Home > Uncategorized > Bloggers Are Not Obligated to Give You Things

Bloggers Are Not Obligated to Give You Things

Posting this here because I try to limit “blogging about blogging” posts over at the Times Union blog.

Local blogger Albany Jane, whose blog Albany Eats is one of the more popular in a multitude of foodie blogs in the area, recently posted about a $75 gift certificate she received and was going to use to buy a product and review it.

In a humorous manner, she joked that she was being “selfish” and keeping it herself instead of giving it away.

In typical local internet fashion, people faked outrage and tried to lay a guilt trip on her.

Anonymous said…
Have a giveaway. You have enough kitchen stuff.

1:02 PM, November 19, 2010

Anonymous said…
At the very least keep that you got the gift card and that you want to keep it to yourself. Just ask for suggestions for a cool new kitchen item. Tacky.

1:03 PM, November 19, 2010

Some bloggers – like Kristi Gustafson at the TU – give lots of stuff away. Know why? Because they get a lot of stuff, but more importantly, that’s literally their job. They’re paid by their company to blog. It’s not being done out of the kindness of their hearts or because their readers are so wonderful.

On the other hand, people who blog as a hobby and/or are self-employed are not obligated to give you things. They already inform, entertain, and/or enlighten with their writings. Generation Free For Me may scoff at the concept, but it should be enough that they’re actually providing you with content for free; a concept that was unheard of until the advent of the internet. Before, you had to buy a newspaper or magazine to get these insights.

This isn’t a “woe is me” post or a call for people to take pity on bloggers. We do this because we enjoy this and accept the shortcomings of it. On the same token, just because bloggers who get paid by a corporation to blog gives things away doesn’t mean all of them do, will, or even should.

We’re not obligated to give you things, and we’re not your parents. So don’t demand something you’re not entitled to and then whine when you don’t get it.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. November 19, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Well said.

  2. Rob
    November 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Just to clarify, Kristi and Steve Barnes shouldn’t keep stuff they get because they’re journalists. That would be unethical.

    But even conducting a contest is a potential can of worms. One could argue that the business offering a prize is getting what they want, free publicity, and though the writer isn’t keeping the item, they derive the benefit of stimulating the readers. Figuratively speaking. It’s a stretch, I know, but someone could make the argument.

    • November 19, 2010 at 2:56 pm

      Well right, re: ethics. Even moreso solidifying the point that their job dictates they give these things away.

  3. Dreg
    November 19, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Kevin, why haven’t you melted down all of that pirate gold you recently found in order to construct a giant shrine to us, your readers?

    • November 19, 2010 at 3:18 pm

      The statue will be in the shape of a state worker, hunched over with a frustrated and angry look on their face.

  4. November 19, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    I’m jealous! I don’t feel like putting in all the work that it takes to make a regionally significant blog. Kev, give me free stuff.

    • November 19, 2010 at 3:17 pm

      I’m going to give you whatever they keep trying to give me in those spam comments I get that are written entirely in Russian.

      (warning: it might be herpes)

  5. November 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Here’s the problem. There’s a thing called net neutrality. Some companies actually try to use independent blogs as promotional tools, in that they’ll send something to a blogger in the hopes that the blogger will write a blog post about said item. In doing so, the blogger has unwittingly turned his or her blog into an advertisement – which, depending on how the blog post was written, could be the equivalent of those late night “infomercials.”

    And depending on how popular a blog is, some companies may send scores of items in exchange for what they hope will be free advertising. Example. If I reference a company in my blog, in terms of my purchasing or receiving a big-ticket item – i.e., purchasing my new car at a dealership – for a while, I put a disclaimer at the bottom of my blog denoting that: “I did not receive, nor did I request, any benefits, discounts or special services from ________ or ______ for mentioning them by name in this blog.”

    Realistically, for an independent blog like mine, I can do whatever I want with something that is sent “over the transom” or unsolicited from a company. I can use it, I can give it away, whatever. There really is no “contract” in that if I receive the item I must write 5,000 words and 5 blog posts about it. But by the same token, I can’t let my blog turn into a “I will only write about things I receive free from companies” blog. It’s a delicate tightrope to traverse.

    That being said, if Albany Jane received an unsolicited gift certificate, she can do whatever she wants with it – she can give it away or she can use it or she can fold it into a paper airplane. But see, that’s the difference – she can do what she wants with it, as she is an independent blogger. And if a company gives her the gift certificate unsolicited and without strings attached, they can’t add strings after the fact.

