When is a blog post a sponsored post?

Hello. I’m keen to talk about sponsored posts and sponsored blog content.

But before I do I have a little announcement. It’s been two years since I started these Saturday blogging tips posts and it’s been fun rocking up here each weekend to share nuggets of information I’ve learned as I’ve stumbled my way through this blogging maze.

Today, however, will be my last “regular” Saturday blogging post.

That’s not to say I won’t pipe up here occasionally if there’s a burning blogging topic that I just need to download through my keyboard. I just won’t be doing it on a weekly basis.

Taking a break from regular weekend blogging gave me the perspective that I needed – and for 2013 my aim is to try and get more balance between my professional and family life. Would you believe, weekends away from the computer really help with that? Who knew?!

Anyhoo … thanks for the ride. Thanks for sharing your posts {final link below – feel free to add any posts about blogging from the last two months}. This archive of posts will always be here.

Sponsored posts

The Australian blogging industry has grown up a lot since I’ve been blogging here about blogging. There is SO much more information out there for new bloggers than there ever was.

I think an essential part of blogging and what makes this pioneering media industry so special is that we do share what we learn.

Maybe it’s because we’re inherently over-sharers, but in my {naive or just plain stupid} mind I like to think that the majority of bloggers are supportive of each other and how this industry is developing. And yes, it is an industry. A media industry.

Whether you make money because of your blog or whether you don’t, you are part of this new media industry.

It’s also a media landscape that is otherwise uncharted.

Yes, we have our US blogging friends to look to. Bloggers who are governed by disclosure laws.

We also have the traditional media’s code of ethics to look to. I’ve talked here before how toothless that actually is.

But that is all.

Except.

What we have is something bigger than any law. We have a collective of people who have personal ethics which they are more than willing to transfer across to the Blogosphere.

So, what has evolved over the last two years as more and more brands seek out bloggers with whom to work, is that those personal ethics have created the framework for an unofficial “code of conduct”.

The problem is when something is unofficial, the lines can – and do – get blurred.

There has been debate of late about what should be labeled a sponsored post and what shouldn’t be.

{For the record, in case you didn’t already know, I’m all for the sponsored post as a way for bloggers to make an income from their blog. Obviously ;) If you’re a regular here, you know that I publish them. They are also my main form of income.}

When is a blog post a sponsored post?

In a nutshell:

A sponsored post is a post where there has been a commercial transaction.

It is a post written and published because a brand or digital agency has paid the blogger a fee for that space.

It should be labelled as such at the top of the post – just like you would find in a magazine or newspaper. A magazine or newspaper might use the words, promotion, special feature or advertising feature. Whatever the words printed, it’s meant to indicate to the reader that this content has been paid for.

You will not find those same words on the editorial pages of magazines where beauty, fashion and lifestyle editors may have been gifted all manner of beautiful things. No, you won’t even see that disclosed at the bottom of an editorial page. The exception being travel pieces in some publications where you will see the words … “was a guest of” at the end of the piece.

Most bloggers will always disclose at the bottom of their posts if they’ve received for free a product mentioned in the post. If you receive unsolicited product you are never under any obligation to the PR company or brand to write about it. Yes, you should be fair about how you treat the product sent to you but you can politely let the PR company know that it’s not a fit for your blog’s readership if you can’t see anyway of ever featuring it. Some bloggers even send such product back – or offer to.

It is your choice. You use your blogging “news” sense to determine whether writing about that product is a good fit. This is exactly how journalists work – they don’t include something in a publication just because it’s been sent to them. Yes, it may trigger a story idea around the theme of that product but it won’t be a story just on that product.

What’s got worked up about all this?

I recently witnessed a fellow blogger be “shamed” by blog commenters into adding sponsored post at the top of a post she’d written that involved her writing about product she’d been given for free.

This blogger was not paid one cent to write the post.

Last time I checked, my bank manager would not accept a pair of shoes or frock in exchange for this months’ mortgage payment. Don’t think my local supermarket would want a set of nail colours in lieu of payment for groceries either.

If you are not earning income from the post via a brand or agency then it is NOT a sponsored post.

Simple.

Tips to remember:

1. Absolutely DO disclose. Every. Time. On every post.

2. Create a Disclosure Policy page on your blog if you don’t already have one.

3. All paid posts should be labelled at the top of your post as “sponsored”.

4. Disclose all gifted items featured – within or at the bottom of the post.

5. Never feel obligated to write about something just because it was sent to you.

What are your thoughts on on disclosure?

