Sunday Ramble: Blogging, samples, disclosure and all that jazz

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I was feeling like having another little Sunday ramble again about the world of blogging. Honestly, sticking my head above the parapet and saying something about blogging ‘issues’ isn’t my thing usually. Not because I’m scared or wimpy or whatever. More just because I generally like to do things how I like to do them – without necessarily feeling the need to state what is ‘right and wrong’ for others to read. It’s always been said that in blogging there are no rules – and to a point, that’s true but also now with all the ASA rulings, there are some rules but I guess as with any rule it’s a the blogger’s discretion on how or even if they follow them. Hence why more rules are being brought in on top of old rules…where people perhaps aren’t following them they’re adding more to make it more and more explicit. Yet I still see people deciding that the rules don’t apply to them and ignoring them… Then I’ve read a few posts recently from other bloggers and in particular ones who perhaps are quite open in stating the fact that disclosure can impact on their enjoyment of a blog or that they perhaps don’t read blogs they used to for this sort of reason (eg: That Grace Girl & From Roses).

Having said that, this post isn’t necessarily about others, this is about my blog and how I do things and why. But the thoughts and words of these other bloggers are ones that got me thinking a bit more about something that always crops up over the years in blogging.  As regular readers will know, I’ve been doing a fair amount of soul-searching (blog-wise…so not exactly hunting for the meaning of life) over the past few months and the one thing that comes back to me time and time again is that as much as it’s ‘my blog, my rules’, the number one thing I need and want to listen to is readers. What readers like, what they want more or less of and how they appreciate getting information. As a result of THIS post a couple of months back I’m making a few changes. I’ll keep doing as many beauty reviews, will be doing more home and lifestyle things, trying to throw some more London and personal stuff in there too, and will no longer bother with celebrity stuff really (this 100% topped out as the thing people couldn’t care less about). Unless it’s a chance to meet Chris Pine or something, then that might sway things… so I’m hoping that content wise will be a nice mix of the stuff you folks love to read and the stuff I love to write about.

Disclosure:

But one thing I’ve never really brought up too explicitly on the blog is disclosure (well, it’s explicit in my ‘blogging policy’ but I’ve never really talked about it in a post) – mainly because it’s something I’ve always disclosed since the very early days. As soon as the whole idea of making it clear samples were mentioned in a post became a thing, I have included a disclaimer in some shape or form. From early days when it was basically a mini-essay at the bottom of the post, to the past couple of years or so when I always mark a sample with a *, or if it’s some sort of experience then I include a little disclaimer note at the bottom. This is just talking samples/experiences by the way – I’m not talking sponsored posts – which again is always something I feel I make clear via an explicit disclosure note. Sponsored posts side of things is probably a whole other post in the making. So I’ll stick to the things I had in mind for today…

What I would like to know is does this disclosure ‘work’ for you as a reader. Does the ‘*’ next to a product feel familiar enough or would you prefer something more obvious perhaps? I could always do the * and then add a note at the bottom of each post stating ‘Products marked with a * indicate PR sample’. This again is something I used to do but then added to my ‘blogging policy’ page so it was all in one place. I’d always felt the * was indication enough, but perhaps that’s just because I’m in the blogging bubble so much that assume this? Basically, what I’m trying to say is – I have absolutely zero issues with being totally explicit on samples, I have and always will disclose – but what I’d like to know is how you like to see it as a reader?

The thing I don’t really get though (talking overall blogging now), is why is it an issue TO disclose?! It’s hardly a big hardship to do?! The reasoning I’ve heard before can be things like ‘magazines don’t disclose samples’ – I guess fair enough. But a blog isn’t a magazine. No matter how glossy their photos are. I tend to just think – if you’re being honest then why is it an issue to be totally transparent with it? One of the things I personally like about disclosing is actually when I write about the things I’ve bought. I LIKE that there’s a mix in there – granted, the samples probably do outweigh the ones I buy now. But the ones I buy are still in there and always will be (as I talked about HERE) and I like to think it’s good to see that for myself and for readers.

