If They Pay You/Freebie You/Comp You, Can you Still be a Good Blogger?

So, this weekend, I went to the SVMOMS/BitMoms brand/blogger roundtable/schmooze fest. (OK, no more slashes for this entire post, I promise.)

I had a great time re-connecting with and/or (oops! slash alert!) meeting some very cool blogging moms, like CultureMom, Marinka, Linsey Krolick (finally!) and Mastermind Mommy I also got to meet a lot of sponsors who are interested in forging relationships with Mom bloggers.  And that’s where the difficult part comes in.  If I mention and link to all the companies that were there, will you automatically assume that I’m only doing it as a sort of tit for tat? And if I don’t, am I being an ungrateful blogger?

One thing I could do is write about companies that were there, but didn’t give me anything.  Like the people from Taga Bikes The have what might possibly be the coolest stroller I have EVER seen.  It’s a bike! No! It’s a stroller! No! It’s both! My kids are ten, and I wanted to win this thing.  It’s just that cool.  And in the case of this particular company, I don’t see much of a problem promoting them.  My kids are well past stroller age and I am well past baby-making age, so there really isn’t a whole lot these people can do for me.  I have no conflict of interest or disclosures to make. I just liked the thing.

I feel the same way about Mabel’s Labels.  A small company co-founded by Julie Cole a truly lovely person who I’d like to help out.  The labels are cute, and though I have not tried them, from what I hear, they really really work  (lots of mom bloggers use them).  She even makes machine washable name tags that stick on!  No sewing or ironing!!  As a mother of two kids about to go to sleepaway camp — it’s like a gift!

BitMoms (a major sponsor of the event) gives parents a place to go for internet safety tips for themselves and their kids.  Writing about them as a resource can only be good.  Plus, I’ve been using their BitDefender anit-spyware/anti-virus software since last fall (bought and paid for, thank you) and I can tell you – it is the LEAST intrusive anti-virus program I have ever used.  I was so sick of all those pop-ups from the other guys.

iGo was there, too.  (Disclosure:  they gave out a free phone charger.)  This is a green company that makes charger strips that turn off the items you select when they’re not in use for a while.  No more need to go around unplugging everything all the time to save energy. I’d mention them even if I didn’t get a charger. It’s green, it’s easy..and well, why not?

But what about companies with which I have a real relationship, like Nintendo?  Over the years they’ve sent me both hardware and software…a lot of it.  And a few weeks ago, Nintendo threw a party at my house to showcase their relationship with Netflix (you can stream Netflix movies to your TV through the Wii – no extra charge and no discs to keep track of.) I haven’t written much about it, because I feared it would sound like a paid blog post.  Which I guess it is…but only sorta…because I am under no obligation to write anything.  They take their chances.  They hope that I will.

Thing is, it was a really fun party and I did learn all kinds of cool stuff about the Wii that I didn’t know — like the fact that you can get news from it.  And movies.  And the local weather.  They showed me how to download games from my Nintendo points card. I’ve had Wii points in a drawer for two years that I never redeemed because I couldn’t figure out how to do it. They entertained the many, many children who were here with games and prizes.  They made really, really nice goody bags for me and my friends.

Why wouldn’t I want to write about it?  Well, because I worry that doing so makes me a shill.

When I wrote and produced tv promos for all those years, I never wondered if, because I was being paid to promote shows I might not have liked all that much, I was misleading people.  I mean, how many Lifetime movies about women in peril can you promote and still be sincere?  I was being insincere all the time!  I wrote promos for A Current Affair! (yes, I am that old) But this whole blog world is a new world. Selfish Mom seems to have it down.  Her disclosure page is so complete, no one could question her integrity.

I hope that my readers trust that I wouldn’t write about anything that I didn’t believe in.  Maybe the Nintendo people have given me lots of product, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Wii has changed me from being against all screen-based games, into thinking they can be great. Not all of them.  I don’t particularly like the games that my kids can play while they’re sitting on the couch.  I don’t like the games that put them into semi-comatose mode.  But there are lots of  Wii games that get them get up, interacting, and moving around.  Even the new Harry Potter Lego game (my son is obsessed with the whole Wii Lego franchise) engages kids.  Two can play at once.  And there are storylines to read (read!), and logic puzzles to solve. My favorite thing? Players can drop in and drop out whenever.  So I can play with my kid for a minute and stop without him screaming about having to finish a level.

I like Wii.  I might not have as much cool Wii and Ds stuff if Nintendo’s PR people didn’t send it me — but I might write about it anyway.  Just like I write about other experiences I’ve had that have nothing to do with PR or freebies or anything of the sort.  And let’s face it. for most of us, Wii’s and PSP’s (not that I know what that is!), and computer games like Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters…well, they’re all a part of our lives.

And that’s what I write about.  My life.

I’ll keep on disclosing who gave me what.  And I’ll stick to my “if you don’t have anything nice to say…” mantra. (Except when I think a product is dangerous, or truly evil, and then I’ll say whatever.) And I’ll hope that you’ll all believe what I say, whether I got something for free or not.

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  1. says

    I really liked reading this post, because it sums up nicely the myriad ways that bloggers come across products and work with companies. It happens formally, it happens informally, sometimes it happens because I know the PR person and like her. How do I disclose that? “I might not have written about product X, but the PR rep told me I looked thin in that green dress I wore last week so I wanted to thank her.”

    After getting criticized from many angles, I decided to just keep my head down, write about what I found interesting, and disclose in a way that I would want to read on someone else’s blog: clear and concise. But in the end, some people are going to be suspicious about anything that’s written when the blogger has ANY kind of relationship with a company, even a casual one. You can’t win, so I don’t even try. I just write about what I find interesting. Like you said, it’s your life, and this is the stuff that’s in your life.

  2. says

    You can watch movies AND get news on Wii?

    I need to know how… I mean I REALLY need to know how to do these really cool things.

    Wait… I’ll have to read a manual the size of a college text book, won’t I…

    Okay, I’ll do it… for the good of my family I will sacrifice my fiction-reading time and read a Wii manual…

    So where do I start… I assume there are some cheats on the Wii so I don’t have to actually FIND the real manual, right?

    • says

      You have to be hooked up to the internet. Which I thought would be hard, but isn’t…as long as you have wireless in your home. just go to Settings on the main Wii menu. Also – they ask for your ssid – which sounds so complicated, but is just the name of your network, like “my network” or whatever!

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