The Blog Issue – Are We Selling Out?

Posted in Blogging.

When bloggers first put finger to key and started writing about their experiences with brands, they were the underdogs. As this post on Digitalista points out, they were bottom of the pile, given no more than a patch of pavement at events.

That outsider status made it easy for bloggers to comment objectively – no one was paying them, and unlike the magazine editors who received product, payment and front row seats for their glowing reviews, they could tell it exactly as it was. So they did, and that unbiased voice is one of the reasons for the huge surge in blogger popularity. Consumers are looking for the truth, unmarred by advertising agencies and brand consultants, and they go to bloggers to find it. Or, they did.

Have you heard the saying ‘first come the fans, then comes the industry’? It applies to most areas of popular culture. A product, brand, artist, band or person starts gaining popularity under its own steam, builds a loyal following, gets noticed by the relevant people and is eventually picked up by the industry. When the industry swoops, that product, brand, artist, band or person can choose to go it alone and continue developing independently, or it can allow itself to be enveloped by the industry, using their resources to its full advantage. The latter is often known as ‘selling out’.

So how does all that apply to bloggers? Well, we’re heralded as the last bastion of truth – in a world when even a simple tweet is planned, developed and optimised before it’s sent, bloggers are the ones without an agenda. We don’t answer to an editor, we do it for love not money, we buy the products we write about with our hard-earned cash. But as blogging moves from outsider media to the social movement du jour, bloggers are being courted by brands, and when you’ve been paid to write something, you can no longer remain impartial.

I’m passionate about hard work being rewarded and that includes blogging (I covered this in another Blog Issue post). I think it’s perfectly possible to work with brands without being accused of ‘selling out’, but you need a good understanding of your audience and the kind of content they’re interested in. Think about your own personal brand too (another topic covered in The Blog Issue) – does their brand fit with yours? Is the product or service something you’re truly interested in? Can you offer your own opinion as well as the one in the press release?

It all comes down to you and the direction your want your blog to take. If you want to work with brands and make money from the content you create, it’s inevitable that your editorial integrity will be affected, albeit not necessarily in a negative way. And if you’d rather stay independent, you can say that no one has an influence on what you write. I think the ideal blog is a mix of the two – carefully chosen paid-for content and plenty of posts that come straight from you.

What do you think – are bloggers who except payment for posts selling out? Where does your own blog fit in?



I’m a purist. Stay true to your roots. Blogging as hobby. That kind of attitude.

I don’t want to read content that’s a puff piece or a bit of clever niche marketing.

So I prefer blogs with no axe to grind.


As a fairly new blogger, i haven’t encountered this issue but i found it extremely interesting reading your post. You write so well!

Anyway, back on topic, as a reader of a lot of the so called “popular” blogs, i think you can always tell if someone has thought through a brand association properly. The ones that you can see a clear link between the vibe of the blog/the bloggers personal style or their demographic are the most successful “partnerships” in my opinion.

The ones that are doing it for the sake of publicity or money, and have done it without much thought, stick out a mile. I think you can also tell whether or not someone is sincere in their like for a product, and if it is something a blogger truely believes in then i think, “Why not?”

Finally, i think i have greater respect for those bloggers who “hold out” for brands and products they truly like. I’d rather just see a few brand reviews of good quality than a dozen generic ones done purely for the sake of it.

Stacey xx

Llara is the Little Scribbler

Re your Schuh post (if the comment works this time!), I was trying to say that I thought the look came off as a polished version of 90s grunge more than 80s Courtney circa Bruce. Love the reference though!

Re this post – I’m no biggie but have still turned down stuff that I could have made money on but that made me feel uncomfortable as it lacked integrity. I then went on to see the posts I’d been offered on other blog and it did make me uncomfortable. It just felt cheap.

I very much think that people should be rewarded for their work if a brand is asking them to do something for them. And I think if that brand fits with the style and content of your blog, go crazy! However, if it’s just free stuff/money for any old crap, I don’t see the point. There’s no pleasure and it removes blogging as a hobby. I’mm off to clear out my blog roll, I reckon…


I don’t think it’s selling out, really. Maybe I’m biased because I have, and will continue to accept sponsored posts etc,
but first and foremost my blog is my hobby. I won’t go against my morals and I won’t blog about something I don’t have an interest in…paid or not.


