Thursday, December 12, 2013

Let's Talk About It:Native Advertising (and girls who love football)


A couple of days ago The Daily Mail  published an inane article about choosing an age-appropriate perfume. It was the same kind of drivel we've seen before; ageist stereotypes with little to no perfume knowledge, and a reference to the study from a couple of years back that suggests that grapefruit scents make the people around us perceive us as younger. Naturally, many of my friends within the perfume community got annoyed and somewhat offended. They shared the post on Facebook and there were a couple of discussions around the subject, comments about mainstream media's inability to discuss perfume intelligently, and general grumpiness over the idea of an "age appropriate" perfume. I was annoyed as well, of course, but the thing that surprised most was that none of my friends pointed out the fact that the article was actually a thinly-veiled advertorial for a bunch of mass market perfumes, half of them by the Lauder Companies. Is it more annoying to be told by a "reporter" that the latest Jo Malone perfume is fresh and young than it is to know that said journalist is merely regurgitating a press release?

This issue has been on my mind a lot lately. Sponsored content is everywhere online, on blogs and on magazine websites. There's a whole category of online publishers who specialize in creating content that is meant to serve  brands who pay for it as part of their marketing campaigns. There are new companies that act as the middleman connecting brands and willing bloggers for these "paid opportunities". This is not a new practice and there's nothing inherently wrong with advertorials, but I'm deeply bothered by the fact that readers seem to accept this kind of article on the same level they take blog posts by writers who, like me, will not accept cash for content. Are we all the same to you?  Does it even matter?

The Husband hears my gripe about this on a regular basis, but I don't think he fully got it until an event he attended last week that opened his eyes to this specific reality of the online world. When he came home last Friday he told me: "According to Marie Claire, you're doing it wrong". Here's his impressions and thoughts on the subject:

I was at an event last week focusing on business and content strategy companies and publishers can adopt for growth.  Both Refinery 29 and Marie Claire Magazine shared some of the secrets to their success, and more specifically, the financial success. The theme was eerily similar: We know our reader demo and what they want. Pay us and we’ll push your messages and products to our audience in a way that they’ll think it's great content and thank us (and you) for it. 
We all know that living off banner ads is almost impossible for any publisher as response to traditional digital advertising is in decline. Brands are looking for innovative ways to reach consumers and these tailored experiences and “Native Advertising” as they're  sometimes called are the latest trend. If you read a story in an online (and often offline) magazine or blog, how do you know what and who brought this content to life? Did someone pay for this story to appear? Does it matter? 
Native Advertising can take many forms. Some more sophisticated than others but at the end of the day, a brand paid for this content to be published. We as consumers have the right to know that. Those “From around the web” links that appear in many mainstream outlets such as People Magazine and CNN  are actually paid links, not editorial recommendations. When Marie Claire did a story on how girls really like football it was of course paid for by the NFL. Even the respected Atlantic had to apologize after the Church of Scientology sponsored an article which was not marked as such.
Gaia is getting about a dozen offers a day for “Sponsored stories with content so valuable that your readers will thank you for sharing”. Or not. At least she hopes that her readers appreciate the lack of such content here. 
Things have gotten so bad that the FTC is trying to put some guidelines together and the advertising industry is making a go at self-regulating. It’s a good start but far from being sufficient. Consumers deserve to know who paid for a piece of content to be written (wait for it ladies, the NBA is the next big sponsor!). Sites that feature products need to disclose their relationship with the brand. Is it an edit call or a paid inclusion in exchange for ad buy? Content that’s been paid for needs to be clearly marked as such and a disclosure section at the bottom of each article needs to list the exact relationship between the publisher and the subject of the content. We have rules in place to ensure integrity of financial or medical advice. Why not beauty advice?
Big publishers think people do not care very much as long as they rewrite the brands content to sound cool. The lack of backlash and growing readership of these publications worries me that they may be right and we don’t really care. 
What do you think? What type of guidelines would you want to see put in place?

Photo by David Burton for Marie Claire, 2011.

47 comments:

  1. To answer your question, no, you bloggers are not all the same to me. I appreciate that you tell me what products you like and don't like, and it's clearly your own opinion.