Honesty in reviews:

On the whole ‘blogging/honesty’ situation. Personally, I feel I’ve been doing this for long enough that it’s not an issue for me. I don’t feel the pressure to write a glowing review for risk of being taken ‘off list’ by a brand or agency. But I can understand that feeling for others. The blogging pool is so huge now, if a brand wanted to scrap their ‘list’ and start a new one there’s always a load of bloggers just ready to jump into the places. I get that the competitive nature of where blogging has gone means this is a definite downside – and by downside I mean for all. For the bloggers who feel that way, for the readers who maybe feel they can’t trust and the brands who aren’t open to the feedback that true blogging can bring.

But when I review something or feature it in a round-up, I am always honest – if I include something in a post it’s because I’ve tried it and I like it. Hence sometimes why I’m not the quickest off the mark on the blog front – I’m spending my time really trying something before it makes it into a post as I feel this makes for my post being more interesting and hopefully useful to people considering a purchase. Having said that, it’s not my style to totally just slate a product either. If there’s something I really don’t like then I will either just move on and not review it – or if I have mixed feelings about it then the review will be mixed. I always remember that a product experience I have is very much unique to me – I might hate the smell of a face cream, someone else might love it. It totally varies. When it comes to my approach to blogging I like to remember that my words are not the gospel, just one girls opinion.

In my view it all connects back – especially now that the blog is part of my job. I’m not really the thing that makes the money (as in me as the ‘face’ of the blog) – it’s the audience. Without an audience that reads (and trusts) my posts, then I don’t offer any value to a brand or company who wants to work with me. So being honest, open and transparent has to come as number one – especially if I want to keep being lucky enough to keep calling this my job. As that’s why the audience reads and (hopefully) keeps coming back.

Readers Feedback:

Lastly on this epic Sunday ramble… which is turning into quite the super-long essay. I totally welcome readers feedback on the blog. Of course it would be really lovely if this feedback could be constructive and positive… but even if not. Feedback is feedback – I would love to hear your thoughts, as a reader or as fellow blogger. What do you like to see in terms of disclosure? Does disclosure even matter to you? Do you still read the same blogs or has it changed over the years? Just let me know your thoughts – either in the comments below or drop me a tweet (@beautyjunkieldn)

Otherwise…if you made it right to the end of reading this. Then well done! Hope you’re having a lovely Sunday evening!

 

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12 Comments

  1. December 21, 2014 / 6:35 pm

    I made it right to the end!! Haha and honestly disclosure isn’t an issue for me, especially with your blog. I don’t look for the (*) to see if a product is sponsored, because I know the review would be the same whether you bought it yourself or not. The only difference is it was given to you…people don’t specify is something they are reviewing is a gift from a friend or a family member. I know it’s not the same and everyone is different, that’s just my opinion:) lovely post☺️X

    http://for-my-love-of-style.blogspot.co.uk

    • Jen
      Author
      December 21, 2014 / 7:14 pm

      Thanks so much for commenting and saying that- really means a lot to know anyone who reads my blog knows they can trust what I’m writing! It’s really good to hear if others are bothered by the whole disclosure thing or not!x

  2. December 21, 2014 / 7:26 pm

    I’m really glad you wrote this post. I’ve unfollowed a lot of bloggers in the past year who stopped disclosing PR samples or who would put a positive spin on products just so they would stay on the PR’s list (eg gushing about palettes that are so poorly pigmented). I’ve always appreciated that you disclose samples and don’t understand why a lot of bloggers don’t because it’s so obvious when the same product pops up 20 times in your bloglovin feed in one day. A prominent blogger got a load of hate recently for dropping disclosing PR samples and I’ve noticed shes started doing it again because of the negative feedback she received. There’s nothing wrong with receiving PR samples, I love to see what other bloggers think of new products before they launch, and it’s exciting to read about them. I always think your writing is honest and informative so keep doing what you are doing! I’ve been a reader of your blog since I first became interested in beauty stuff! 🙂 xx

  3. December 21, 2014 / 7:29 pm

    Hi, I enjoy this type of posts as they kind of give us a glimpse into your thoughts.

    As for the issues in the post, I guess that I too asume that what is written is your opinion. As a reader you get to know different type of blogs and which ones are quite obvious in being open to “colour” their opinions. As well as in many aspects of life, you must develop and trust your judgement.

