Should we be paid for our reviews?

Earlier this year I ranted on a topic similar to this; many companies have no idea the sort of effort we put into our sex toy reviews. The testing, the photos, the writing, the editing, and even the promoting. For the cheap toys, we’re getting screwed in the conversion if the sex toy is seen as “payment” for the review.  But many of us spend at least half a day’s work time (if we’re comparing this to an hourly full-time job) if not a full day or even MORE than a full work day’s time on our reviews.

So today I saw a post from a blogger, not a sex blogger, talking about fair pay for bloggers. We’re not the only ones doing reviews! During my short time as a food blogger, I was indeed doing some reviewing. Perhaps because I was new, perhaps because that’s how they do it, but I was never sent a retail size product for review. If it was for, say, something that comes 6 per box….I was sent one individual item. I was tempted to review it as “ew yuck, tastes like poo, avoid” and that be that. Compared to the retail value of the sex toys I get? 140 characters for a total review would have been generous.

Regardless, the post is very good and raises some good points. Go read it. I’ll be here. Come back and talk amongst yourselves.

Maybe what I’m doing is fighting for equal pay: equal pay with journalists, critics, columnists.. or just being paid at all. It’s not a perfect proposition, I know that, but something needs to change. My idea has many reasons why it won’t work – but I just feel that it needs to be addressed and we get a conversation going in order to try and start to make a change.

Some points that have already been raised on twitter include integrity of the review/reviewer…..wouldn’t a company only want to pay for a positive review? Would this change how the reviewer talks about the product? Is there a way to get fair pay to bloggers for the hard work of a review without compromising anybody’s integrity? What about a payment to spotlight the review? For some reviewers, they don’t post often so a new post will stay on the homepage awhile. For others, it might scroll by quickly. One option could be that a blogger is paid a special sort of advertising fee for a sidebar banner that leads to the review or the company’s site or extra social media attention to the review maybe. I don’t know. I don’t know how it would work, if it could work, if any company values us enough to do it.

The blogger who wrote this post did a follow-up, and there is one point someone else raised that I found interesting:

Under the heading “Do you get paid for Product Seeding?” her answer was

“…No. Unless you are required to use specific links, post specific verbiage or do specific tasks in relation to the gifting. If you are being sent a product, you are at liberty to post in whatever context on whatever time frame you deem appropriate. If celebrities don’t get paid to wear a pair of jeans, you aren’t either”

Except that….in the sex toy world we are often required to have certain words appear, and appear as links, links that don’t have our affiliate link in them. We’re hounded if we have the product longer than a few months.

Do you agree? Disagree? Retailers and manufacturers, we’d love to hear your thoughts, too. Be anon if you must!

Would you think the blogger is getting fair pay, or would you think they’re less trustworthy?  If you respond on twitter, let’s use their hashtag, shall we? #fairpayforbloggers

13 Responses

  1. Spider Domme says:

    I’ve done reviews as well, on my “vanilla” blog, and I do think it’s fair for a blogger to receive compensation for a product review. It IS work. There’s people who make a living doing nothing but product testing, so why shouldn’t bloggers get paid for what is basically the same thing, just done in a public venue?

  2. Incendiaire says:

    I’m going to be the voice for no here. As someone who does put at awful lot of time and effort into writing reviews I can definitely see the appeal of getting paid beyond simply the value of the product, but I also don’t think that it’s entirely appropriate.

    It’s useful to look at the way that journalism works in general, because it’s a profitable industry based on a very simple formula. Good content = broad readership = advertising revenue. That’s the way it works in print media; that’s the way if works online. If you publish good articles in your newspaper or magazine then lots of people will buy it, once you can demonstrate this to advertisers then they’ll pay you for a full page spread to reach your audience. If you have good content on your website then you’ll attract lots of hits and advertisers will pay for a banner. It’s simply a matter of content driving revenue through advertising.