    It used to be pretty easy to detect when the beauty bloggers all had gotten the latest Chanel or MAC release, since they'd all publish glowing reviews of the new product in the same week. Things are more insidious now, and I certainly do not catch on to all the sponsored content passing through my reader, although I'm much more suspicious that a blogger has been paid or comped. But there are readers who want genuine editorial as an alternative to packaged content from companies. GOMI denizens rant and rant about rampant affiliate linking and undisclosed sponsored content all the time. As you suggest, it would be nice to see the FTC strengthen the requirements for disclosure, even to the point of dictating where the disclosure is made in an advertorial and how large it must be, with pop-up warnings for mobile, perhaps. Further, I would suggest that the FTC attempt to educate the public about whom their clicks and pageviews pay (e.g.: what's a Reward Style link and who benefits from it?) But with respect to bloggers in particular, I'd be happy with actual enforcement for those who mislead readers. What is the point of the meager FTC requirements for bloggers when I see those requirements ignored?

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    1. Oh, I remember those all-MAC-all-the-time days (not so much with Chanel, though, at least I never got a Chanel package...). It was pretty ridiculous to me, since I was never a MAC fan beyond the very basics.
      The FTC is trying and most American bloggers are more or less compliant, but if you look at many blogs overseas it's total chaos.

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  2. In the 1990s, I began to be disgusted with newspaper and magazine articles based on PR material. Over the last decade, I've watched magazines that used to be interesting become little more than advertisements. I turned to blogs for content, but, as you've observed, many of them have been compromised as well. Obviously this deception needs to end with clear indications of what information comes from PR packs as well as the sources of funding. This has happened in every area, not only in beauty. Thanks for raising this topic. I completely agree how important it is. We are wasting our time and money on junk products and junk information and becoming a hollow economy and society. nozknoz

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    1. I've never seen a comment summarizing it so well. Exactly my opinion!

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    2. Yes, the decline of the magazines is incredibly sad. I wish I still had a few issues of Vogue, Cosmo from the mid 80s so I could look with fresh eyes at their beauty sections and see how much of the content I revered was real.

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  3. This is a brilliant piece - informative and intelligent! The Daily Mail is famous for printing "news" articles that are actually thinly veiled advertisements - not just for perfume but skin care, cosmetics, diets etc. I am ashamed to say that I only realised recently that when magazines raved about products, they were actually just pushing on behalf of the manufacturers who were either paying them to do so, or bribing them with massive goody bags. How naive I was!

    Definitely think there should be more complusion to disclose, although in my heart I think that this is a battle that ultimately we will lose. But thank goodness for honest bloggers.

    Jillie

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    1. Thanks, Jillie.
      It's not just the Mail. This is everywhere. Look at the not so long ago respectable Huffington Post. I'm not even talking about the fact that it's become the Kardashians Daily, but their style and beauty section is one massive PR mouthpiece, including the ridiculous story from a few weeks ago about Le Labo.

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  4. I've recently considered (gasp) wearing makeup, for the first time in my forty-odd years. After staring blankly at all the options, I came to your blog to identify some product candidates. Because I know that you wouldn't be caught dead publishing an infomercial or taking money or anything else in exchange for a positive review. So, yep, I care.

    As a reader, I'd want a clear and standard place where relationships are disclosed--I want to know that I look at the top left, or bottom right, or wherever, and see exactly what's up. For that matter, I'd like to see much more detailed disclosures in fashion magazines as well; right now I tend to assume that most of them don't contain a word of fashion or beauty content that's free of conflict of interest. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's my impression.

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    1. Martha, you're not wrong. I have cancelled every subscription I had, because I get enough press releases as it is. No need to pay for them (or to waste time reading them).

      Have fun experimenting with makeup. It's one of life's little pleasures.

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  5. It is very important to me to be able to trust the blogs I read. Their posts prompt new discoveries and purchases and I like to know if the content reflects an authentic opinion or if it is PR bla bla reworded.
    Without even mentioning "hidden sponsored posts", I have a strong appreciation for bloggers that do not overflow their pages with ads, PR material, sponsored links and too many reviews concerning "products sent by the company PR".
    The latter disclaimer has become a fixture everywhere, so I just accept the fact it has become common practice in the blogging world.
    But in some cases the balance seems to have gotten all wrong. So it's also a question of keeping the right proportions, I guess.
    Many of the blogs I used to trust have turned into soulless venues - don't think that readers don't notice the change. Sometimes I bear with the change because product swatches may be best in class, or because I like the style of writer, but I can tell you that I read their polished posts with warning signs popping up in my mind at every sentence.

