When I started this blog in early 2006 it was because I wanted to add my own voice to the beautiful chorus that has been forming in the online world by regular people who had something to say. Things seemed to have been going well in the beauty blogging arena, just as they did in other areas of the blogsphere until the backlash that happened around 2008. I admit that I was somewhat surprised. No one seemed to care that tech bloggers were regularly receiving various expensive gadgets for free, including every i-whatever. It was the objectivity of beauty bloggers over $20 mascaras that was called out and questioned in the NY Times. I wrote this response back then, and I still stand behind every word.
Unfortunately, while there's absolutely no problem with accepting samples and products for review from brands or stores, there are more and more instances of what I call "Bloggers Behaving Badly". This covers a range of questionable actions from begging for samples on Twitter (or begging in general, really, that causes the blogger to owe the brand), to the deplorable practice of selling gratis items. A gift from a brand, a store, or a perfumer was given out of good will. Selling a palette, a dress, or a perfume bottle (even splitting the latter for profit) is as unethical as it gets. This is the kind of behavior that besmirches the name of bloggers and gets us blacklisted. I'm shocked that I even have to say this.
The issue of disclosure is still a hot topic, considering that bloggers and vloggers from outside the US are not required to put any disclaimer in their work. YouTube especially is rife with sponsorships, paid content, promotionals, advertorials, and infomercials, all pretending to be legit user content. They're not. When you watch a makeup tutorial that was sponsored by a brush-maker you will not necessarily get the best advice. You'll only hear the info the company wants you to absorb. The use of affiliate links (everyone from Lisa Eldridge to Gwyneth Paltrow does it nowadays) adds another compromise to the already fragile fabric of trust. If the blogger in question profits from the links it's an incentive to avoid writing negative reviews (best case scenario) and even to gloss over serious issues with the products. But that's something that any intelligent reader can decipher on his/her own. It's just the way it is, and honestly, with regular advertising revenues on the decline for years now, I have a lot of sympathy for bloggers who decide to use these links. As long as they disclose it clearly in a way that makes it obvious that when they're praising a product to high heavens they're also hoping that it'll make you click on their links to make a purchase.
There are bigger issues, though. A year ago the Husband and I wrote this post about paid content/native advertisement on beauty blogs and magazines. It's become even more relevant since. I've always maintained the view that there should be a sharp distinction and separation between personal blogs and personal advertising publishers. The fact that the content of a website is written by a sweet and funny individual does not make it a blog if the purpose of said site is promoting products and companies. That person is not a blogger. He or she are marketers, publishers, promoters--- call it whatever you want, but that is not a beauty blog (nor is it a gardening/cooking/parenting/pet etc. blog). It's a commercial website. As veteran blogger Kelly Kreth had put it: "Native advertising is basically saying 'What do I have to do to put you in this car today?' "
The blurred lines between bloggers and advertorial writers have created ridiculous incidents, such as a blogger who published a sponsored review that directly contradicted a real review she wrote a month earlier. Can't we at least expect that a blogger that dislikes a product would avoid accepting money to promote it? Is it that hard? It also extends to "bloggers" charging companies for inclusion in their holiday gift guides, getting paid to run a giveaway (sometimes for products that they haven't tried, didn't like, or has absolutely nothing to do with the niche of their site). Add to that all those "10 day challenge" paid by brands, sudden appearance of posts praising everything from frozen lasagna to feminine hygiene products on a beauty blog, and you get one big confusing mess
I have to admit that in this type of environment it is sometimes hard to keep doing what I do. I know that I'm old school, which raises the question of relevancy. Some of my favorite bloggers from the mid 2000s have left the field, partly because of the changing scene. Don't get me wrong: I know who my audience is, and it's amazingly large, diverse, and wonderfully sophisticated. I keep many of you in my mind when I decide which products to buy, what to accept for review, as I choose images that hopefully will delight you. My reasons for blogging are still valid, and my readership keeps growing, which probably answers the relevancy issue. I just hope not to be swallowed whole by a new reality where I and my friends who hold the same values no longer belong.
Photo: Audrey Hepburn in the 1951 movie Laughter In Paradise via http://www.emmaaime.com/.