    Blogging, in the sense that we’ve come to use the term for what we do, is really just amateur journalism. It’s a cottage industry of one person at a keyboard running their own site, where they report on whatever they like, be it reviewing films or even sex toys. It’s been around longer than the word “blog” has existed, but still as it’s basically journalism the same rules apply. When someone sends you a free product, they are essentially sending you the ability to create free content, because you can’t review what you don’t have, or you’d need to buy it yourself and be out of pocket. That content will drive traffic, and If you wish to monetize that then really the onus is solely on you.

    It’s the same way for people who review films, or video games; all they get sent is a DVD or game disc. If they get paid for the review then it’s by the publisher they’re employed by, or are freelancing for, and that money in turn comes from advertising revenue. It’s not a direct payment from studio to reviewer, although in the case of the video game industry there was an article recently which investigated the shady collusion between developers and reporters, but I digress. (

    With blogging and free products there’s often a matter of working your way up the proverbial ladder. When you start out you’ll probably find yourself being sent pretty basic stuff, which might not be that great, but it allows you to start creating content and getting traffic, so it’s a foot in the door and is still of direct benefit to you. It’s still a symbiotic relationship; you each get something of value for what you put in. Once you’re more established you can start to be choosy, and that $10 watch-battery vibe suddenly doesn’t look appealing for a review you know you’ll spend half a day on, so you can turn it down as it’s a one-sided arrangement.

    Where is gets difficult though is at that point where a blog reaches a level of establishment and credibility that manufacturers do actually want to see their products on it, no matter how cheap and naff they are, and so they do actually offer compensation for a review, because clearly it otherwise wouldn’t be worth the reviewer’s time. I find this pretty easy to spot, sometimes a really tacky, awful-looking product will appear on someone’s blog, and you can instantly tell that they’ve been paid to review it because it looks so out of place, and personally I start to question the integrity of the reviewer and the validity of their opinions, because more often than not the sugarcoating comes out in full force, and that sort of estate agent (realtor) speak where “cosy” actually means “the living room is the size of a closet.” I value brutal and cutting honesty in reviews, and I wouldn’t want to see that being sacrificed because suddenly companies are paying everyone and have higher expectations of what they’re going to get in return.

    So yeah, I definitely agree that bloggers are undervalued, and that their work isn’t given enough credit, but I don’t think that paying them for reviews is the right way to go about it. People also need to evaluate why they’re doing it; if it’s just a hobby then a product you love and the occasional affiliate sale can be enough to justify the time you spend on it. If you want to view your blogging as “professional” then you really need to treat it like a business and put in the necessary leg work, because making money is about more than writing a good post, you need to develop a brand and prove your worth to potential advertisers that you’re courting. You can’t just expect people to send expensive things and then pay you on top of that to write about them. If making money writing on the Internet was the fast-track to fortune then everyone would be doing it, but if you’ve tried it and it’s not working out, then sometimes you just have to accept that it will never be much more than a hobby, and spending that time in regular employment is a better idea.

    I didn’t expect to ramble on this long, and while I’m sure it goes without saying, to avoid any potential confusion my use of the word “you/your” is very much third person and not directed at any specific individuals.

  3. Caitlin M. says:

    This is something marvydarling and I have been talking about lately. Awhile ago, I came up with the concept of starting a cooperative consultancy (a real, legit business) with other bloggers that care about sex education, toxic toys, etc.- to consult with adult businesses on everything from ad campaigns to sex toy design, website design, branding, the copy on their sites, their blogs, social media, etcetera. This way, those of us who have treated this like a full-time job will be able to earn money and have a legit professional title to go along with the hard-earned skills. It would essentially create the job we all need but which isn’t really out there, or easily accessible. I just don’t know how many people would be interested in something like that.

  4. I for one absolutely would. I already offer consulting services that covers all of that but would be happy to do it as a cooperative.