PS. Late last year I was interviewed for a podcast on the Australian Businesswomen’s Network. The topic was Building a Business Out of a Blog. You can listen in here.

———————————————————————————————————

Link up

I started this link-up because most of the stuff I learn about blogging comes from other bloggers. I didn’t want there to be any rules attached. I didn’t want you to feel obligated to write something about blogging every week. Just to throw in your two cents when you had something to say.

There are quite a few bloggers who have been consistent linkers here and I thank-you. You know who you are. You have so much to offer the Australian blogging community and I’m privileged that you’ve come back here every week to share what you’ve learned.

Remember to join in, just add your link below. The link needs to be to a post ABOUT BLOGGING (all others will be deleted). Please fill in the box where it says “name” like this: BLOG NAME: Blog post title. That way your blog gets a plug and if you include the title of your post, you’ll attract readers interested in the topic.


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  • GourmetGetaway

    I feel like I have come late to the party… you are just stopping your tips as I have found them. At least I have a wealth of information to go back to, thanks for sharing. It never occurred to me that receiving a product and using it in my story really isn’t a form of sponsorship, but I do agree.

  • Meaghan

    Thank you Nikki for writing about this topic. It’s been very insightful and helpful.

    I have a little blog myself that I keep predominately for my business. The intention is that people will read my blog and get a good idea of who I am, what I do and how I might be able to help them. My intention is also to inspire women to try different things and to show them that they don’t need to spend a lot of money to look and feel great.

    After reading through this article and all the comments, I am now wondering whether I should be mentioning that I was not gifted something. (ie that I bought it myself) – which is 99% of the case on my blog, at this stage. I’ve written about lots of products, clothes & various other items on my blog that I’ve seen or bought myself, thought it was great and wanted to share it. I’m a little concerned now, that people might think I am only writing about an item because I was paid to or gifted, when I haven’t been. I very much want people to trust, that what I write about is honest – particularly when many of my followers are also my clients. I’m sure the situation will get trickier if I start focusing on blogging for an income. Goodness, it’s all rather complex isn’t it.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      It is complex but my advice to you for what it’s worth is that you shouldn’t need to “declare” anything you’ve bought yourself. Just declare in some way if it’s been gifted.

  • http://twitter.com/healthyfamilyoz Nicola Conville

    Agree 100%. I don’t understand why readers of magazines accept this concept, but don’t when it comes to blogs?

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I don’t either Nicola – I certainly do when reading other blogs or online sites.

  • Brooke

    Hi, I am reading this with interest because I have a few opinions like everyone else. Having worked in PR land (i.e. sending the products) and then marketing land (i.e. being asked for products) my mind is a bit of a jumble when it comes to the issue of sponsorship. It comes down to this though – is a personal blog a magazine, and thus a media publication? Or is it a personal business?

    My most recent job was for a government. We were always approached by small community organisations and businesses for sponsorship. We had two types of sponsorship: Cash sponsorship, or sponsorship in kind. Cash is straightforward – we paid money and got our logo on footy jerseys etc. Sponsorship in kind was trickier – we would donate things like water bottles, stickers, tattoos, wristbands – all different kinds of things. In return, we expected similar treatment to cash sponsorship, depending on the value of the items we donated.

    When I was working in PR land, I send many products to a whole different bunch of publications. Now, here is where blogging businesses and journalism are fundamentally different: blogging is usually a sole person bizzo. Magazine and newspaper publishing is definitely not – as you know. Not only are they governed by the code of ethics (which you laugh off, but it is still relevant and applicable and at least *there*), but in order for words to be published in a mag or newspaper there are a myriad of approvals to go through – writing, edits, subs, LEGAL at times, etc. The person who has responsbility for the actual publication of the newspaper – i.e. the publisher and/or owner – is far removed from the people who write the articles.

    And that is where a magazine and a blog are different. On a blog you are accountable to YOU. It is your business. In a magazine, you are just another employee accountable to editor, editor in chief, publisher, owner.

    Magazine journos get sent products – YES, but there are a team of people who edit and review before publication. And that is what we regard as editorial integrity.

    (Not to mention, if a journo takes home those products for personal use they should be declaring the gifts for tax purposes, as should you as a blogger. Nothing is for free.)