I think brand synergy (gosh, did I really say that!) and only accepting things you like and would spend your own money own is the most important thing. I’ve only gone against my gut instinct once – it’s a necklace I’ve been sent that’s not really me. Honest review coming up soon! I feel a bit bad, but it’s more important to be honest. xx


I think there is a line. I read more food blogs than style blogs and some of them have gone too far over the line. I think if the content suits your blog and you really do like what you are being given to promote, then it is fine – but in moderation.

But when you see a well known cookery blog waxing lyrical about the a ready meal collection I don’t think that is right.


I’ve recently come back to blogging after an absence of about 18 months, and think it’s interesting how the landscape’s changed in that time. Blogs have become much more photo-orientated, and are being seen as far more of a PR tool. When my blog was popular I was frequently asked to host ads (which I turned down) and also to review records from new bands (which I sometimes did on a side-project music based blog) but never on the scale that happens now. My background is PR/marketing, and I think word of mouse is becoming the biggest PR tool, and brands would be mad not to harness bloggers where they can. I do prefer to see an acknowledgement of being sent something/PR sample on a blog, but that’s just a personal view.

Sirens and Bells

With some blogs, I’ll read posts, and it’s SO clear they’ve been paid to say what they’re saying – it’s nothing like the posts they usually write, but if you can still stay true to yourself and your blog, and not sell out, it’s not too bad! As you say, the ideal blog is a bit of a mix of the two!
Sirens and Bells xx


Another fab and thought provoking post, thanks Jen!

I agree with Sarah – blog synergy and honesty are the most important things to me. I turn down invites to events and offers of freebies if I don’t think they’re right for my blog. It is my hobby and I don’t want to feel pressured into giving something a good review just because it was free.

I don’t mind reading sponsored posts from other bloggers either, although I don’t do them myself (Can’t be arsed with the tax implications of earning money for my blog!) The one thing I dislike though are sponsored posts that don’t *sound* like the blogger, just a regurgitated press statement. Even if it’s being paid for I prefer original content.


Hmmm, blogger integrity is always a tough topic to talk about. It’s nice to get free things, but I still like to be as objective as possible about them. I’ve never got anything awful (except a certain par of Debs shoes), so haven’t needed to write anything really bad about a company/brand/product…yet.
I rarely do sponsored posts and I don’t blame other bloggers for doing them…ocassionally. I guess it’s nice to get recognition with free stuff and money for ads, and by accepting these it doesn’t necessary make us sell outs. I could go on for years about this topic.


I don’t mind reading sponsored posts and suchlike – I’ve discovered lots of fab new small companies that way. However I HATE blog posts that are just copied and pasted press releases. Fair enough if it’s something that fits with the overall tone of your blog and that you like, but at least have the creativity to make it sound like you. (You in the generic sense, not you personally!)

I read blogs that interest me and that have a sense of personality. If the content starts becoming too obviously PR driven and dull (most regurgitated press releases aren’t that interesting) then I’ll soon start to lose interest.


such a good topic to cover jen and you worded it so well..its a topic that always makes me stop and scratch my head. recently ive had alot of brands askign me to write posts on their brands or websites..brands ive never bought from or prob ever would and ive turned them all down..if it works for me then ill consider a product review but purely promoting a brand always comes off fake to me…esp on my blog where i keep it mainly outfit posts..

Diary of a Tinyholder

I have been thinking this very same thing for a while now. There are a few blogs that seem to relish in doing reviews to show off. It drives me potty. The odd review of course is fine and useful, but all the time…no, I don’t want to read that. I struggle a bit as I’m trying to raise money for a couple of charities but I don’t want to put people off reading my blog by going on all the time about it.


I see no problem in working with brands and even receiving products to review and blog about. As my blog is all about the hair, it’s got for me to have a wide range of products and items to discuss to give my readers more information about something they may want to buy.
I’m always honest, and if companies don’t like that then unfortunately tough. It’s my blog, my way. If something is brilliant, I’ll sing it from the rooftops, if I’m not impressed then I’ll say. But it’s my opinion.
But I will always keep it relevant. It’ll look strange if I start writing about clothes I’ve got for free, and my readers would think so.