    That being said, I have no a priori issues with affiliate links and sponsored content as long as it is CLEARLY marked as such and as long as the blogger "filters" the offers and messages according to its own "editorial line", if we may call it that way. British beauty blogger is a successful example for me of a blogger that manages to be trasparent with her readership while trying to make some money from her blogging.
    Even more so, I appreciate the lack of sponsored content/affiliate links/flowing ads on your blog.
    However, there is one thing missing from all my "trustworthy" bloggers, especially those with one foot (wrist? ;)) in the perfume world (where artisanal brands are often featured):
    a disclaimer of companies - usually small niche brands - who ask the blogger to publish only positive reviews of the frebies (samples of FBs) they send.
    I don't like this practice much and it would help me to know that for a particular product I will get to see only glowing reviews, so as to recalibrate the information I read accordingly.
    I understand why one wants to support indie brands, but I think there are many ways to do it without accepting these little games and maintaning a very transparent relation with the readership.

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    1. Zazie, thanks for the comment. I'll try and address the major points you've raised:

      1. PR samples. Beauty bloggers have been getting press samples since as early as 2005, and it's always been both a major issue for a segment of readers. Obviously, I can only talk about myself, but sometimes I have the urge to post a photo of my lipstick or eyeliner drawers just to show how unlikely it is for a(nother) free mascara to make a difference in my opinion. New bloggers might be a bit more excitable at first, but eventually it becomes just another product that we need to find the skin and time to test.

      2. That said, while there are some bloggers who have the means to purchase everything themselves, this is not true for the vast majority. Without press samples I wouldn't be able to sustain this blog for the last nearly 8 years at the rate of minimum 13 posts per week that I'm keeping.
      3. British Beauty Blogger is, indeed, awesome. It comes from her basic assumption that her regular readers are intelligent and deserve the best she can give. That's exactly what's lacking in many publications, big and small.
      4. For what it's worth, I have never had a small perfume brand make any demands regarding my coverage of their creations. I don't envy anyone who try to pull this off with me, because they'd find themselves on my blacklist faster than they can say "Laurice Rahme". With that said, I am deeply and acutely aware of the power of the word and of the internet. I think we all learned an important lesson in 2007 when Dr. Luca Turin unleashed a venomous personal attack against the late Mona di Orio that nearly finished her wonderful brand. While I have no problem to say if something is not to my taste, when it comes to teeny tiny niche perfumers I will do so politely and carefully and not tear them apart the way I do with Chanel, Guerlain, or Lancome.
      5. It's no secret that I try to support indie, artisan, and local brands. However, my first commitment is to my readers and to myself, and when I suspect that something sucks I decline offers for samples. It's mostly in skincare and nail polish, less in perfume, because generally artisan perfumes have a couple of redeeming qualities, while bad nail polish is just bad nail polish.

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  6. Thank you for this well-thought-out piece. I have mixed feelings on sponsored content. On one hand, I don't think it's terrible for a blogger to get compensated for writing about a brand that she would have written about for free - but once you get to a certain amount of sponsored content it's hard to determine whether someone is writing about a product because she loves it, or because she got paid to. As a reader (to put it bluntly) it sucks. I don't read magazines anymore because most of the content seems to be advertising-driven, and I had turned to bloggers to give me the real story. At one time I had a huge feed of beauty blogs that I read, but it's slowly dwindled as I realized some of the stuff I was reading was just a minor rewrite of the press copy. Not that I mind reading a press release - as long I know it's a press release. I guess I'm saying disclosure is key, in my mind. And if I can share a pet peeve (this isn't directed at you, Gaia, but I see it a lot elsewhere) - if you receive a press sample, *please* do us the favor of reviewing it properly. If I wanted to read the product description, I can do that on their website.

    In any case Gaia, please keep doing what you're doing - as a reader I know that I can trust your reviews, and you're an inspiration for bloggers who write for love instead of money.

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    1. Thanks, Nicci. I deeply appreciate your words.
      In certain cases I wish that the blogger who turn into sponsored publishing for more than 50% of their content would change their title or label. They're no longer independent bloggers and their sites are not personal but simply link and ad farms. It's legal, it's legit, it's perfectly fine, but I don't want to be considered their colleague.