    A blog doesn’t have that level of scrutiny or disclosure. In that sense, it is not a journalistic publication. It’s a small business. You are selling a product – your writing, and your ad space, your lifestyle – but it’s not a magazine, and you are not a journalist, and if you wrote something truly reprehensible on here, we couldn’t sling any of the journo code of ethics at you because in this space, you are not a journalist. You are running a business.

    (Being a personal blog, it may also be likely that you could make arguments as to things on here being your ‘opinion’ because it’s a personal website and blog, which I doubt many journos could get away with if they were hauled into court.)

    So the rules are different. I’m sorry, but they are.

    Anyhow, that just my take, which I know you don’t agree with.

    I will leave you with this though – you earn money through this blog based on TRUST. Your reader’s trust in your words. I advise you to listen to people who say put a disclaimer at the top. Me personally? I have stopped reading many blogs I liked because I got the whole way through a post and realised I was getting a bottle of shampoo or some such shoved down my throat. It guarantees an unfollow from me every time, WITHOUT FAIL.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I do put a disclaimer at the top for all things that I’m paid for. Gifted items are not payment – they’re not declarable as taxable items despite what you’ve written here. If they were I would stop accepting them as they do not pay the bills.
      I’m well aware of the trust factor being the big thing in building a blog and it is foremost in my mind with every product featured here – gifted, sponsored or not. And every day there’s a whole damn truckload of product featured here that is not gifted or sponsored because that’s the nature of what this blog is about. It is an advice driven online-magazine written by me.
      No, I don’t have an editor in place but I have strong ethics and a disclosure policy way and above any requirements in my former career.
      I respect that you’ve worked in PR and marketing but you have not worked in a commercial newsroom. Those editors who you think make things more ethical? They’re the ones asking you to be commercially considerate.
      It’s not as black and white as you make out – the scrutiny here is actually more acute BECAUSE it is just me – with one freelancer.
      And yes, this is a media publication. An independent media publication – just like an independent magazine.
      I’m guessing you’re not a reader here given your thoughts on “having a bottle of shampoo shoved down your throat” because if you were there would be not just shampoo in the mix, there’s be conditioner, hair treatment and styling product as well! I receive way more product than is blogged about in this space and I make editorial decisions daily as to what to include based on what I think is good and what I think my readers might think is good. Just the same way I did as a journalist.

  • http://kimbalikes.com Kim-Marie Williams

    I’m very new to the world of working with brands on my blog. With your position as industry guru, and also as someone I consider as a mentor, I am happy with your take on it, Nikki. Sponsored equals payment. Payment equals cash.

    Where I differ from you is that because I am a very small blog, I will do an entire post about a product I have been gifted – but only if it suits my blog and I like it and would repurchase with my own money. That is my personal guideline. Would I hand over cold hard cash for this product? Yes? Then I will write about it. Obvs, disclosure is included.

    My blog is called Kimba Likes because it’s about the things I like. My tag line is Family : Fashion : Frivolity. So, three products that I have done product review posts for (some not yet published) are a wine company (works for Frivolity), a toy (works for Family) and makeup (works for Fashion). I did not receive payment for these product reviews, but was happy to exchange a review post in exchange for the product. We got to choose the wine and the toy. In the first paragraph, I mention that I was lucky enough to be approached by X company who offered to send me X and here’s what I think about it blah blah blah.

    I am also a Brand Ambassador for Brown Sugar Clothing and I mention this in the first line and also at the top of the post under the Brown Sugar logo, I have the words BRAND AMBASSADOR plus a disclosure at the bottom that I am receiving product, both free and discounted, and a small payment. I hope this is the right approach.

    There are blurry lines, which we’re all working hard to define. I trust in “the vibe” of Australian blogging and believe that the majority of us are working hard to get it right.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I really do get where you’re coming from Kim-Marie – it was how I use to approach it too. The tipping point for me was when I started doing more sponsored posts. I looked at what I was doing and had to differentiate that (payment) from gifted. Otherwise the posts about gifted items were getting the same “value” from me as those brands paying me an income. So, that’s my advice to you … watch for that tipping point so you don’t lock yourself out of earning an income from your space. And yes, the vibe in Australian blogging is good – we are very lucky like that. x

  • http://twitter.com/TheSpringBlog Catherine

    Hi Nikki! I’m sorry to see this series end, but I know you’ll still be blogging about blogging in your regular schedule, and I’ll still love reading your bloggy posts!