  5. Incendiaire says:

    “Freelance journalists write whatever they like, but they also still get paid when published. Bloggers do not … Again, in your scenario, the money for the reviewer is still coming from *someone else.*”

    The point, which I think you’ve slightly missed, is about the route of the money. People writing reviews for magazines get paid by the editor, the editor gets the money from from advertisers. It’s advertiser > editor > reviewer. They’re working for someone else and they get paid by their employer, there’s no direct fiduciary relationship between the reviewer and the creator of the product they’re reviewing. In the case of bloggers it’s akin to being self-employed; they fulfill both the roles of the editor, and the reviewer. If they want to make money from publishing their own articles on their own site then they need to get that advertising money themselves, which understandably is, of course, harder to do when you’re a one man band. I don’t think it merits changing the fundamental system of how reviewing a product works though, and expecting people to pay for a review.

    “You don’t want them to get paid”

    It’s not that I don’t *want* them to be paid, it’s that I don’t think they *should* be paid, and there’s a difference. If someone is getting paid for what they do then that’s fine, I’m happy for them, I wouldn’t try to argue for that to be taken away from them, but if someone is saying “I absolutely should be paid for this directly by this company” then I’m simply explaining why I disagree with that assertion.

    “It also pretty much means “salesperson” is a job that shouldn’t exist,
    and commission as a means of payment should be done away with, based on
    your point of view here.”

    It means nothing of the sort, and I can’t see how you could have could have reached that conclusion. Being asked “would you accept this product and share your honest opinions on it?” is a world apart from “I want you do to whatever you can to sell as many units of this product as possible.” Reviewers are not trying to sell products, they’re trying to inform people so that consumers can in turn make their own educated decisions on whether they should make a purchase or not. It’s journalism. Salespeople are getting paid to sell; their job depends on people buying as much as possible, by whatever means, and commission is a perfectly legitimate incentive to make them sell more. Believing that a reviewer is a salesperson is a very wrong way of thinking.

  6. Caitlin M. says:

    I’m about to launch consulting on my website, too. the thing that’s great about having an actual consulting business- with a website and perhaps even its own bank account, etc, is that it looks a lot more “legit” than us just having it advertised on our sites. its something business can trust and feel comfortable with.

  7. Mad Amrita says:

    count me in. I’m already writing a rough draft of what my fees to review will be.

  8. Girly Juice says:

    I’m happy to write reviews solely for affiliate commissions. I think that’s fair, given that my reviews aren’t guaranteed to be positive or to encourage sales for the retailer. A problem, though, is that I (along with other sex toy bloggers) get a LOT of review offers from companies who don’t have an affiliate program, or who offer very low commission rates (I’d consider 10% or less “very low”). All companies who want their toys to be reviewed should have an affiliate program that offers at least 20% commissions. And just as I don’t (well, rarely) accept toys from companies with no affiliate program, I also don’t join the affiliate programs of companies that aren’t sending me toys – because I’ll have no reason to write about them on my blog if they don’t send me anything to write about.

    That said, if a company wants me to write a post about their business that is guaranteed to be positive, or if they want me to advertise specific deals/sales/toys/pages without receiving a toy in return, I do expect to be paid. When someone writes to me with that kind of request, I send them a list of my ad rates. I don’t give away free advertising; I have to be getting something in return that I feel is of value to me, whether that’s money or a toy I’ve been wanting or an experience I think I’ll enjoy.

  9. That is actually a really good point. Thus far, I’ve only agreed to do reviews where there’s no affiliate program if it’s from the manufacturer and I can link to SheVibe in the review. The times I’ve done a review for a place I don’t have an affiliate account with are few and far between but this might be a happy medium. I guess I’d be really unsure how to charge for that, since it’s going to be up for the life of my blog, there would be more than one link, etc. Seems that my normal advertising rate would just not apply here, and I don’t think most companies would be able to afford it.

