Once upon a time, I wrote a smattering of product reviews. I wasn't passionate about having a review weblog, but I thought I'd give it a shot.
Let me tell you, this is not the way to start out a successful blogging adventure. No. If you start out with a lacklustre meh, you will, in all likelihood, plod along, and that meh will be apparent to everyone, and you will let that review weblog peter out sometime last year. Oops.
While I half-heartedly wrote product reviews, though, I was giving a lot of thought to the pitches I was receiving and my motivations for writing reviews. I wanted to write about things that I liked and used, but it turns out that I am far less of a consumer than I thought I was, and the pitches I was receiving were for things like potty-training books and kids' television channels, which none of my three cats are really into. In short, I was not cut out to run a full-time review weblog.
Aside from my meh attitude, though, there are a few other reasons why I don't write product reviews very much anymore, and, frankly, I don't read many of them, either.
Product reviews are about as interesting to write as they are to read, which is to say that they are not very interesting. Be honest. You may love the blogger behind a review, but does his or her take on that nailpolish or candy or cat tree do much of anything for you? Even if they get all creative and post photos of a bottle of depilatory cream humping the soap? It doesn't do much for me, either.
Most companies ask you to spend time writing advertising for them without even offering decent compensation for ad space, let alone your skills as a writer and photographer. I can understand doing it if the money is good, but the money is not usually good. In fact, a blogger is often lucky if they are even offered one of the products to keep, let alone get paid for their work and time. If you look at what someone at that company or ad agency would make for spending the time to write that same piece, the average blogger is doing it for next to nothing. It often amounts to unpaid, undervalued labour on the part of the blogger, unless the blogger is really, really keen on that case of Lush products. Which I kind of am.
In the end, I had to ask myself what I thought my time was worth. Hands down, it was worth more than trying to come up with a creative review for a hockey jersey.
When I reach down into myself, I find that I just don't care enough about most products to give up that much time and space and energy to them. It is not usually worthwhile enough to either me or my readers to give up my time and energy like that. If there is no social, life-enhancing value in my shilling for the latest processed snack food, then the answer is no.
Most of the pitches I receive show no respect for my time, energy, and ability. For me, blogging is a craft. I see myself as an artist. Scoff if you will, but I do. It helps me value my trade to view it through this lens. Those pitching, though? They rarely even bother to check out who they are pitching to.
That hockey jersey I mentioned? This one company wrote to me THREE times about this hockey jersey. I should give away this hockey jersey, they said. When I said that I didn't do free advertising, they said I should do it because they were going to give me a hockey jersey, too. I said, but I hate hockey jerseys. They said that I am a Canadian and should want to give away this hockey jersey, and that I could even give away the hockey jersey they offered me, because then I would be giving away two hockey jerseys!
I DON'T LIKE HOCKEY. THE ALLURE OF SPORTS ESCAPES ME. And I won't give something away that doesn't move me PLUS give away my paltry, so-called "payment" for advertising for it, because that is like doing it for more than free. In fact, at that point it becomes a donation of my time and web space and the little bits of my heart that it shrivels. Hockey jersey company? You are not a charity, and I am not doing you a favour.
Also? They never even addressed me by name in their e-mails. I believe they referred to me as "Publisher". Pfft.
Of course, none of the above means that I won't write reviews, but it does mean that I won't write most reviews, especially if the pitch is misguided, because there is very little value for me or for you in a meaningless shill or a giveaway of a product that I don't use myself (except for that time I gave away an iPod Shuffle, because even though I will not listen to anything through headphones due to my own paranoia about home invasion, others should not be deprived of cool tech, (even if it means that that someone might get assaulted by an axe-wielding home invader because they couldn't hear him crawling in through their window. (Sorry, Steff.))).
Do you write reviews? What has your experience been?