    The way I look at it, a good blogger knows their reputation as a honest resource for their readers IS our stock in trade. So accepting a fee for promoting a produce we don’t truly believe in has a directly negative impact on future earnings. Now we’re smart cookies who know better than that… and I believe our readers appreciate that too. Which is why I’ve never had a problem with sponsored posts featuring on my blog or any of my other favourite sites around the web.

    Hope you have a wonderful week Nikki!

    x Catherine @ The Spring

    http://www.thespringblog.com/

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Yes, I will Catherine – and yes, I totally believe what you say. A good blogger does only promote products or services they believe in. x

  • http://twitter.com/memybestandI Me my best and I

    Nikki will totally miss your bloggy nuggest of gold but weekends are for living it large & family so go enjoy, you’ve earned it :)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks so much – yes, they are. It took taking time off to realise that. I also don’t get full chunks of time off during the year so this for me will be a way of achieving some balance.

  • angela

    I haven’t read the other blog so I can’t comment on that situation. But I’ve seen this issue come up before and I think sometimes bloggers can thumb their nose at what their readership wants because “it’s their blog and they wanted the item/needed the money”.

    Below is a run down of the issues I have seen play out time and time again on blogs:

    1. Bloggers get page views from readers and gains an influence amongst the blog readers

    2. Companies see this influence and send product to blogger in hopes they promote the item amongst their readership.

    3. Bloggers dedicate entire blog post to promoting product on their blog

    4. Blogger discloses at the end of post item was received for free or doesn’t advise at all.

    5. Blogger promotes things that don’t match their blogging voice ie a Soup Blender on a fashion blog.

    6. When blogger continues to do this the reader can feel blogger is inauthentic stops reading the blog and the influence of the blogger decreases.

    I don’t begrudge bloggers receiving free items or getting paid to blog but I think bloggers need to work to be transparent that the item was in fact free at the beginning of the blog so readers can read the blog post with the proper critical thinking skills required. If the blogger wants to make money from their blog and keep their readership numbers high they should think of their blog as a business and consider the wishes of their customers in how they would like things disclosed.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Angela, very wise words indeed. A big thing you’ve mentioned here is the dedication of a entire blog post to a free item. This is something I have an editorial policy of never doing – otherwise what’s the difference to a brand between that and a sponsored post. If a brand wants dedicated space on my blog then it has to be paid for. And it will be disclosed at the beginning of the post.

  • Annabel Candy

    Hi Nikki,

    Your incredible posting schedule has inspired me. I’ll miss your blogging posts but I completely understand you need a wee break at the weekends. I hope you get it and if ever you have any bloggy tips to share you are welcome on Successful Blogging anytime.. in the unlikely event that you have any time of course ;)

    I know you’ll keep inspiring me with your work ethic even if you’re not posting at weekends and thank you for sharing your blogging tips so generously over the years.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks Annabel. I needed to break from the crazy schedule to see how crazy it was. If I’m to write more, I’m better off scheduling it during the week – or applying more time to the mid-week posts. x

  • Stacey

    I was witness to the fallout to the original post on Dani’s blog and while I definitely don’t think she needed to add that it was a sponsored post (because it wasn’t), I’ve been wondering why it got the reaction it did. I read many blogs who have both gifted and sponsored content – sometimes this is done really well and sometimes it leaves a little be desired. It’s not a criticism by any means, some just do it better than others, much like blogging itself.

    The thing about the post in question that sets it apart from other posts where something has been gifted and disclosed (like many posts on Styling You), is that even though it wasn’t a sponsored post it was written like it was a sponsored post. It just felt contrived.

    This isn’t a criticism of Dani or her blog. I’ve been a long time reader and it’s been amazing to see where she’s come from. I think blogs which are hovering in this strange place between blog and business are going to find that these are the challenges they have to navigate in order to do this in a way that retains their readers that have been around from the very start.

    So if you’re going to write about a product you’ve been gifted, talk about the product. Talk about what you liked about it, talk about what your readers might like about it. Don’t feel the need to construct a story around the product. We’re used to that – but it happens in a sponsored post and doesn’t necessarily need to occur when the product has been gifted.

