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RANT: The Best Things in Life are Free


What was in the Pulp Fiction briefcase? 


Credit http://gapingvoid.com/blog/

Parental Advisory: Explicit Content

I hate giving myself the title of "blogger" when somebody asks me what my involvement with beer is. The connotations are so hideously disparaged that it isn’t worth the hassle. The sceptical looks. The scornful faces when they haven’t heard of your blog. That odd head-to-toe sizing up of you people do when you know they’re thinking “You? Really? What’s so special about you?” 

It’s a hobby; one that I love. I write about what I enjoy. I write when I feel like writing about items that I want to write about. Often I don’t post anything for weeks as life and love are more important. This isn’t my job. If people ask me what I do to be involved in beer I’ll mention the blogging. It’s true. It is the reason I get invited to lots of beer events I suppose. But there’s no doubting that people consider the terms blogger and freeloader to be interchangeable.

I do enjoy talking to other bloggers because we do all harbour similar feelings about our blogs. Am I writing frequently enough? Should I get a logo? Should I have a designer make my website a bit fancier? Should I be writing more in the third person rather than the first? They are great conversations as they are the only people who can give me answers or share their experiences. I have, however, never asked another blogger for advice on how I can get more pageviews or improve #CONTENT. Yes, I do have shudders and goosebumps even writing that last sentence.

And occasionally I do get sent freebies. It is rare comparatively to others I know. Of course it is always flattering and gratefully received, but I’ve never written a single word about any of the sample beers I've received because of this blog as of yet. I’ve never had reason to. I’ve never had a story. I’ll happily e-mail the company feedback if that is what they’re after.

I definitely consider it very poor form to publish/brag about those freebies all over Twitter. "Check out my free mother-fucking beer, peasants. Are you as craft as this?" Sometimes I talk about being at exclusive events on Facebook for the benefit of my non-beery friends or family or when I do receive a surprise box I know they’d be interested in. Never to Twitter though, where 90% of my following is made of beer folk. If I ever have I must have been seriously humbled at that point to share.

Credit http://theoatmeal.com/comics/exposure

I’ve certainly never understood the idea that people should do it for exposure. Surely if I write about free samples the exposure is going to whoever sent me some free stuff. The only exposure I’d be getting is being exposed as a mooching, hand-me-out little shitsponge of a writer. Disclaimers are a helpful and necessary tool, but only if you have a story of any relevance to accompany it. 

I wrote in an end of year review of 2013 and again in that 2014 rant that I was falling out of love with blogging due to the upsurge in freebies people were receiving and then writing lovingly about. (God I’d actually forgotten about those Bishop’s Finger reviews. I mean BISHOP’S FUCKING FINGER, GUYS. Have some fucking self- respect.) I’m not falling out of love with the industry this time, though sometimes you want to expose others for what they’re doing in case it is not clear.

The problem is that we bloggers often all get sent the same free samples. So we all know, whether you throw in the disclaimer or not,  that you received it for free. Most importantly, I know when the products were unquestionably liquid sloth shit – not even up for debate if you love anything about good beer. So I also know which bloggers have then written about those samples in a positive light when they know – they MUST know – that they weren’t fit to sink at a student house party at 4am. The readers won't know but we do. There's your exposure. 

I'll tell you how it is sometimes being a blogger with one of the worst recent examples for me from the many bad. Recently a start-up online company (not a brewery sending out briefcases for clarification) sent me their offer of credit to try out their website to buy some beer. I checked out their set-up and was impressed and therefore willing to help. The crux was that the phrasing was fairly explicit in their glowing blog review expectation.

No. 

I am reasonable and people need to learn to succeed. I explained that I wouldn't write about them unless I felt there was a story to tell and offered to interview them to see if such a story existes. Regardless, I would give them feedback on how their system worked (having not gone live yet) via e-mail for certain. Cue several back and forths where they came from several angles to convince me that I should write that blog and I should accept the website credit and the beers that would come with it. At one point a third person became involved in the e-mails

I stood politely firm and still offered feedback. I always expected that they would still want the review and market research regardless of my stubborn stance. They didn't. They refused. I never tried the service because I wasn't willing to sell myself for it. 

