Have you guys read Roserunners latest blog entry? Like a lot of her posts, there's a really interesting discussion going on in the comments. And it's inspired me to write a post on a similar topic that's coming up in the comments on her blog.
Products and Bloggers
In the running blogging community, there seem to be two extremes on the whole "shilling / product placement" thing.
I feel like I fall somewhere in the middle. I certainly don't mind getting free stuff, especially free stuff I would have bought anyways (Mizunos..Nuun...). To be honest I've saved a considerable amount of money as a result of Mizuno's generosity. But then...writing about products is awkward. Even if I like the product. Not only am I am fully aware that a lot of people don't enjoy product placement type posts, I don't blog that often, so a post stays up forever. And I almost never blog about products or "what I wore" outside of a brand partnership. I am pretty sure no one cares what I wore or ate because I certainly don't :).
So what's appropriate in the blogging community when it comes to promoting products? Obviously you can't make everyone happy all of the time, but here's my opinion on the whole thing.
While I don't really agree with the "if you don't like it, don't read" philosophy (there are a lot of things that I don't like, but still can't stop reading), I apply this to constant giveaways and promotions on blogs and not even by choice. This is because I get bored and kind of forget about blogs that are constantly promoting products. Everyone has their own reason for reading blogs, and mine include looking for a laugh, good training advice / inspiration, or just keeping up with a friend. I don't need more reasons to be encouraged to buy more random shit I don't need.
That said, it's just mildly annoying for me. If someone tweets that wearing compression socks helped them win the race, I usually just roll my eyes and move on. I figure, the blogger doesn't necessarily owe me an entertaining experience. In the case of misrepresentation (saying something is awesome that sucks or not saying that they were compensated), I guess that's wrong, but I don't really take anyone's product opinion posted online that seriously anyways. People write fake reviews on Yelp, people post living social deals on Facebook just because they want to get it free for themselves, and people write random-ass product reviews on blogs. For better or worse, readers should be careful when reading any advice online.
All the anger directed toward companies that work with bloggers doesn't make that much sense to me. In my day job, the main things that would influence my working with a blogger would be :
1) The amount of revenue/exposure that could be gained in the partnership
2) Are they a fit with the brand
3) They are not an ax-murderer.
I don't care if the person is the worst writer in the world, if they have a huge loyal following, I would want in. As part of the company, it's not really my opinion to form. The way I see it, these companies are just trying to make a buck, and for smaller companies, it can be a good way to get some brand awareness and traction.
People don't get angry in the same way when Coke shows up in a product placement in a movie, or when they constantly hear the "Tostitos Fiesta Bowl", and I don't see how working with bloggers is that much different. It's annoying to be bombarded with the same product over and over again in social media, but it doesn't mean the company owners are assholes. Seems to me like they are just trying to make a buck like the rest of us.
Is there a way to do it right?
Even though product placement doesn't bother me that much, it clearly annoys the crap out of a lot of people. And that needs to be considered, because unfortunately for my ego, my opinion and emotions are not the only ones that matter.
I think in running blogging, it's a particularly sensitive subject, because there are elite runners out there who don't get anything for free, and people who run 15 miles a week who get valuable products and compensation. It's not like being a fashion blogger where someone can't say "she sucks at dressing herself, how come this elite dresser didn't get these Chloe boots instead?". Running blogging is less subjective.
So...is there a way to still partner with a brand in a way that feels authentic and not in a way that's comes across as fake, annoying, or misleading? The only thing I know that has worked for me is to work with a brand that or product that I'd buy anyways. So that way, if I tweet about something, I feel a little awkward but at least I don't feel like I'm lying. But who knows. Maybe I still annoy everyone. I don't really get much more than occasional products and Starbucks money off my blog anyways as I'm not in the class of bloggers trying to make substantial cash off their blogs.
What do you think about product placement / giveaways on blogs?
Is there a good way to partner with a brand? Or is it all just too annoying?