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  7. Yes, this does matter. Considerably. And especially to my wallet. I do most of my shopping for beauty/body products online due to the fact that where I live I have limited access to brick and mortar stores that sell lines I'm interested in, so, consequently, I really rely on what I read online and in magazines when it comes to what I choose to purchase. However, I don't think I'm alone - I think that for a multitude of reasons an increasing number of people are turning to online shopping for a significant percentage of these purchases. I can get samples of perfumes online fairly easily, but that's not the case for most beauty/body/hair products. An advertisement may spark my interest in a product, but I certainly wouldn't want to buy it based on the advertisement or an advertorial and it certainly does concern me that I could read a glowing advertorial and not realize it was precisely that and not an objective review, especially when it comes to higher end, pricey products. I read an increasingly limited number of blogs for that very reason - don't want to waste my time reading something I'm not sure is coming from an objective place. I'm thrilled when I read glowing reviews - but I definitely want to know they are sincere. I also don't only want to know about the positive or negative aspects of a product's performance, I also want a thoughtful review regarding all potential concerns, such as your mention yesterday of the issue of eye shape when buying an eyelash curler - I really doubt that would have come up in advertorial, but, obviously, that's a real issue when it comes to choosing a curler. I'm very grateful for yours and other transparent blogs that have helped me decide on countless face and body products and makeup, but I certainly would like to see more enforcement regarding transparency and origin of content.
    Anna

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    1. Anna, I try hard to think of both negative and positive aspects of products I review. Even if I adore something it can't work as perfectly for everyone. Likewise, when a product doesn't work for me it still has a good chance to fit someone else with a different coloring/skin tone/age than me. Unless said product really and truly sucks and is sloppily made. Then you know I'm going to tell you that.

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  8. I would like a brief disclosure at the top of long articles. Thanks for bring up this subject and discussing the reality of what's happening.

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  9. I think it's generally clear when an article or blog post is sponsored (Refinery 29, which you mentioned, is a prime example: they, like traditional/print magazines, are all about sponsored material dressed up in trendy language, and as a result their "articles" are not very satisfying to read). I so appreciate your decision not to do this. Even when a blogger clearly labels a sponsored post as sponsored, I find it unappealing and, worse, DULL: I don't want to read PR gibberish during my precious blog-reading time. I read blogs to hear each individual blogger's voice: their honest thoughts, feelings, perspectives. I understand that bloggers may at times temper their review of a product that they loathe if it's from a company they generally respect; relationships matter, and in the beauty blogging world it seems that relationships between bloggers and skincare/cosmetics companies are critical. Fortunately, a few of you--yourself as a shining example--manage to walk an admirable line between being respectful of a brand (when warranted) and being honest about what you think.

    Sorry for the ramble: it's a long way of saying that in a slippery, advertising-laden world in which many individuals' opinions seem to be for sale, it's marvelous that yours are not. THANK YOU.

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    1. Thank you so much, SoSuSam! I agree with you about the dullness of advertorials. I don't waste my time reading these things, but apparently someone reads them, otherwise it wouldn't make such a huge part of online (and offline) content.

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  10. As a blogger in a wholly different field (veterinary medicine), your consternation resonates. Even in my field, advertising is increasingly insidious. But, sad to say, I believe it necessarily must be if it's to remain relevant and effective in our culture. (Long explanation omitted but ...) Nonetheless, I'm not as bummed out by it as I thought I'd be. After all, being a blogger who explains how she's paid and offers all kinds of transparent niceties attracts a certain caliber of audience and inspires the kind of loyalty I might miss out on otherwise.

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    1. Patty, I get what you're saying. It makes perfect sense (and I know nothing about veterinary blogs-- though yours look fascinating, especially for this crazy cat lady). However, I hope that my readers keep coming back because they like the way I write and run my blog and not because they think the perks I get here and there are what makes me cool.