    The other thing I will point out is that even though products are gifted and written about on blogs, the posts which I appreciate, seek out and read regarding gifted content have one thing in common. The product or service fits the readership of the blog and it aligns with the blog brand. Blogs which are still in the blog to business transition phase may find this more challenging because they are still defining who they are and what their blog stands for.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Stacey, I thank you for this comment. I think this really does get to the crux of the issue and perhaps helps to understand why there was such a reaction. Finding your voice as a blogger is something that evolves. And there’s a fair chance that the blogger will also evolve as the voice does. Choosing what you write about – sponsored, gifted or not – is very much at the heart of your blog’s voice. And something we all have to me mindful of at all times. It doesn’t mean we’ll get perfect at this but it does mean we’ll can always strive to make content decisions for the betterment of our blog.

  • Di @ Max The Unicorn

    I’ve actually recently googled what constitutes a sponsored post as I’ve been wondering what the exact definition is, so this post is very helpful, thank so much for writing it. I always disclose under the post when I’m given a product for review, but wasn’t sure if this meant it was sponsored – had a feeling it was only if I was paid in money for a post and relieved I was correct. Glad I haven’t done anything wrong (I’m still learning!). Thanks Nikki :)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      It’s so tricky Di as there aren’t any actual rules about this in Australia.

  • http://www.ledelicieux.com/ Jennifer @ Delicieux

    Sad to see this is the last blogging post Nikki, but I completely understand why. I’ve recently started taking a bit of time off from blogging and it’s really helped. It’s important we disconnect from time to time.

    Totally agree with the sponsored post. Don’t agree with the suggestion of putting a disclaimer at the top of a post where a gifted item might be mentioned if the subject of the post is not dedicated to the item. I think a note at the bottom should suffice. If the subject of the post though is just about the item then I tend to see the point from a readers point of view that it should disclosed at the top.

    I find it a little disappointing that bloggers are being held to stricter standards than professional journalists. Equally disappointing though is seeing bloggers who don’t disclose sponsored posts or gifts, but thankfully those are few and far between.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Having good breaks does really help – makes for better content on other days, I think. And yes, seems crazy that we are held to stricter standards than journalists but I’m very impressed that most bloggers uphold those standards.

  • http://www.singularinsanity.com/ Dorothy @ Singular Insanity

    Couldn’t agree more. Whenever I write a review post, I always say so in the title and first sentence is that I received something for free. Sponsored = payment. A bottle of shampoo is not payment, neither is a child restraint or tyres. I find it disappointing that there are still bloggers out there that don’t disclose and give the rest of us a bad name.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I think, considering there are no rules around this, that most bloggers in Australia do disclose very well Dorothy I think that’s an indication of how well we self regulate.

  • http://twitter.com/tinagraydotme Tina Gray

    I agree with you, Nikki, that a sponsored post is where cash has been exchanged. If I am doing a review and/or giveaway, I always add that in the title of my posts.

    As for gifted items, I’ll admit I usually put the disclaimer at the bottom of my post, but I’m not fussed if my readers wanted me to start adding it to the top of my posts.

    I was having trouble trying to decide how to handle events when I want to Instagram them but Clairey’s suggestion of using #prguest might be my answer.

    Enjoy your weekends off x

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I do think the #prguest is a good idea. I’m also careful at events that if I’m not being paid to be there that I limit my social media share. It’s also about educating brands that they can’t get something for nothing. And we have so much to offer brands!

  • Emma

    I have a little blog, and I feel like if something is given to me, it has become a sponsored post. The likelihood of me writing about it would be slim otherwise. Maybe I have the terminology wrong, but it works for me. I also agree with another commenter, saying in the first line if anything was gifted/sponsored etc..

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I totally agree with first line being labelled as sponsored if it is sponsored with cash payment – but a gifted item does not constitute a sponsored post. Just because you are sent something doesn’t mean you have to write about it. You choose to do so because you want to and it fits your blog’s readership. It shouldn’t matter whatever size your blog.

  • http://www.redcliffestyle.com/ Rachel from Redcliffe Style

    Great, great post!!!

  • Rach aka Stinkb0mb

    My issue isn’t with language around sponsored/gifted/review posts, it’s about where the disclaimer is. Put it at the top, EVERY SINGLE TIME. I don’t read reviews, I don’t read gifted posts and I rarely read sponsored posts, they hold zero interest for me and it’s not why I read blogs, so label such posts immediately before the reader engages, it’s not a hard concept to grasp and I don’t think it’s an unfair ask of bloggers. If it’s sponsored, gifted, reviewed, label it as such, either in the title or in the first line of the post. If readers feel like they’re being “duped” into reading something that turns out to be something else, then they will click away and perhaps not come back and really readers are a blogs lifeline.

