebie, because sometimes I feel it can be distracting. But I don't conceal the freebie issue, either. I still buy most of the products that I review, and a large part of what I'm sent ends up being donated to those who are not as fortunate and can't afford purchasing it.

I fully agree with you that an investigating piece about the influence advertisers have on editorials. That would be much braver journalism.

em

Jackie, I read a ton of beauty blogs and you're the only writer who consistently mentions that something was sent to you rather than purchased. I believe it's a cop out for a blogger to say that "everybody knows" something was a gift--readers aren't that discerning. Especially after this NYT article, it's disingenuous for bloggers to continue omitting this information from reviews.

I found the indignant response from various bloggers hilarious.OF COURSE they're swag whores. They need to own up. One blogger who went on the recent Lancome trip has featured nothing but Lancome crap since she got back. Huh. Wonder why?

Christine

I for one don't always mention that a product I'm reviewing is a freebie, but I do mention on occasion that I was approached or sent a product. I had been debating prior to this article about whether I should disclose always, and I'll probably decide about that soon. In large part I haven't done this in the past because I don't want it to interrupt the "flow" of my review, though I'll likely just post a small disclaimer at the bottom of the post to prevent this issue.

I have tried to post both positive and negative reviews, I even review those "ok" products that I'm not a big fan of, if only to save a reader money. I try very hard to post only very in-depth reviews, focusing on both my experience with the product and the science behind the product. For products that I don't like at all I may not say "I hated this product", but I do point out both the good and bad points of the product, allowing the reader to come up with their own decision.

As for the assertion that we're all "swag whores" there probably is an element of truth to that. However we are also providing a service to these companies, and if they want to spend $30 to get it by sending a few products my way, then that's the trade off. I don't get paid by them, I usually get small samples of products not hundreds of dollars worth of a line (my sample of Lancome's Pixel Pink lipstick was not enough to cover my entire lips once, so I couldn't even really take a picture for a review!).

What I don't use goes to friends/family. There has not been any left over to donate to a shelter because I only accept items I know I want to try or my readers will want to read about. I say no to over half of the PR requests I get, and I buy a lot of items on my own. My husband added it up, I have spent about twice as much buying products to review this year as I spent buying myself items in the year prior to the blog.

I have never "begged" for products, more often than not I write a company and ask for a PR release. I just want the info they're releasing, and I usually either have already purchased the product or sampled it in the store. I just want the Press Release and maybe some images.

I hope this long comment makes some sense (I just came home from a 24 hour shift at my "real" job in a hospital). I can just say that there was some truth in that NY Times article, but many aspects were not entirely truthful or were very skewed.

I'm leaning towards adding those disclaimers, by the way.

Jackie Danicki

However we are also providing a service to these companies

I think you mean something slightly different than what you said here - I'm assuming you intended to say that the companies benefit from our reviews. Which is true. But "providing a service" implies a client/contractor relationship, which is simply not there for me (I can only speak for myself).

One point missed completely by the NYT is how search engines have made this such a big deal. If you do a search for certain products, this and other blogs often come first in the rankings ahead of the official corporate sites. (Search engine algorithms change all the time, but the rankings issue has been in play ever since we started this blog.)

MJ

Searchie - love your blog.

Em - I noticed that too, 24/7 uncritical coverage of the L.

Jackie - the reason I read you so often is that you are so honest and critical when criticism is called for. I appreciate that. Hey, anyone who is a fan of Paula Begoun can't be a "sample whore" because if you like her brand of honesty and cost/benefit analysis, you could not also be a mindless shill for the overpriced and lousy.

Keep up the honesty!

Christine

Jackie-
You are right, I intend to imply that the companies benefit from our reviews. I think my long night at work is showing, time for a nap!

I for one have no contracts, and I would hope that none exist out there in the blogging world. I do have several companies with which I have a close relationship. However, despite my close relationship with these companies (which even resulted in a weekly feature for one company) I have published less than glowing reviews of their products on occasion, and I frequently purchase their products on my own to review rather than asking for freebies.

Kristen

Jackie - I like that you bring up the point about the search engines. I spent a few minutes talking to the Times reporter about exactly that. I wish that aspect had been included in the piece...it's a lot more interesting (to me at least) than what was printed!

txteva

If a company sends something uninspiring and boring then, don't blog about it.
If its great- tell us!
If its awful- tell us... doesn't have to say "omg this was soo awful" but I'd rather see the odd bad review too...

I assumed a lot of the bloggers got freebies *tempted to be a beauty blogger now*, same as Clarkson & Hammond don't actually pay to hire cars...
I wouldn't want a blogger to say some thing was great when it wasn't- thats betraying the trust of ones readers...
And I wouldn't want a blogger to say they'd brought something that was a freebie either... but I dont think its needed to say what was brought and what was swag (but it think its nice to know.)
And I'd love to see a "OMG look at the huge swag bag xxx company just sent me!" post, cause we all love to see a bit mof MU p0rn (as the MUA girls call it)

eye4style

As a blogger and a publicist (yes, double agent over here!), I really see both sides of this issue.

Jackie, you have reviewed a skincare client of my agency on this site and thankfully, your review was honest and POSITIVE!

However, many bloggers that my agency works with (and we reach out to a lot...since I am a blogger, I really believe in the power and voice of blogs) are not so honest - some do regurgitate press releases all day long and others do abuse the sample process, repeatedly requesting expensive items and then not responding to follow up emails from my colleagues and of course, never writing a review of the product, be it good or bad.

However, I did feel that the blogs that Kayleen chose to feature for this piece (and make no mistake about it, she knows swag as she's the Grooming contact at Details)are overwhelmingly honest in their reviews and professional in their dealings with publicists. If she wanted to do an expose, I really wish she had researched and dug quite a bit more and found the appropriate blogs to "expose."

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  • What do you get when you throw a true beauty obsessive in New York together with a veteran beauty journalist in LA? Not much room on the bathroom shelves, that's for sure. Make-up, hair products, skincare, perfume, salons, spas, luxury hotels with toiletries and treatments that make us never want to go home - if we've left anything out, you can pry our mirrors from our cold, dead, perfectly manicured hands.
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