Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Why sponsored posts on blogs are not okay

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long time. I know it’s controversial, and most of the time, I prefer not to get involved in the ‘business’ side of blogging. It’s a hobby, it’s something I started for fun (when I began blogging in 2013 I didn’t even realise people blogged as a business – I just wanted people to read, and enjoy, what I wrote). I suppose I felt that if people wanted to treat their blogs differently, that was kind of up to them and I just wouldn't get involved.



But yesterday I watched a Youtube video by a girl in her twenties, supposedly discussing ‘how to look luxury on a budget’. She's a blogger as well as a Youtuber, one I really like and have followed for a long time. The video was sponsored by Natwest and it encouraged students to open accounts with the bank. It triggered something in my memory, and I went on Twitter and looked it up. Only six months ago, the very same blogger had tweeted angrily that Natwest hadn’t refunded her for some money that had been taken fraudulently from her account. She strongly advised her followers to close their Natwest accounts.


This is just one example, of course – and it’s quite an extreme one. But I think it kind of sums up the point, which is that if someone is paying you to say something, then you can sing about how ‘all opinions are your own’ or how ‘you only work with brands you love’ until you’re blue in the face, but ultimately, your words are as hollow as your paid-for tutorial on how you’ve always loved the new Dove shampoo you’ve never mentioned before and probably never will again.

The difficulty is that if somebody offers to pay you to say something, it’s quite easy to convince yourself you mean it. So imagine somebody sends you a mascara and offers you £100 to say it’s the best mascara you’ve ever used. I mean… mascaras can be a bit much of a muchness, right? And it didn’t burn your eyes out or anything. So why not say it’s the best one you’ve ever used ever – what harm does it do? This is why it’s illegal to pay politicians to bring things up in parliament, why companies can’t give their auditors monetary gifts, why advertising has to be declared – because where money is involved the lines blur very, very quickly.

Bloggers-who-get-paid argue against this generally by saying that they have to get paid in order to spend all their time creating content, and also that magazines do this all the time.

I suppose I have two real thoughts on this. One, a bit harshly, I suppose, is no, you don’t HAVE to get paid. Quite often I read something like ‘I work really hard, this is my job at the end of the day – I have to pay the bills!’

Well. It’s really only a job because you made it a job, isn’t it? Because you decided you could make enough money from it if you dedicated enough time to it, and so you quit your day job (or never got a day job in the first place). Which is fair enough. But if you can’t make enough money from it without selling your soul to a tooth-whitening company then, I don’t know, maybe – get another job? You wouldn’t use this excuse in another career, would you? ‘Well, I wouldn’t get paid for my teaching job if I didn’t constantly tell the children that they need to use Persil washing detergent.’ It’s literally the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard. ‘I have to pay my bills!’ Go and work in a bar then, for all I care. Just stop using that as a lame excuse for trying to sell me a £5.99 phone app I don’t want.

Side note: ‘I work really hard, I deserve to get paid,’ is also stupid. Input doesn’t always equal output – that’s life, otherwise all bloggers would be Zoella. Success is partially hard work but also partly just down to luck and being in the right place at the right time. You don't deserve to get paid for blogging in the same way that you don't deserve to win a marathon just because you run it. 

‘But magazines do it’ is also an incredibly irritating excuse because the whole POINT, the LITERAL RAISON D’ETRE of blogs is that they are NOT magazines, that they existed as an antithesis to magazines with their glossy advertorials and their beauty features with retouched faces that made little girls think the aim of life was not to have any pores. Blogs were supposed to be about normal people with normal opinions and the idea was that you could, therefore, inherently trust them. It is very, very difficult to trust someone when they are being paid to sell you something. 

I fully understand the temptation to advertise things on your blog. I have been sent products which I have mentioned in various posts (although I have never accepted money to write anything). I suppose I see this as slightly different because you probably wouldn't bother accepting a product you didn't want - and because, in my experience, you're under no pressure to mention it if you don't like it. 

