January 6, 2006

I'll send you X if you promise to blog a review of it.

Would you say yes? Would it depend on how much you wanted the thing? I just said no to such a deal, but the thing was a beanbag chair.


Dave said...

Comments seem to work now.

Anyway, I guess to answer your question, "it depends."

What am I being offered? As long as the company offering me a product for review doesn't expect a positive review, but rather an honest one, I'm not sure what the problem would be.

Karl said...

A bean bag chair? Berkeley house chic!

Glenn beat you to it, though.


Jonathan said...

I think that there are two issues here. One, the manufacturer doesn't want to send out a lot of free stuff to people who won't review it. Two, there is a question of the reviewer accepting goods with strings attached.

On the first issue the manufacturer has every right to attach conditions to what would otherwise be gifts, but from a PR and marketing standpoint it's foolish to do so. They should select reviewers carefully and then just send the stuff without conditions.

On the second issue, the reviewer has to decide if it's worth the hassle to accept goods conditionally. If it is, he should disclose the terms in any review, and should accept the goods only on condition that the manufacturer accepts such disclosure. This seems like a lot of trouble, however, and as a prospective reviewer I might hesitate to deal with a company that wanted something from me but didn't make things easy.

Ann Althouse said...

Dave, the problem is that I don't want to commit to writing a post that I don't think is worth writing. I've never written a post that wasn't because I wanted to post on the topic. I'd have to be all so here's this beanbag chair, forcing me to post... uhhh, what am I going to say about a beanbag chair... uhhh, it reminds me of my mother, who used to say "You're full of beans" when I guess someone else would say "You're full of shit." Well, this chair is full of beans and not...

Karl: Yeah, I know. You may notice that I also don't do "in the mail" posts just because someone sends me a book, which happens rather often. I'd only post about the book if I liked it or had something I wanted to say about it. I get books sent to me at work, and I unwrap them and say "Hey, check out what someone sent me." "Why'd they send you that?" "I'm a publicity outlet, apparently."

MadisonMan said...

I guess to something like that I'd say -- send it to me and we'll see.

Or were they indirectly asking you if you had time? Would it be better if you were sent the item with no notice and a note "Please blog about this if you like it or not?" Maybe they were being courteous?

Ann Althouse said...

MM: First they asked if they could send it. I said okay. Then they set a condition: we'll send it if you promise to review it. I said no. The dumb thing is that if I didn't like it, but had promised to review it, that would make me write a bad review. BTW, I think Glenn's review of it is basically a bad review.

price said...

Ann, if I send you a handful of gold doubloons, will you blog about it? Alternatively, what about a handful of salsa? Let me know...

Karl said...

I get the impression that asking Ann to blog is like walking up a comedian and asking them to tell a joke. Some things just come naturally, until they're expected.


in_the_middle said...

good for you. while i don't doubt glenn's ability to be upfront about a product review (and not review it favorably just because he was sent one), i think it is too irrelevant.

with all the talk about conversation marketing and non-traditional advertising needed to break through the clutter, there is always the risk of advertisers ticking off consumers by intruding elsewhere.

"hey, we can't get you on network tv? banner ads not working? how about we bust into your blog content?"

glenn is no walt mossberg, the wsj columnist who can make or break new products and isn't afraid to pan. although glenn spends an inordinate amount of time with gadgets and fantasy books (making him a great reviewer of such books) and could be a considered reviewer, i can't help but wonder if he's been getting all this crap in his mailbox gratis.

reader_iam said...

Newspapers, magazine and so forth have been doing this sort of thing for years. I don't think it's a big deal; I'd just like disclosure.

This doesn't strike me as different from book reviews, already alluded to here; or movie, theatre or concert reviews, which are often comped (on top of that, the reviewer is paid; it's not as if they're writing only on topics they personally care about it.

If a blogger's concerned with credibility, he or she will make sure to do a good, credible job. It's his or her blog, after all--there's a built-in incentive there, I should think.

Personally, a bean-bag chair in particular wouldn't interest me, anymore than a sample of shag carpet or a new polyester shirt would.

Word verification: myzep

bill said...

I'll agree with reader_iam. You're not being paid to endorse it or approve of it, just to review it. If you're not interested, pass. If it's something you are interested in, then go ahead and tell us the conditions.

And speaking of newspapers, working at a college newspaper or radio station is the biggest scam going. Concerts, CDs, books, movies, theater, all free. And if some PR firm didn't send you something you wanted, then call up and ask for it. All they asked for in return was a tear sheet. If we didn't ask for it and no one was interested, we'd give it away and feel no need to review it.

