Bloggers, what are your rules for reviews?


Blog reviews – what’s good practice?

Recently an ITV children’s programme was censured by media regulator Ofcom for giving too positive a review to a

Let’s hope Ofcom never start looking too closely at blog reviews, because when did you ever read one of those that was less than glowing?

I understand why that’s the case – bloggers spend our own time writing reviews without pay. So why would you want to waste your efforts writing about something that you’re not enthusiastic about?

Ever since I started doing more reviews on this blog, I have been thinking about what my review policy is.  This is what I’ve come up with so far. I would love to hear what guidelines you stick to when you do reviews.

  1. I only review stuff that I am personally interested in and/or is relevant to my family
    When I am writing product reviews as a journalist I have to cover a range of items for all age-groups, but that don’t apply here. If I look at something and think “Wow, that’s cool/interesting/got potential for stupid jokes” then it’s IN.
  2. I only review stuff I think other people will be interested in reading about and likely to search for
    I can’t believe some of the crap being offered for review on blogs recently – a can of pop, washing up liquid, a tin of beans, a bag of sweets. Seriously? Why would you want to spread the word about stuff like that? Is that what you started writing your blog for? Is that what you think other people want to read about? And if you are a good enough writer to make a review of a can of pop worth reading, then you don’t need to do that for free.
  3. If it’s shite I’ll say so
    I mean I’ll put it more politely than that, but my drift will be clear. Though since I’m so picky about what reviews to run in the first place, that keeps the shiteola quotient to a minimum. Essentially I am going for a vibe of Here’s something new and fabulous.
  4. I will say if I bought it myself or was sent it for free
    I don’t see the need for a huge disclosure statement or badge. If I say I was sent something, then I credit you the reader with enough intelligence to know that that doesn’t mean I ordered it off Amazon.
  5. Like a hickie from Kenickie, these reviews are limited
    I don’t really want to run more than around one a week, or start to feel like I’m doing it out of obligation. That’s a surefire route to feeling like you’ve sold out and are dying a little inside.
  6. I don’t want to review the same stuff as everybody else
    I want to do reviews that will fit with the unique flavour of the blog – where else are you going to find inspirational reading for weirdos? Plus, no matter how good a product is, it’s inevitably going to look tired if you’re the umpteenth blogger to write about it. An early or unique review will also do better in search engines.
  7. It’s a housework free zone
    I can’t bear housework, it’s bad enough having to do it once a year, and I sure as feck don’t want to write about it. Kitchen porn on the other hand, I will consider. What’s the point of having a  Random Reviews section if you can’t create your own path to travel on?

image: Flickr user, John Stansbury

  • Thanks for your comment Rosie. I think whether or not you’ve paid for something can make a difference, because if you got it for free then you haven’t made an investment in wanting the product to be good. What this means is that it’s easier to be cynical about freebies. So you have to set that aside and consciously approach a product as if you had paid for it, which not everybody is able to do.

  • It sounds like you are the best person to review stuff like that Laurie, since you’ve obviously got expert knowledge by looking at so many. I would much rather read a review from someone like you, than someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    I guess the core point is to keep the reader in mind, because they may well be spending their hard-earned cash based on our recommendations, and it’s not fair to play fast and loose with somebody else’s money.

  • Every time I see “sponsored post” it makes me think of sponsored runs, and I agree with you that it makes something look like advertorial, when it isn’t.

    I think journalists are much more comfortable with seeing a review product as simply a tool of the trade – ie you couldn’t write the review without it. Whereas other people seem to see review products as payment in kind, some sort of recompense for doing the review. But your opinion is a valuable thing, and shouldn’t be sold so cheap.

  • I’m completely honest in reviews posts. If I don’t like the product I’d say so and give my reasons. If I was reading other review posts I’d also want them to be honest and fair. If they’ve been sent the product free of charge I’d also like to know that but I don’t think that should influence the type of review written.

  • On my blog I do a lot of reviews of planners/ diaries and notebooks. One of the reasons I started my blog was because I was shopping for a planner and couldn’t find good reviews of the ones I was interested in. When I do a review, I try to include information a person thinking of buying it would want to know, and lots of photos of the features.

    I don’t know if this is an international law, but in the US bloggers are obligated to disclose if we have received a product for free. The idea is that we may be influenced to give a more positive review if the product was provided to us for free, so in the interest of transparency we must disclose. The fees are very high (upwards of $1000 or more) for failure to disclose. I assume this applies more toward bloggers who review technological and electronic products, but I still always disclose just to be on the safe side.

  • I really like this post, Joanne and agree with pretty much all of it (great minds etc etc!). In particular I feel that when you’re reviewing something -and you bought it yourself -then say so. If you were sent it, then it’s pretty obvious it was free. I think all this huge emphasis on “sponsored posts” is actually very offputting as it then makes whatever you’ve written look like an advertorial and that’s when I become distrustful about what the person says. Just be honest! And if you really didn’t like something you were sent, but don’t want to upset the PR for some reason, then don’t write about it…

  • Very hardcore Lindy! Now, what we need to balance things out is for a blogger to come along and admit that they’re anybody’s for the price of a packet of crisps.

  • So ‘fess up Jen – was it you who reviewed the can of pop?

  • A long term plan, what’s that? I’m just making it up as I go along. Which probably explains a lot…

  • well said! You need to have some standards or you lose credibility w/ your audience.

    I don’t do reviews. I did at one point but realized I was blogging about things I would never buy and felt like a fraud. Squidge doesn’t need the “free” toys and I don’t need the stress. LOL yes writing reviews would stress me out. So now I just don’t do them and I’m happy(ish)

  • TheMadHouse

    I do reviews and I have posted bad reviews too, so shoot me! I always tell the PR company that I am going to give something a bad review and give them chace to see if it is a one off with a product. I think that there is something out there for everyone and with regards to reviews I love the ones that make me laugh, although I can not so that to save my life.

  • I’m not hardcore, LOL far from it. I’m just a little ole blogger and to be honest I don’t get offered much so it’s easy to say no. Not being judgmental. I don’t really care what other bloggers do. It’s their own blog, review all or nothing. It’s the writing that will make me come back. I’m just looking long term- where do you want your blog to be in 6 months? Two years? Is that review going to get you there?

  • Belstaff

    So cute! I already like you on FB and also get your posts on Google Reader. 🙂