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  11. For me, it is all about disclosure. As far as I'm concerned, anyone can publish as much or as little paid content as they want so long as they are completely transparent. That means clearly indicating the paid content and affiliate links in posts, citing the source when paraphrasing or quoting a company's spiel, stating how the product was obtained, indicating when someone else has written a post and whether they received any kind of compensation for hosting it, etc. And, yes, there should be enforceable rules about all of this because the incidents of deception and fraud have been skyrocketing. Blogging is no longer just about people voicing their personal opinions and sharing their experiences. It has become big business and, as readers have turned away from traditional paper print in favor of blogs, companies have realized that there are fields of gold to be mined in the blogosphere. I understand that advertisements are biased so if I encounter one in a blog there's no problem so long as it is disclosed. It is when the advertisement is embedded and obscured that it becomes a type of consumer fraud. It's hard to respect a blogger who resorts to such insidious tactics in order to make a few bucks.

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    1. I agree, Eileen. I hope that the decline in real traffic and readership is enough to make those who defraud their audience reconsider their tactics. The money offered can't be enough to compensate for the loss of reputation and integrity (or is it wishful thinking?).

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  12. Not all bloggers are alike. You are one I read consistently because I love your honest opinions. I used to read another beauty blogger, but after a while I realized her posts sounded just like bits of press releases and every product was great. Even after I posted my less than ideal experience with one of the products she was touting, she still insisted it was the greatest thing on earth.
    I would love to see more honest bloggers who state when they've been paid or have received an item to review for free from the PR of some company.
    For now, I appreciate your honest opinions, delightful prose and occasional photo of your kitties.

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    1. Tatiana, I promise to do better in regards to kitty pictures :)

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  13. I'm ok with blogs being sponsored. Monetizing is a blogger's right. However, what I appreciate about your blog is every opinion on a beauty or fragrance item is so personal I know you invested time and effort and I know I can invest time and effort in reading your posts.
    I echo other commentors that full & transparent disclosure is really important and I'm feel fine reading them, but as soon as I start reading pre-canned PR blah-blah my eyes automatically glaze over. Generally the tone of the language doesn't jibe with the normal voice of the blog and I don't like it. It feels inauthentic to me.

    I hope you find reasons to keep independent and true to your voice, because I know that's why I enjoy the non blonde as much as I do and why I am a loyal reader to your blog! :)

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    1. I started The Non-Blonde because I hoped to create the blog I wanted to read (back when it seemed like all the successful bloggers were blondes...). I remember having this urge to share my opinion and carve my own niche. I don't begrudge my monetizing friends the money they make, and I do feature ads on the blog, but I'm adamant to keep this place true to my original vision. Otherwise, why bother ;) ?

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  14. ^^ eeeh eeeh! One more thing! I am a total fragrance noob (and completely self-designated as ignorant and not particularly interested), but reading your blog is making me so much more interested in fragrances and I love reading your fragrance reviews!

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    1. You have no idea how much this thrills me! Bringing more good people aboard the fragonerd ship is nothing but wonderful.

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  15. I think it's definitely noticeable, and I too have seen blogs evolve from ones I used to enjoy reading into mouthpieces for companies... I would like to see more detailed discloses, too. I've found that Temptalia, for such a large blog, is really the only one that's managed to retain her voice, and I think she's done that by a) always being honest and b) by disclosing everything. I've stopped reading magazines because being recommended a product, and then finding an ad for that same product ten pages later, became too disheartening.

    I enjoy your blog so much because your tone is so consistent and because you have such a strong, recognizable voice. Also because you like many of the same brands I do! It's so helpful when you like or dislike something; I might need to look for a different shade, but I'll nearly always feel the same way about the formula.

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    1. Thank you so much, Adele! Reading everyone's thoughts on this poignant piece is helpful and insightful, but to have you call us out in particular is much appreciated.

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    2. Thank you, Adele. I stopped reading magazines for the same reason. I'm in full agreement about Temptalia and I'm so glad that Christine saw your comment as she deserves all the praise and recognition.

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  16. As an ad-free and decidedly non-commercial blogger, I see these thinly disguised ads more and more, just like you. And all they do is completely shoot any blogger's credibility to the ground. I think it's interesting that more and more, "reliable" sources of information - once it was editorial copy in magazines and newspapers, now it's blogs - are being subverted by advertising into either regurgitated PR copy or paid SEO blogging, and without a disclosure notice, such as we are required to provide when we recieve samples for review - there's no way to tell except an eagle eye or a BS-meter. I'm offered renumeration for "reviews" and SEO blogging at least twice a week these days, and it's only getting worse. What I do believe in is consistency of opinion, and tone - you're the best example of that! - and consistency of content. I also believe that readers are much less easily fooled than advertisers and companies would like to think, and that some day, that fact may come back to bite them.