I won't name the company for two reasons. The first being that they've just started and I don't want to EXPOSE a potentially hardworking person/persons in a negative light before they've had chance. Secondly, as this was a recent exchange, I want to sit tight to see if any other bloggers accepted the generous offer. 

So we bloggers, whether that is what defines us or not, do get sent free stuff from time to time. Some more than others. After this post, probably me never again. That is how businesses get their product out and get their market research. It is the way the industry works. It is for the businesses to choose who they think is deserving. It is up to the blogger to decide whether they want to take that sample back to their room for privacy or whether they want to wave their genitals in the hotel lobby; whether they want to keep their dignity or whether they want to go through the entire team in a desperate attempt to try and be popular. 

Having my respect is probably no concern of yours but having your respect is mine. That may not be so apparent as I shit all over my doorstep and perhaps the next trade session I attend will feature many disgruntled bloggers confronting me whilst shouting away the final shed of integrity they mostly lost when they boastfully roared over Instagram about those free samples they received. 

It's important for those that do give me the insinuating once over when I mention my blog to know that this is what it's really like. But it's just a blog, often lost in the continually expanding blogosphere. Some will say take all the free shit and kiss all the ass you can for what it's worth. There's nothing wrong with playing the game once in a while. Not me though. The kind words - the sort that make me cry in a room of thousands of people (more on that in a future post) - are all I need from this. If that's not you then that's fine, just keep the suitcase shut next time.
  

Comments

HopZine Rob said…
(puts on those comfortable old blogger slippers*)

I get a healthy supply of freebies that I gratefully receive and I understand the deal, its a two-way street. They have a product they want to create buzz/awareness about and I have a platform. I hope they select me because they respect what I've been doing for the last 6-7 years.

I will be honest and constructive, If I love it I'll let you know too. If I don't like it I'll quietly go direct to the company in question. Some like that and some are blissfully unaware of their flawed products and will let know how much they disagree and that is fair.

My time isn't "free" and the free time I have is very limited. As I predominantly do video I have to set up equipment, record, transfer files, create graphics, edit, render, upload, input video details on Youtube and finally push out on various social media platforms. I choose to do this for my own personal enjoyment and if someone wants a piece of that then a couple of free bottles of beer once in a while is a fair price?

Its a service of sorts, in marketing terms Im a very low-grade "influencer" and nothing more. A man with an opinion and that opinion is 98% of the time based on stuff I pay for myself.

As a recipient of a briefcase ( I know that wasn't the main thrust of the piece but...) I'll applaud their marketing savvy but when I get to the products later this week I'll be hones but disclose and thank them for sending me the products.

As for this company who contacted you they got the wrong blogger? Your stuff is personal and story-led, why come to you with a retail product? I got invited to "The worlds biggest disco with FREE BEER". I'm not a disco kind of guy and Im not after a free night drinking lager.

I got into blogging as a way to share my interests and pug myself into a community. The biggest thing I take away from it is all the great friends I've made from being "Rob from HopZine", a "noisesome blogger" and as one comment said "little owl-mouthed twat".



*blogger slippers were sent to me free of charge from comfybloggerslippers.net
Bobby Max said…
Great blog Mark and great comment Rob. It's something I've been struggling with now my blog is finding an audience. The word that comes to mind for me is integrity, ensure I maintain my integrity and the integrity of the blog. Lots of food for thought from you both, thank you.
Curmudgeon said…
I didn't get many freebies after this review.

I've also turned down a couple of free books because they were obviously not my sort of thing, e.g. one on beer and food matching ;-)
Lizard Seer said…
I've never had any freebies. I presume they look at my blog and think the risk of me being extremely rude about is too great. Either that, or they've seen my traffic figures.

Being history's greatest monster makes life very simple sometimes.
Anonymous said…
Love it. Just love it.

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