    Like bloggers decide what gets featured on their blog and choose what they write about, readers have that same discretion regarding what they choose to read and what they choose to click past. However without readers, a blog is unlikely to be successful which is why it’s important that bloggers who are wanting to make something of their blogs, need to be open to hearing from their readers and receiving respectful, constructive feedback – something I believe I gave.

    I don’t agree with the nasty tone that has reared it’s head in some places in regards to this discussion, it’s just not needed but this is a discussion that needs to happen. Maybe things need to be rejigged so that there is NO doubt when a post is sponsored, a review or about items that have been gifted to a blogger
    because as more and more blogs strive to make something of themselves
    and attract sponsorship, engage in reviews and are gifted items, there
    is a greater opportunity for the waters to become murkier rather than
    clearer.

    I commented on Dani’s original post, the post you mention above but I did so in what I thought [and have been told since] was a respectful, polite way. There was no “shaming” in my comments, nor did I “bully” her in anyway and I’m a little bit pissed that those words have been used tbh. I wrote my original comment [and subsequent ones] and reread them several times before hitting publish because the last thing I wanted was for it to come across as “mean” or “nasty” or “personal” because it wasn’t and that was *never* my intention and I apologised if they did. I won’t apologise however, for turning this “topic” into a conversation, as I’ve said before it needs to be discussed openly and respectfully and I won’t
    either feel bad or be made to feel bad for doing so – no matter how many nasty, bitchy, personal hate filled emails “fangirls” send to me and believe there has been and continues to be many and that’s not acceptable either.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Hi Rach, totally agree with you re disclosing at the top if it’s sponsored and money has been transacted. Totally.

      Don’t agree re gifted but my editorial policy is that there is no exclusive blog space offered to a brand on this blog unless paid for.

      You’re comments on Dani’s blog were measured and constructive. They weren’t the only ones there and I don’t think she should have felt pressure to change the post to sponsored when it wasn’t.

  • Johanna at Zigazag

    I’m really sad that you’ve decided to stop the Saturday blogging tips (although I can understand the need to be with your family and time off). I’ve so enjoyed popping by to see what you’ve been writing and it’s always been such interesting and on topic information, or thoughts, or ideas to implement. Definitely ‘real girl’ blogging tips. Thanks for giving us all space to add our links too, and thanks for the rollercoaster of information. It’s been great. Today’s post is equally good, and so spot on – plus it clearly defines the difference between sponsored and gifted which is sometimes a tricky one. Thanks Nikki.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks Jo – I’ll still pop in occasionally when I have something to say or get off my blogging chest!

  • beautyholicsanonymous

    Love this post, Nikki. It’s sad when bloggers get bullied into labeling a well written post as sponsored when it is clearly not. It doesn’t matter if the gifted item cost $1000, $2000, $5000. When one is not paid a single cent for the post, then it is not a sponsored post. Those items, as expensive as they are, can’t be used to pay for anything (well, unless the blogger is still practicing the barter system and if he/she wants to kill his/her blogging career). I’ve checked with my accountant (no kidding), items received for editorial consideration or “gifts” are not considered as income. Having said that, any gifted items, even if it costs $1 or less, must be disclosed as such.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Yes! Taxable income is cash :)

  • http://claireyhewitt.blogspot.com/ ClaireyHewitt

    Sometimes, twitter just doesn’t work.

    For a long time I used these rules for my blog, but over the last six months they just haven’t worked for me. I am sure it is because of the offers I now get, the time I have to blog and the readers that I have, a small but fairly loyal group.

    I think it is about expectation. As a reader of SY I fully expect that most posts contain some type of gifted product. I expect this because I am here to learn about new things, new style, latest fashion etc and I wouldn’t expect you to be out buying every single item you mention. I expect (and am rewarded) with you being up to date on stuff that I have no time to do myself.

    SY has always been a magazine style format to me and my expectations are similar to those as if I was buying a mag.

    This is also how I feel about other ‘niche’ blogs, if they do it properly as you have Nikki. Be they about gardening, furniture, or children’s books. Any ‘blog’ that provides me with constant ‘news’ I have different expectations of.