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    1. Sheila, I think that SEO blogging can be even worse than advertorials and sponsored posts geared towards sales, because it has such a horrible spammy aftertaste.Oonce a blogger opens up his/her site to this kind of (often unrelated) content they often become nothing more than a spam farm. Thankfully we hardly ever see it in perfumeland.

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  17. While I've seen some bloggers do a really good job of balancing commercial and non-commercial interests, I have ceased to read more than one blog once I picked up on the majority of the postings being sponsored content. I think the best word for those is "disingenuous" - do the people behind the advertorial-dominated blogs respect their readers as intelligent human beings looking for information and insight? Was that respect there in the first place and lost along the way?

    I follow bloggers/vloggers as much for their voice and personality as for their specific recommendations. This blog is a great example - I am not a big fragrance person, and my coloring is far more blonde than non-blonde, yet I keep coming back because every post is well-written and interesting.

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    1. "Disingenuous" is a perfect word for this, indeed. And I think that in some cases those blogs started with the best intentions by people who really enjoyed talking about beauty, but at some point discovered that it costs quite a bit to keep doing this, the press samples from luxury brands not coming so easily (if at all), and the temptation to make a buck or seven too big to ignore.

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  18. Being a blogger, monetizing your blog, and staying honest, ethical, transparent, and still putting your readers first has always, of course, been an interesting line to walk, and it continues to become more and more difficult as advertisers move away from traditional (banner) advertisement and want the content space.

    Advertising, affiliate linking, sponsored content all have a place and need to exist if only because bloggers have expenses (at a minimum, and others who want to do it part-time/full-time need to pay for the lights and children's college funds), but they have to be in ways that do the best job of meeting an advertiser's goals as well as being interesting or useful to readers. The current strategy reflects a dominance of meeting advertiser's goals at the *expense* of readers. Until there is more push back, until more refuse to do these types of posts, there's no reason for advertisers not to pursue what is best for them.

    Of course, no matter what type one chooses, disclosure and transparency are so, so important and go a long way to keeping your readers aware of what you're doing and at least treats them like intelligent adults.

    Thanks for opening the discussion, Gaia!

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    1. Christine, thank you so much for joining the conversation, especially since your blog is a prime example of walking this line successfully.

      I think you you nailed it:
      "The current strategy reflects a dominance of meeting advertiser's goals at the *expense* of readers. Until there is more push back, until more refuse to do these types of posts, there's no reason for advertisers not to pursue what is best for them."
      Yes! I just wish we could influence others to see it this way and change the way they operate.

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  19. For some reason I keep thinking readers can tell the difference when something is written for the advertising purposes and when something is someone's opinion. But it seems I am wrong on that account.

    I still don't understand how the brands/magazines come up with information of knowing exactly what their demographic wants? I mean, if you always present the same things with different names (which is how it feels for me) it just means you think your demographic is basically stupid, not knowing better and not trying to know better.
    I do hope they manage to put some regulations on it (I don't think self-regulation is ever enough) so people know what is paid and what isn't and then they consciously choose to either ignore it or look for honest opinions.

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    1. Ines, I'm pretty sure they do think that we're stupid (and it's not just big media. Consider also big perfume).

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  20. ah, so there is a name for it -- native advertising.
    i used to blog at a community space, but have recently opened my own blog because i do not want to be associated with the regurgitation of press releases and blatant pushing of products. i think not many readers are aware of this new marketing modi operandi yet, but i believe readers are intelligent. once they catch on, some blogs will be left and lose their influence. yes,not before they earn some moolah from unsuspecting readers but that is overall good for the economy, and is a process we need to go through to arrive at that place where it can be regulated in an informed and fair way.

    one thing that can help inform readers in the meanwhile, is the conveying of facts and evidence-based information, to balance out the cosmo/marie claire how-to's. personally i find these type of blog posts are very time-consuming to write, but when i stumble across blogs that do take the time to go through the science, i immensely enjoy it and i believe other readers do too. educating one person at a time!

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    1. Lena, you're probably right: educating and offering an intelligent alternative is all that we can do. Hopefully it's enough.