While a company like the beanbag chair is hoping for a good review, what they're trying to build is name recommendation.

reader_iam said...


Yay for scams! : )

As a poor college student, those things really helped my social life (and very thin pocketbook) and record/book collection.

They're not WHY I was involved in college radio and the campus newspapers, but they sure were a big perk!

Slocum said...

Well, if you were running a furniture blog, I think it'd be OK. I'm thinking of digital camera review sites (like dpreview.com). These have become quite influential, but are really still one-man operations that are similar to blogs. If the manufacturers didn't loan cameras for review, these sites couldn't afford to do the reviews at all. But the cameras are put through standard tests and the site operators have reputations for straight-dealing that they don't want to risk. It all seems to work quite well in general.

AlbieNYC said...

AA: How different do you want to be than all the other media for which receiving items to review is standard practice? Is that what your blog is about? Doing this might in some way color the perception of future posts about your TT, your favorite coffee, your nice, new Apple laptop, even if they weren't given to you.

It's one thing to comment on the pleasures of the everyday things in our lives; its another to receive things to comment about, even if disclosed.

Honey Badger said...

One of my hobbies used to be writing classical music reviews (in print, not online). I accepted boxes and boxes of free CDs from record companies all the time... I'd say there's no problem with it, as long as you don't feel pressured to write a positive review. I never did, but then, I'm something of a bitch (and they knew that when they sent it to me, so fair's fair.) Make it known your official policy is "you gives your samples and you takes your chances" and you'll be fine.

My fondest freebie memory was the time EMI sent me a CD of every Callas recording in their collection. YEE-HAH!! I knew they'd be sending something for an anniversary retrospective I was working on, but when a big box showed up with EVERYTHING, I screamed out loud and did a happy-dance all around the room.

So yeah, I say go ahead and score all the free stuff you can. You never know when you might hit the jackpot and get what you really, really want.

Glenn said...

In the Middle:

I get a lot of books free (as I've explained before, that's pretty much what "In the Mail" means -- it's like "Books Received" in a journal). If I go further and read and comment on them, it's because I found 'em interesting enough to justify the time.

The bean-bag chair thing appealed to me because of its weirdness -- it's just strange to have someone offer to mail you a bean-bag chair. Now, alas, it's taking up space and my daughter -- who loved it at first -- has lost interest. I don't think I 'd do it again.

The electronics, cameras, etc. that I blog about are all stuff that I buy myself. I'd review them if people sent me cameras, etc., if it was something I was interested in, but nobody has, and if I got a freebie from a manufacturer I'd of course mention that in the review.p

Honey Badger said...

Good point about being co-opted by advertisers, though. For instance, I'd never review a CD I wouldn't listen to myself. As long as you don't do any undisclosed product placement, there's nothing to worry about.

Ann Althouse said...

Iam: "Personally, a bean-bag chair in particular wouldn't interest me..."

Yeah, I was thinking, just the trouble of dragging the box inside and then having to cut down the box for recyclying was severely limiting my interest in the thing.

Hi, Glenn. I don't think it's wrong to get free stuff. As I've said, I get a lot of free books. These are just people who want reviews. I just don't want to promise to give a review of something, at least not something that it would be normal for me to blog about.

GearDaddy said...

Two conditions:

1. If I thought I wanted it, and thought it could be worth reviewing to others.

2. No expectation that the review would necessarily be positive.

Ann Althouse said...

"Doing this might in some way color the perception of future posts about your TT, your favorite coffee, your nice, new Apple laptop, even if they weren't given to you."

I tried to get Chevrolet to gvie me a Corvette, but it didn't work! As for my TT, the lease runs out in about 2 years, so all the car manufacturers are on notice. I prefer a nice sports car.

As for Apple, they should send me things all the time. Right now, I'm in the middle of getting my picture taken for the local newspaper and the Apple laptop is prominently displayed -- and if even has my Shuffle iPod stuck in it, charging up. This is a big endorsement!

AlbieNYC said...

AA: And you can donate the gits to charity, which seems to be all the rage these days...

As for me, I prefer my 3 series covertible...

Ron said...

Blogging about a beanbag chair could frankly be opera buffo Have 'em send it to me, and not only will I review it like a video card, I'll take pics of me falling out of the thing!

OddD said...

You made the right choice, clearly.

Anyone who reads you regularly knows that what you prize about this space is that it is yours. You don't let anyone dictate what you write here. And if you did, you'd lose your taste for blogging rapidly.

