Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Turning pro

What a thrill! There it was in my Garden Amateur email inbox yesterday afternoon. An offer of freebies from a gardening products manufacturer's PR company. I could get all sorts of free 'goodies' to road test, and even more free 'goodies' to give away to readers of my blog, if I wanted them. Unfortunately, people, accepting this kind offer would ruin my cherished amateur blogger status, and so I have turned down the offer, but it's still really nice to be offered a bribe – I've been noticed!

Speaking of being noticed, I have definitely noticed freebies and giveaways being offered more often on blogs, particularly on popular Aussie food blogs most recently, and I was wondering when some of the moolah was going to come the gardening bloggers' way.

I have no problem with this at all. Some bloggers have dreams of turning pro, and attracting readers with competitions and prizes, plus making money out of advertising, is the accepted way to become a professional blogger. I want to retain my amateur blogger status, so "no thanks" is all I'm saying here. If you want to turn pro, good luck and best wishes.

I'm not going to name the company who made the kind offer, as I like their products very much and have a couple of them in my shed already, which I bought with my own money some time ago. What they're doing is just modern marketing, and while it does no major harm I am sure the supply of freebies would dry up if I tested their product and said it was crap. So I'm just not going there. Life as an amateur blogger is poorer but simpler.

If I ever mention that I've used some product here on my blog, it's simply because I've bought it myself and found it useful. Sure, working on a gardening magazine I do occasionally bring home some of the endless supply of 'samples' that come flowing into our office from PR companies (like bottles of fertiliser, etc), but that's just a normal part of working on a magazine. I don't write product reviews for the magazine, but I will tell our gardening experts Don and Geoffrey if I liked a product or not. And that's as far as it goes. To them, my opinion is just a bit more feeback from a keen amateur gardener whose opinion they find useful.

Understandably, cynics imagine there's endless corruption in the media surrounding product tests, and I've seen plenty of it in my many years in the field. I'd have to say the worst examples I've come across are in travel writing. Writers get a free holiday to some destination and then they rave about it in return, making everything sound wonderful. If they criticise, no more freebies. This is a sad state of affairs, as a couple of friends of mine are travel writers with real integrity who tell it like it is (and their stories are much better reads). The corrupt freebie-takers annoy them as much as they annoy me, but nothing is going to change very soon in that industry. I adopt this simple rule with reading a travel story. If it sounds too wonderful, too good without a "but" or "however" anywhere, I don't trust it at all, and try to remember to never bother with reading that travel writer's guff any more.

I can confidently say that my gardening magazine does have high standards of integrity, and I'm pretty sure most of our competitors are straight shooters too. However, it's the sacred duty of all PR people out there to get their products into the magazines and TV shows, and they never stop trying with every trick in the book. And getting bloggers to plug their product is a smart move. Good luck to them.

Gosh, this has turned into a rant, hasn't it? Oh well, it's my blog and I'll rant if I want to. But I do want to draw a line somewhere and it's here, on my blog. I want to keep my blog as my own little simple, home-grown patch devoted mostly to my love of gardening. I can say what I like when I like. I don't earn a cent from it and never will. I'm strictly an amateur – I do it for the love of it. *Rant mode off*


Liss said...

I don't believe in cash for comments but think you could strike a happy medium by:

- Reviewing HONESTLY if something is good or not. Good, bad, and very, very ugly.
- Advertising can be subjective, and I think as it does read as a bit of an endorsement you'd want to be sure you could stand by the product. I have knocked back advertising on those grounds.
- Doing giveaways is just a bit of fun - everyone would like something for nothing I expect (depends what the something is though!)

I would never expect you to be a 'sell out' kinda guy. I didn't read your post as a rant just a 'this is where I stand' thing :)

Melinda said...

Good on you! A very authentic decision.

patientgardener said...

I have done one freebie post and to be honest I hated it. I thought the product was rubbish and I found it very hard to say otherwise but I tried. They havent asked me to do another which is a relief!!

Green thumb said...

It certainly requires a lot of courage to do that. Frankly, had I been in your place I would have succumbed to the temptation. And I think most others in my place would have done the same too.
Thanks for giving your excellent perspective on things and for being such an inspiration.
I am sure the marketing companies will have to do some serious adjustments in their strategies, if they keep brushing up with guys like you. said...

You handled this topic very well as not to insult others who choose to take such offers. For some, it can be a tough decision if they want to earn a little money from their blog. The key, I believe, is stay true to your blog no matter the decision. You do that well.

Cioara Andrei said...

Foarte interesant subiectul postat de tine. M-am uitat pe blogul tau si imi place si am sa mai revin sa-l vizitez. O zi buna