  6. -S
    November 19, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    > Some bloggers – like Kristi Gustafson at the TU – give lots of stuff away.
    > Know why? Because they get a lot of stuff, but more importantly, that’s literally their job.

    When the TU receives products for free, and KG/Barnes give them away, it’s free product placement / advertisement, pure and simple. There is no ethical debate at work here because there is just no ethics. Send the stuff *back*, it’s as simple as that, or accept the critics for what they are. It is not their job, they could stop I’m sure. And it applies to paid or non-paid blogs.

    > On the other hand, people who blog as a hobby and/or are self-employed are
    > not obligated to give you things. They already inform, entertain, and/or enlighten
    > with their writings. […] they’re actually providing you with content for free;

    Woah. Free does *not* mean valuable, sorry. When did that vision shift? Putting something online does *not* automatically add value to it, and it certainly applies to me as well. If *anything*, blogging should come with serious humbling skills because you are, in essence, saying: “look at me, I choose to put my ramblings online because I think this is really worth your attention, you guys”. But is it really worth our attention?

    Anybody can open a blog in 5 minutes, blogging is not a gift given to mankind. People were already blogging when they were writing posts on MySpace, self-hosting these posts or switching to a more “honorable” umbrella (blogger, blogspot, wordpress, TU), didn’t suddenly increase their intrinsic awesomeness, that’s the honest truth. It’s up to the readers to decide about that value, and doing so does involve, more often than not, simple ethics.

    • November 19, 2010 at 5:36 pm

      Hey, thanks for coming over! I’m glad we could continue this, particularly since it’s an important topic to explore with how wildly different media is now.

      Re: “they could stop I’m sure.”

      But they have to do what they can to attract and maintain traffic. Part of that is giveaways. They could return it and not give it to readers, but then they’d get less traffic.

      Blogging is part of their job. Part of that is to get traffic. They get traffic through giveaways. Though it’s off the point, I should note since you brought him up that Steve seems to do giveaways with less frequency, though that could be because the items he would get have a far narrower scope.

      Re: free does not mean value.
      If you somehow took that I inferred anything that goes online is valuable, it’s misreading or perhaps something I wrote was a bit misleading. I did not state that just because something is online it has value. Perhaps you took me to mean any and all people who blog when I said Bloggers. But, in particular, I was referring to the ones with whom this instance applies.

      Those bloggers, like Albany Jane, ABSOLUTELY provide valuable content. Know how I know? Because a.) these readers care about them in the first place and b.) we’re having this discussion. Even more simply, it’s a popular blog and destination. It’s a good blog, and holds up in the local Foodie community as a standard.

      That gives it value. There was a time when attracting readers meant selling magazines, is my point.

      Blogging isn’t a gift. Being good at it; starting and maintaining a good blog; that is undeniably a gift. That’s like me saying what you do isn’t a skill or a gift because anyone can pick up a camera and take a picture. Balk at the comparison if you want, but there it is.

      It’s something that someone like Albany Jane does simply because they enjoy doing it, and despite the fact that often little to no good comes of it; re: she gets a gift certificate and two long conversations occur online implying she is somehow ethically questionable for accepting gifts.

      re: Ethics I understand exactly what you’re saying and where you’re coming from. But dude, this is nothing new. People who review things for trades and magazines didn’t and rarely ever went out and purchased the products themselves on their own whim and dime. Things get reviewed because the company promoting and purchasing the product wants them to be reviewed, and sends it out. Are there exceptions? Of course. But, by and large, this is how it’s always worked.

      When it comes to reviews, especially online, there’s this strange notion (Chuck mentioned it above) that all press is good press. That’s bunk. Products tank every day because reviewers and high-profile bloggers that receive the product give it an unfavorable review.

      Which brings me to my next point: saying you don’t trust anyone to review something if they get something for free is to basically say that you don’t trust any reviewers at all, other than maybe online comments on sites like eBay and Amazon, or communities like Yelp. Which, if that’s what you’re saying? Okay, I get that. But I personally can’t subscribe to it, simply because I don’t think you can dismiss a reviewer simply because they were given something free to try and write about due to their livelihood or interests. Otherwise you might as well stop reading pretty much every professional movie reviewer, etc. And a world of amateur critics breeds nothing but amateur analysis.

  7. tonyb
    November 19, 2010 at 6:28 pm


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