  10. Not Dressed As Lamb says:

    Lilly thank you for tweeting about your post and including the hashtag – I wouldn’t have found it otherwise! For anyone else reading, I’m the author of the posts mentioned and am really pleased it’s got everyone talking and so many posts written ‘in reply’. As you mentioned by quoting me, it really was to get the discussion going, and I didn’t know what the solution was when I wrote the original post.

    However as you saw by the follow up post (and I’ve written another since then about the actual reactions from brands about charging a fee, and what other bloggers have written) – the quote about product seeding wasn’t me, it was written by the founder of IFB (Independent Fashion Bloggers), which is basically the top international networking platform for fashion bloggers. She wrote her own post in response to my first, and if SHE said that when brands demand time frames for posting, links or specific anchor text then it’s chargeable, then that’s good enough for me.

    What I’ve found however, is that although I’ve tried to make it clear to other bloggers that what the brand is paying for is administration (posted within a short time frame, specific anchor text, links of their choice, social media coverage), NOT the review itself, they still think you can’t give an honest review “if the review was paid for”. Since giving brands the choice to send me gifts with two choices – where they don’t pay a fee and I choose if and when to feature it OR the pay a fee and get all the extras as listed above – I’ve had 50% of brands happily pay a fee (I’ve made it clear that the review will be honest).

    And when I’ve been sent items to review where the brand didn’t pay a fee, it’s taken the pressure off me trying to test the product (though as a fashion blogger you pretty much know whether you like a dress or necklace before receiving it) and getting the pictures and a post up on the blog within a certain amount of time – the brand cannot hound me for the post which they have done in the past.

    What I’ve found has worked for me is the mere fact that I’ve taken control of how I work simply so that I can fit everything in (as a full time blogger you work all hours of the day and week anyway), and brands have a clear outline of how I work from the start. If they want to work with me within those guidelines, great; if not, I’m probably not the blogger for them anyway. I do think that in your field you obviously have to give products a thorough test (unlike dresses in my case), so pressures from brands to post and include particular links and text should definitely be paid for…

    NOT the review itself!! Just to stress, hehe.

    Thanks for listening to me rambling on, and I appreciate you writing this post in response to mine. I hope it works out for you!

    Catherine, Not Dressed As Lamb

  11. Adriana says:

    I DO think all bloggers should be paid in addition to product for reviews, and I would not think them less trustworthy. We should get paid for time and effort, not for what we say, which should always be honest because a) FTC and b) that’s the only way you build credibility, anyway.

  12. MrsJoJo says:

    I’m happy to write a review in exchange for a free product but my views are honest and not swayed. I do have a few companies that sponsor ads on my site (5) and the only affiliate links i use are for uberkinky and tantus (they don’t sponsor atm). Some companies do list what links they do want to appear but they are generally links to the product or the same nature of the product, this isn’t a big deal to me. BUT if they start demanding other things that aren’t in my intentions, I pull the reins back.

    Journo’s get paid per article, they have to write about certain targets and be positive or negative, depending on their assignment, which makes them easily swayed. Reviewers shouldn’t be like that. It would be nice to be paid per review but like stated, would people not be so honest? I know that a fair few reviewers would be in the ‘write whatever the company wants to hear’ category but I wouldn’t be one of them.

    I have written articles for company blogs and been paid for my time for that. I have written category descriptions for companies and been paid for that but it’s like being a robot. You still have to write some ‘nice’ about a product, even though you know it’s a heap of crap.

    But on my blog, what I say goes,

  13. B HerSubject says:

    In the classical music community, there are many advanced degreed musicians play in “pay-to-play” orchestras. The quality is top notch. There are many of these around the country. Sometimes more than one of those orchestras in one city.

    The dedication to get an advanced classic performance degree from conservatories is unimaginable. But there is just no market to get every graduate paid. That’s ok, there is nothing wrong with that. The market is what it is.

    There are people who will be happy to pay with their time to write a review. And there are people who want to get paid in money.

    Let everyone pursue what each wants.