It’s just frustrating to me because I’m sorry but you can’t have it both ways – you can’t be your reader’s mate, telling them about your life and the lipstick you love or whatever and then suddenly segue neatly into ‘And everyone should use Clarins skincare!’ and not expect them to stare at you blankly. You wouldn’t do this to an actual mate, would you? If some weird company advertising an at-home facial system offered you £20 to tell your best friend it was amazing, would you do it? And if you did, and they found out, would you just shrug and say ‘hashtag girl boss?’ Would you? Can we all just stop with the excuses already? You've sold out, get over it already.

Blogger, Youtuber, Instagrammer, social influencer (GOD what a job title), whatever. If you want to spend your time affiliate linking me lipstick, then fair enough.


Just please, stop asking me to respect you for it. 
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5 comments

  1. Interesting! I actually never thought about it this way, it's so refreshing! Although I must say...

    "If some weird company advertising an at-home facial system offered you £20 to tell your best friend it was amazing, would you do it?" --> I think people definitely do this. Tupperware? Upperdare? :D

    Also.. doesn't a certain level of quality require some kind of pay in order for it to happen? I fear that if all blogs had to go back to 'what blogging was supposed to be about', and review products for fun after hours, we'd probably get less qualitative blog posts. And I do want them...

    If movie makers, painters, musicians all had to go back to 'what art is about' without any revenue system behind it, we would probably get crappier movies and music. Beyonce's lemonade sure wouldn't be a thing if everyone had to work on it because of their love for music.

    Anyway, I like your points and it definitely made me think about the subject! I wonder if someone can come up with a different way to make money from blogs.

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  2. Sorry, wanted to add one last thing: I think that if bloggers assure there's a good and healthy unsponsored-sponsored (like 80-20 or so) mix on their blog, AND if they clearly mention it when a post is sponsored, blog readers will be smart enough to critically look at the products mentioned. And in my opinion, under these conditions the blogger wouldn't be less trustworthy or feel less real. (The blogger from your example probably wouldn't pass this moral test, though).

    What do you think?

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    1. Replying all in one!

      I think the Tupperware point is a REALLY good one and not one I'd thought of - I guess I don't particularly relish those either (ever been to an Ann Summers party desperately scanning the list for something cheap you can buy because you feel pressured?)

      Yes, sorry, I wasn't trying to say all bloggers shouldn't get paid - I absolutely think they should - I just mean they should be paid through others sources. Having an advert on the side of the page, for example, is fine. So I guess that's the difference between Beyonce being paid for 'Lemonade' and Beyonce using 'Lemonade' to advertise 7up. I think you absolutely can make a living without spon posts - someone like Zoella does almost none, for example - but it's much, much harder. So there'd probably be fewer blogs, but I think they'd be more honest! Probably less glossy, I agree, but I'm not sure that's what I look for in a blog anymore.

      Although I agree with you that it really helps when a spon post is declared, I don't know...like I say, it's a completely personal prerogative, but I almost feel like putting 'ad' or 'spon' has become like another way of saying 'don't pay any attention to this because it's not my real opinion!' xxx

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  3. Ooh goodness me, I enjoyed reading this! I'm fairly torn as I would love to be paid to blog but then I guess I'd like to be paid to blog as a writer rather than a social influencer. I also can't say I mind being offered things for free (happens very infrequently) but I was actually thinking about this at the weekend and considering putting up a "don't bother" notice on my home page for advertisers because whilst I'm happy for others to do it, I really don't fancy it and I'm bored to tears by the majority of paid posts xxx
    Lucy @ La Lingua | Life, Travel, Italy

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    1. Exactly, I'm not pretending it's not a lovely way to make a living but I'd want my blog to be recognised for actually being good, not just because I could potentially sell rubbish to people. I completely agree, paid posts are always so dull and hard to believe in! xx

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