    If however a personal blogger who I follow along and read and enjoy starts slipping in posts and down in teeny tiny notes hidden somewhere I see that actually I only wrote about this because I agreed that if I get sent stuff I will write about it, then I get a bit annoyed. If a heading starts with Giveaway, I need no further clarification as I fully expect product has been gifted and I enjoy the post and the chance to get some winnings. Again, that is just my expectations being met.

    This is also the case with twitter hashtags from events and functions. If someone is somewhere fabulous and tweeting every second of it with a hashtag and they are a guest of the event, it is also easy to #prguest at the end of it. I don’t expect this for a launch of a product etc, but sometimes a hashtag can drive me bonkers as I wonder if this is a paid gig or not.

    So, for me now, the waters are messy. I say no to many many offers because I just don’t have the time to look at them (all product only) but sometimes an offer of high cost value is discussed, I agree with the agency to write a post in return for the products and I am pretty sure my readers want to know this from the start of the post. But maybe I am putting my own expectations on to my readers, maybe they actually couldn’t give a crap at all.

    My dilemma now is how do I write about a product that was sent to me (unrequested and with no notice) that I really love. Total value of the product is about $12. I love it, but writing about it is far from being a sponsored post, it is more good luck to the business who just randomly sent it to me and I really really like it. However I can’t think of a way to write about it, if I say sponsored post then readers will think I have also been paid to write the post – which I haven’t. So back to the starting line of having no idea what I am doing. Maybe I use the disclaimer – This is a good karma post – a reward to the business for having a good product and sharing it with me. No cash has changed hands.

    As usual with my blogging ways – I expect to change my mind in about 7.4 days.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Hi Clairey, no Twitter doesn’t. And I totally respect your position – it’s your blog to make what guidelines suit you.

      These guidelines suit me and my blog – and yes I’ve based them on my time as a journalist – but with better disclosure.

      I don’t want to give brands the impression that they can give me a product or experience in return for guaranteed exclusive space on my blog. Guarantees and brand-exclusive posts are only made and given if it’s a paid post.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      PS.’Re the $12 product you love, just start the post with your surprise at having found such a great product?

      • veebee

        See I think that is just dishonest. What’s wrong with being upfront about what actually happened and blogging as abeachcottage above stated. Why can’t a blogger just say they were sent something, they tried it and it happened to be fantastic?

        • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

          That’s exactly what I mean – it’s not sponsored though – She tried it, loved it and wanted to share that. Nothing wrong with that at all. What Claire was worried about is that now she’s said she’s going to label all posts that include gifted items as sponsored, then where does it leave her with the $12 item she loves and wants to write about.

          • veebee

            I don’t really care two hoots what it’s called, I just want to know the deal at the BEGINNING of the post. If something was given or you were the guest of someone, you should say so at the start, not down the bottom. Those posts always leave a bad taste in my mouth. You usually start reading them thinking, this sounds like an ad for something, and it usually is. It’s a bit sneaky really.

            • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

              Well, we’ll just agree to disagree. In my opinion, it’s not sneaky – it’s actually more open and honest than any other commercial print media operation. They don’t put anything at the top or bottom!

              • Rach aka Stinkb0mb

                But blogs aren’t magazines. When I buy a magazine, I expect to see advertisements and the like. When I read a blog, I’m not reading it to read about reviews or products or sponsored posts, so if you’re writing about stuff like that put it at the start. I really don’t see that the big deal is about moving the disclosure from the bottom of the post to the top? It needs to be clear BEFORE your reader engages in the post. If you’re honest with your reader from the START, they’re much more likely to return to your site.

                • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

                  My blog is very much an online magazine format with me featuring products for people to potentially buy every day. My readers do engage with me – they always know clearly when something is sponsored – and they know that I receive hundreds of product to trial, many of which never makes it on to the blog because it doesn’t suit my readership. These are editorial decisions I make every day. It’s the nature of beauty writing – whether that’s in a magazine or on a site/blog such as mine. The difference being that I do declare if they are gifted because I think it’s the right thing to do, whereas mags don’t.