Miss Raj

I think it’s hard to be loyal to a brand without being seen as a sell out. Perhaps you can be loyal to a certain product, or item, but you cannot love every single thing about a brand… surely? So if there are certain items you’re less chuffed about but you have been employed by a brand, then you have no choice but to smooth over the negative points.. = sell out? xxx

Penny Dreadful

They are difficult waters to navigate. And it depends on what sort of blog you write too, we all have a different ‘vibe’ and for some bloggers it might be ok just to talk about stuff you’ve been sent/paid for (same as magazines). I have turned down a fair amount of things that I didn’t think have fitted in with the theme of my blog. And when I am offered something to review or given a press release that DOES fit in with what I write about, I try to be totally honest in my opinion. Even if I ended up annoying some big company for not being totally enthusiastic about their product, I think it is more important that readers know they can trust what I say. If a company doesn’t send me another product, I can live with that. If I lost readers because my reviewing became lazy, that would be upsetting. x


Personally I usually skip when I see on my dashboard a product review, I like blogs that comment and bring up pressing issues, but that is just my taste in blogs.

Furthermore, I am not the kind of blogger who would get sent stuff, so I can’t really comment on that from a personal perspective, but one thing I will say about bloggers getting sent things- it can make for yawnsome reading.

How many beauty bloggers have reviewed Sigma brushes? Ok, so I only know about Sigma thanks to perusing blogs, so I guess this proves that they have achieved what they wanted to achieve for their brand and good for them. But in many ways this blogger-brand thing is destroying what everyone loves about blogs and what you rightly point out- the originality, the impartiality.

I always look forward to these posts x


Ah, I was only the other day reading yet another blog post that was so far removed from what the blog was about (I came to read about your pugs, not which of the new Sure deodorants are your favourite!), and from a non-blogger but active blog reader point of view, it’s a real turn-off. Your blog is no longer a representation of you or your views, if it’s obvious your getting freebies or money to write posts then you are indeed a sell-out, and kinda disrespecting your readers by thinking they want to read another obvious sales pitch.xx

fashion bucket.


I am new to fashion blogging and just stumbled across your blog (it is great by the way – totally refreshing to read thought provoking posts with a strong voice and opinion as this is quite hard to come by).

I never even thought about blogging as a way of making an income or linking up with brands before I started (how naive is that?), but as I have become more aquatinted with different blogs and styles I have noticed a big trend emerging. So many of the top bloggers have a particular brand they work with most, and on some occasion work for the brands. In the beginning I am usually unaware and I follow because I like their style/photography/writing. However after awhile you begin to notice a pattern and that is when I seriously begin to lose interest.

I have noticed a lot of the top bloggers are endorsed by really expensive brands, that none of the regular people in this world would ever be able to afford – this is the biggest issue for me.

Another thing is competitions. There is a competition on every other blog every other day in a quick bid to win over followers. I tend to stay away from these blogs, unless you can tell that the blogger is genuinely passionate about a particular brand and actually wants to promote it to get other girls (or guys) excited about it too.

Thanks for sharing this post 🙂

-fb X


I think people can do both with selling out. You have to trust your followers to trust you.

I haven’t ever done a sponsored blog but that does not mean to say that I wouldn’t if it was something I felt was worthwhile.


I think so long as you are promoting something that fits in with your blog and are actually receiving a benefit in some way, then fine. But some bloggers will just gladly regurgitate a press release on the promise of a ‘link back;. Why?! Why do PRs think that being linked on a site is enough payment for a whole post?! Some might say don’t sell out, but I also say don’t reduce your worth too. So long as you also stay true to yourself and don’t have EVERY post as a sponsored post or press release and still inject your personality into those sponsored posts then I don’t mind it. It’s just like reading a magazine but a bit more personal.


Great post and definitely an issue that needs to be discussed. I hear so much from brands that bloggers email them asking for free products. I think that makes us all look shady. Bloggers still have a long way to go so every move we make represents the WHOLE community. I don’t think you need to sell out but yes some people are trying to make this a living.

Danielle C

Great post! Also just started browsing your blog and love your thrift finds!! No I don’t think bloggers are selling out if they talk about the brand and give their honest opinions. Supporting brands that they do like and getting paid for is fine. Supporting brands or products they are not interested in and does not interest readers just to get paid is not. I think readers will much value your integrity.


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