That's a lot to give up for a beanbag chair, even if the final result was only that there was a single, tiny post on here that didn't feel entirely true to the spirit of what you do. A virtual grain of sand in your shoe.

reader_iam said...

Ron, the picture you evoked in my mind is so hilarious that I'm tempted to send you a bean-bag chair! But now, would you take the pictures yourself? As you're falling? Use a tripod? Bribe your SO?

Why this tickled me so, I never know ...

reader_iam said...

Wow! This is not yo mama's beanbag--at least the one that Glenn reviewed!

If it's the same one that Ann was offered, Ron, then I'd sure hope you'd have a problem falling out of it. It looks more conducive for other activities ... and I don't wanna see no pix o' that.

Eli Blake said...


I jumped all over Doug Bandow for prostituting his column in exchange for some Abramoff money. I certainly wouldn't want to be guilty of the same sin.

DEC said...

A cop takes a free apple, a newspaper reporter takes a free lunch, an INDEPENDENT blogger takes and keeps a free product in exchange for a review--they are all departures from the "pure and correct" thing to do.

Mark Daniels said...

Never in a zillion years would I do it...although a "Berkeley-chic" bean bag chair might be enticing. This is a slippery slope, lined, apparently, with bean bag chairs.

Mark Daniels

Gerry said...

I was offered a book under the same basic guidelines.

It was a political book, so I accepted, since I would be staying in my genre with the review.

I gave the book a lukewarm review. I disclosed that the book had been given on the condition of a review.

I have not been offered subsequent books.

I think that open disclosure, and not letting that it was a gift influence one's review, together are sufficient. And if someone wants to believe that the item got a better review due to it being gifted, that is their right with the disclosure.

ThroatWarblerMangrove said...

I'll send you an X Chair if you promise to blog a review of it. (Now with an Althouse performance!)


Finn Kristiansen said...

DEC said...
A cop takes a free apple, a newspaper reporter takes a free lunch, an INDEPENDENT blogger takes and keeps a free product in exchange for a review--they are all departures from the "pure and correct" thing to do.

Oh please. There is a big difference between a reporter, an officer, and a blogger. For one, you are paid to do the other jobs, but as a blogger, you are working (if you can even call it that) for yourself. If you like something, and someone wants to give it to you, then it's fine if you take it.

The only thing you should not do is quid pro quo it, exchanging positive feedback for the goods received, if a review is requested. Ultimately any blogger will be known by their fruit.

Reader I am said:
It looks more conducive for other activities ... and I don't wanna see no pix o' that.

Uhm. What other activities? I hate when people are so cryptic.

JimK said...

I'd say yes (and have) under two conditions: I get to keep the item, and my review is my own to write, regardless of the outcome. If I hate it, I say so and tell everyone I know to stay away. if I love it, I'll try to convince everyone I know to buy one.

You'd be surprised how many people agree to those terms!

Chris said...

Can't see a problem with it as long as the review is allowed to be unbiased.

in_the_middle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
in_the_middle said...

i think glenn misunderstood (hey isn't this ann's blog?); i wasn't criticizing any blogger's acceptance of free stuff or their ability to review (i certainly find glenn credible), but glenn was an example because he has so much stuff.

(btw, glenn, the post on your blog that made me wonder was your very enthusiastic comments about the delphi myfi portable satellite radio thingamabob.)

i'd love all the free stuff in the world, but i think there needs to be full total disclosure that it was sent to by the manufacturer or their rep, and i'd want to think twice about how relevant it is to my blog, and how much i want to be a tool for products.

i'm not sure it's unethical (esp. in this or glenn's case), but it risks turning off an audience unless it's fully relevant to content at hand. (and now, i interrupt my rant on the war on terror to bring you a note about how much i love absolut mandarin!)

the beanbag sounded a little like they expected a positive review, and i stand by the comment about inserting their marketing into blogger's content.

and if a blogger or any other journalist chooses to do the ugly and give 'paid' positive reviews (kinda like the unknown "critics" that are always quoted for big screen stinkers like 'cheaper by the dozen 2'--"BIG LAUGHS!"), they risk loss of credibility as a blogger not just for the review in question, but for every other post they trot out.

that would be, of course, if i was in charge :)~

Ann Þø said...

I do not know if it is seen by everybody but in your previous post there was an advert for the book by Klum.




(note image tag does not work for me)

Now to decide is this a Cute or a Lovely one! The advert not Klum¿


Where I teach (Biz-school) I get books all the time. Never been asked to review or use any of them.