    • abeachcottage

      nice comment and one I agree with…the expectation thing is so true – I read different blogs where I have come to expect sponsored posts (and appreciate the blogger making an income from their fantastic content)

      …some of the blogs I have been reading for years have gone from small personal/homey blogs with a couple of posts a week to full-time income blogs often blogging 2 to 3 times a day with content that I love and *want to read – I appreciate that this quality and quantity takes time and effort and therefore am willing to read a sponsored post once a week to facilitate that – I wouldn’t walk into a newsagents and expect to walk out with a magazine for free (or pay for it with a lipstick!) but it seems like an issue when bloggers providing great original content in their authentic voice get paid with cash like the rest of the world does

      It’s a fine line though as we all learn what works and a tricky one to navigate and why I turn down so much stuff

      on the $12 product this is where blogging is the best – you got a product, you loved it, your opinion counts, your readers appreciate your opinion, and we all LOVE a recommendation, boom, doesn’t matter if you paid for it or not… I would blog exactly that – they sent you something and wow you love it and even better it’s only $12! I think that kind of real blogging interaction is exactly why this media is so great…and is one of the reasons I always mention products I love whether I have paid for myself or been gifted and I will not mention a product if I have had bad service or believe the product is not good value for money

      sorry for the ramble :-)

  • Penny

    Great post Nikki. I will miss your saturday blog post but will keep the archives as a favourite. Xxx

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks Penny x

  • Johanna at Zigazag

    I’m so sad that you’re stopping your Saturday blogging tips (although I understand your need to have weekends with your family) I’ve learnt so much and enjoyed popping by for a weekly fix of ‘real girl’ blogging. This post about sponsored posts and gifts is, as ever, right on trend and so timely. Thanks Nikki.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks Johanna – if there’s something else I want to write about in regards to blogging I will – just removing the pressure of a weekly post.

  • http://twitter.com/Danimezza Danimezza

    I LOVE YOU

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Right back at you xx

  • http://www.CravingTech.com/ Michael Aulia @CravingTech.com

    I don’t normally blog in the weekend as well so it’s a good decision on your end to have a bit of a break :)

    As to the topic, I disclose if I got a product sample (to keep) for free though I always try not to be bias and highlight both the good and bad parts of the product.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks Michael and yes when writing about a gifted product, it has to be a true review and recommendation.

  • http://twitter.com/Toushkalee Toushka Lee

    Absolutely agree. It’s not sponsored unless there has been actual money changing hands. Disclosure is important and not just in tiny impossible to read fine print.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Yes, all for making it clear from the start!

  • Carly Findlay

    I’ve loved your Saturday blogging tips and have got so much out of them. But understandably, you need a work life balance. Thank you for sharing your blogging knowledge and also fostering an environment for god robust discussion among bloggers.
    This post has come at a good time for me – I’ve been signed up as a Target blogger and I want to avoid the shaming that I saw recently. I’ve done a few posts/tweets for the Arts Centre – unpaid but I received tickets – and always been wondering whether my disclosure of being gifted the tickets is enough.
    Thanks Nikki

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks so much, Carly. And re those tickets, so you ever see journos saying their reviews were sponsored or that they even received free tickets to shows or centres? Unless you’ve been paid money, it’s gifted not sponsored.

      • Emma Salkild

        Like Carly, I write freelance arts articles and yes, you would never buy your own ticket to a play or film. Part of me wonders if that by not paying for the ticket in some way you can be more constructive. It “feels” more like a job so you can approach it really critically.

        If you shell out money whether it’s for a play, film or lipstick wouldn’t it be easier to think, “Oh, I just spent $20 on this and didn’t get my money’s worth so I’m annoyed”? Or, “I spent all this money so I really want to enjoy this play/product/film”? I think I’m leaning towards “gifted” actually meaning you can be less biased.

        I don’t know what it’s like when you write a bad review of a “gifted” beauty product but with arts writing, publicists aren’t going to contact you upset if you’ve written a bad review. You can get away with pretty much saying what you truly believe (there might be a troll but publicists will still invite you back). Is this not the same with beauty/style blogging?

        Is there more pressure on beauty/style bloggers to talk up/promote gifted products? Is that why some readers are freaking out? Maybe there needs to be a better understanding that gifted doesn’t mean writers are going to be untruthful.

  • se7en

    I have so enjoyed your “Saturday Blogging Tips…” and wanted to thank you for all the work and effort that went into them… and say a massive well done on the decision to take the weekends off – enjoy them!!!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks so much – and thanks for being a regular link-up participant too!