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  21. Bloggers are not all the same in my eyes. And yes, it does matter.
    When I started reading blogs several years ago, it was because I wanted to learn about brands that I didn't have easy access to, to see accurate color swatches and to learn more about how to apply make up beyond the basics of blush and lipstick. I found that thru blog reading I could increase my skill level and knowledge without having to admit it to a SA/MA face to face (that’s just my own personal hang up). Fast forward several years and the list of blogs I read consistently has shrunk significantly. Once I felt like I had more than basics nailed, I became more discerning in what I wanted to spend my blog reading time on.
    Now when I read, I’m looking for honest opinions (not paid regurgitation of PR copy), accurate color swatches, detail on how to use a product/what to expect when it is a new thing (example - YSL lip stains) and a point of view that belongs to someone who isn't in their 20s. Textures look different on skin that has life experience as opposed to skin that has 2 short decades on planet Earth. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m definitely not against younger bloggers. There are younger bloggers that I read and enjoy on a regular basis.
    I get that writing a blog entry is not just the minutes involved in writing copy. Swatching, writing, lighting, props or other pics to invoke the feel you want, taking photos, editing photos/copy, uploading a post/video - all take time. And time is a precious commodity. I do not have a problem with a blogger being compensated either monetarily or with product. But I do want an honest review and transparent notice for the type of compensation received. I can't imagine writing a beauty blog and not receiving at least some press samples. Writing a beauty blog is NOT an inexpensive venture – even more so when writing about brands not available at the drugstore.
    I appreciate your voice and the consistency in that voice across your posts. I also appreciate your attention to detail. I have found that your preference in brands and products is very similar to mine. So even though our coloring is different, I have found that I can rely on what I read on your blog as a starting point for a purchase. I also appreciate that your blog isn’t overflowing with links and ads. I would prefer to read fewer entries from a blogger that I trust rather than multiple entries that are nothing more than a rewriting of a PR release.
    Like several others have noted, there are blogs that have managed how to walk the monetizing line successfully – British Beauty Blogger, Temptalia are good examples. I appreciate the exposure to brands that I wouldn’t read about otherwise because of the relationships that they have developed with brands/PR. But both of those bloggers have figured out how to include what feels like their own honest opinion in their posts. If a blogger does include PR copy, I want to see it broken down by “This is what company X says” and this is my opinion on the color/consistency/wear time/claims, etc. And I want more than simply pros and cons. For example -I like specifics like what you included in your eyelash curler post.
    This has rambled much more than I expected, I’ll close by saying that I look forward to enjoying your blog in years to come - you inform, teach and entertain in a way that I adore and it keeps me coming back for more. You’ve even convinced me to stretch my comfort zone to at least read about perfume!

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    1. Your comment reminded me another instant from just before I started blogging: a blogger in her early 20s reviewed heavy duty skin care (stuff like Creme de la Mer) and gave it a thumb down and called it a fraud because it "just sat there doing nothing". She was dead serious and thought it was the scoop of a lifetime, not stopping to think that maybe, just maybe, she was not the right person to review it.

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  22. Despite the helmet, I love make up and hair.

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  23. As a physician and a perfume (primarily) and makeup (secondarily) junkie I love and appreciate your blog exactly because of its transparency. Your husband is correct; at the beginning of every presentation in the medicine world, there is a slide to alert everyone in the audience to any financial disclosure pertinent to the talk. The same should be demanded of the blogging world. It's easy, one line at the bottom. The blogs that I read and respect (including this one) are bookmarked on my computer in part for this reason. Yes, I share a sense of esthetics, humor, cultural references with many of the authors; but I also want to know their opinion are just that: theirs. Keep on keeping on Gaia, and thank you for your daily dose of beauty, intelligence, distinctive taste, and - it turns out- good ethics.

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  24. Thank you for this article. I think I am going to bookmark it. Such an interesting topic and conversation! I too have stopped most of my subscriptions to magazines because it's just one big ad with the same info (and even regurgitated photos!). It's rather depressing and shows the big picture of what companies think of us and how they want us to perceive ourselves.

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  25. Also, many times I've thought of starting a blog, but I don't think I could do it as well as you, Christine and a handful of others whose blogs are worth reading.

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I love comments and appreciate the time you take to connect with me, but please do not insert links to your blog or store. Those will be deleted. The comment feature is not intended to provide an advertising venue for your blog or your commercial site.

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