  4. December 21, 2014 / 7:39 pm

    I’m still pretty new to blogging myself so this has only just become something I have to think about on my own blog but I totally agree that I don’t understand why it’s even a debate. Blogs aren’t magazines, there is a different level of trust and readers expect real opinions. Even if you feel the review isn’t impacted by it being free, I think your readers really have a right to decide that for themselves. It’s not just about how it affects your mood as the writer, I went to a press event (as a plus one) for a new bar and the service and food was amazing but when we went back as regular customers it wasn’t anywhere near as good!

  5. December 21, 2014 / 8:17 pm

    I think the * behind a product is a pretty universal sign for it being a PR sample and 99.9% of people will understand it. I personally don’t mind blogs with PR samples at all, I just tend to take the reviews with a pinch of salt, not because I don’t think they’re honest but if someone tells me that they really liked a £30 lipstick I always wonder if they would have liked it just as much if they’d paid £30 for it or if their expectations would have been higher- if that makes sense. That’s just a reality in the blogging world and as long as it’s declared that it’s a PR sample it doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve recently noticed a few big blogs don’t actually declare these things anymore, and most YouTubers have stopped doing it in their videos too which really bothers me.
    To end on a happy note, I totally trust all your reviews and love reading your blog so keep up the good work 🙂

  6. December 21, 2014 / 8:24 pm

    I’m instantly turned off by a blog that just does general disclosure — when they have a blanket statement like “some items on this blog were PR samples/I received compensation for. All opinions are my own!”

    I much prefer the asterisk system, because it is clean, honest, and easily recognizable. I understand that many bloggers use their blog to make a living, and I respect that, but I want to know that I can trust a reviewer to give me an honest review, or at least warn me of potential bias.

    • December 25, 2014 / 8:12 pm

      thanks very much for being so open about it and asking the readers which way they would like to see disclosure. I like transparent disclosure, the one that states which of the products are received and which if them are purchased. The reason being is since if you go to the counter and purchase this product, it is probably something the reader who is closer colored and has a similar taste would also like having. I receive PR samples and most of the time those wouldn’t be my first choices to pick from a certain collection. I hope that makes sense. Over the years I found myself not reading the blogs with lousy disclosures. I am from Germany and here he have to disclose, like in US but it seems especially in UK it is left to the blogger, am I right? Anyway I would like to say a star might indicate a PR sample but for someone who is visiting for the first time, it might as well say nothing. This is why I always write under a post what * means and this doesn’t effect the look and feel in a bad way. Keep up the good work and thanks so much for this post.

      • Midnight
        December 28, 2014 / 5:35 pm

        Yes, that is what I was trying to get across in my other response that explaining what the asterisk means that you aren’t assuming that every reader is familiar with “your world”. Everyone, new viewers and old, will read your post and understand what you are disclosing

  7. Midnight
    December 28, 2014 / 5:31 pm

    I agree with Arina. I feel uncomfortable with blogs or videos that do blanket statements. I want to know what is sponsored/PR samples and how much. I might feel different about their “honest opinion” if the majority of their products or clothes are gifted or PR samples.

    An asterisk is clean and forthcoming. However, I still appreciate bloggers who use the asterisk to say that the asterisk means xyz. I know it’s small, but I dislike that people get so used to it and assume that everyone knows what it means – it’s just an added layer of transparency. Does this ‘*’ mean it’s gifted or sent by a company? It’s just my preference.

  8. February 1, 2015 / 7:04 am

    I know this is an old post but I’ve just come across it now and I agree that your system with the * works well. It’s clear to me what is a sample but i trust your reviews anyway, as it’s obvious to me that your likes and dislikes are similar now to what they were when I started reading a looong time ago.
    It is so important, as big blogs who don’t disclose anything just look suspicious to me and I’ll stop reading when that’s the case.
    I recently had an issue with a brand who weren’t comfortable with me disclosing and said that if my readers knew I got something for free, it’d stop them trusting me. I said that I thought the opposite and that that would only happen if I didn’t disclose fully.

    • Jen
      Author
      February 1, 2015 / 9:13 am

      I really agree with this. Trust is so important and i feel like kts something worth protecting over and above opportunities/freebies as intrhe long run the trust is more valuable.

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