Indecent Disclosure: How Much is Too Much

blogging business

More money, more problems. The fine line between independent bloggers and bloggers-as-brands is getting murkier by the second.

Sponsored posts, public appearances, blogger partnerships. The relationship between bloggers and brands is evolving with each new project and placement and becoming a major hot topic in the blogging community. More bloggers are asking to be compensated for their written/visual content and name usage, which is  important because bloggers are an extremely valued voice in the industry. But readers are voicing their concerns about editorial integrity and how blogs seem to be becoming platforms for sponsored content instead of blogs that truly reflect the blogger's individuality and original voice.

As a blog reader, it is natural to be curious about how bloggers are making money and what they are paid in regards to public appearances and sponsored content. We are a nosy culture and we want to know everything. However, to play devil's advocate, not every business discloses financial deals and earnings so why should bloggers do the same? The FTC mandates that a blogger must disclose the material connections they receive from brand endorsements but we have yet to see any notable actions from the FTC in regulating this policy. Bloggers typically disclose when they've received free product or gifts on behalf of a brand but we've noticed that nothing is mentioned about public appearances, party and travel trips. It seems unlikely that bloggers can live the life of a true jetsetter without being compensated for their adventures. But gifting trips or adventures is a pretty standard PR gesture, and it isn't surprising that PR reps are extending this opportunity to various bloggers. When it comes down to it, the blogger-brand-reader relationship is complex. Does the blogger have a duty to their readers to hold themself to the purest of editorial standards? Or does the blogger, like a spokesperson or celebrity, have a right to privacy when it comes to business deals?

What's a blogger to do?

Case in point, one of my favorite bloggers has taken the sponsored post road. As a reader, I'm conflicted because I don't find these posts particularly interesting. But I recognize that they are monetizing their content and building their business. We are, after all, advocates for becoming your own business person.

There isn't a set standard as to blogger public disclosure and it's a topic that has generated lots of buzz in the fashion industry, including a mention in Fashionista back in November. This gray, blogging business area is one that will continue to grow in its controversial nature as blogger-brand partnerships become more predominant in the fashion industry.

My question to you, the blogging community, is:

How transparent should bloggers be with their bloggers in regards to their business deals?


image credit: Photographed by Nathaniel Goldberg for V Magazine


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27 Responses

  1. Yasmeen (Castle Fashion)

    Transparency is always good. Blogs are a slim slice of our lives so it can be difficult to gauge a person’s reality and financial situation based on a few carefully curated blog posts. That said, it’s important to ensure that you mention gifted items/trips/photoshoots etc. if you’re concerned about how others perceive you….if you’re not worried about your public image. Then go nuts!

    I try not to let that topic overwhelm the posts. I’ll include it in a sentence (e.g. Thank you to ___________ for gifting me ___________) And that’s the end of it. If you go on and on about how FREE something was, that can get a bit annoying too. You need to find the right balance for you!

    Castle Fashion

  2. Teri Roughen

    I think it’s okay for bloggers to be discreet but still let readers know that they are being compensated. It can be motivation for other bloggers who are looking to be sponsored at some point. I don’t think bloggers need to share exact numbers, but they an politely state that sponsors are hosting them for events, etc. But, also share if they are participating w/out being paid and are still doing things because they believe in a cause or product! It would bode well with readers to know that well paid bloggers still choose to do things on their own just because they want to. Teri

    • amandaboyce

      Thanks Teri! I think discretion, especially for the bigger blogger-brand personalities, is happening now. But I wonder what their readers think….

  3. Christy Lorio

    When I feel like a blog is overly commercialized, I stop reading it. Most of the bloggers that are featured in print ad campaigns, represent major brands- it just stops being interesting to me. Go ‘head girl for making that money, but at that point you aren’t a blogger anymore, just another celebrity spokesman. It is a slippery slope, finding the balance between keeping your authentic voice and $$$$$, some just do it better than others.

    • amandaboyce

      Keeping the balance between authenticity and $$$$ is definitely tricky. I think it’s all about keeping the ratio of sponsored posts to regular posts small. Or less noticeable!

    • Jennifer (Comme Coco)

      i agree oh so much with this. when your site becomes a big billboard for stores or brands and less about you, Im instantly bored. Dont need any more fauxcelebs! Im happy for their success of course but its just not what inspires me.

    • snowblackblog

      I agree with you Christy. There have been some well known blogs and others I have visited whereby the ads are so in my face, you just know their site is now sponsored by so and so. Of course I am all for making a living out of your blog, sometimes there needs to be a fine balance.

  4. Shermika

    I think that if authencity is key, then a blogger should disclose how they profited from a deal. Should they reveal exact figures? NO! Instead c/o or a trip was provided is fine with me. At the end of the day, it is about being true to yourself and your readers (who make a blogger). Discretion is nice, but there is a fine line between promoting a brand and not disclosing a partnership. Transparency is key.

  5. MJ

    That is a slippery slope. For me, I always disclose whether product or a spa trip was given to me by the company, as well as if a post is part of a special blogger program I’m participating in. I don’t think you should disclose how much you’re getting but if something is gifted your readers should know. On the same token, if I bought something myself, I mention that also.

    I think a blogger should keep a really good balance of their own original content and sponsored content because for me, a blog with too much sponsored content loses it appeal to me.

  6. FashionistaNYC

    I am going to agree with some of the comments above. This is a yes/no answer. Once I see a blogger going the way of being more focused on money than producing original content I tend to look elsewhere. Blogs need to be the quintessential balance between speaking from the heart but still being compensated for their time and efforts. It is a fine line but it can be done.

  7. barefoot duchess

    I think blog followers, after a little while, really know who is being “sponsored”, even if it is not made clear, and who’s not.

  8. Tara

    This has been a big issue for me as a beauty blogger. Personally, I don’t want to feel constrained in my product review/commentary by the gifts of a company. Let’s face it, if someone gives you their entire spring collection for free and will continue to do so- it’s hard to say what you truly feel. As a result, I’ve stopped reading many blogs because their posts become ‘vanilla’ and they ‘love’ everything. Where I also have a problem are people who have entered into some sort of agreement to work for a brand or store but don’t really reveal it. A little sleuthing as to why someone who never posted luxury cosmetics before suddenly has a bunch of new reviews in that area can lead reasonable minds to conclude what’s going on. But, the lack of acknowledgement makes me think people are being duped and I don’t like that. As someone building a blog on luxury beauty items that I 100% pay for, I feel I am providing a service. i.e. I’ll spend $90 on that bronzer so you’ll know if you should or not. I think there is something honest in that. But it’s hard to compete with people getting products for free all the time because, frankly, I can’t afford to get every luxury cosmetic out there. So the lack of disclosure or the “indirect disclosure” really bothers me. But I’m torn; more power to the people who get those sorts
    of deals- they won’t be going as broke as me. 😉

    • theperfectnose

      Totally agree with you there. I’m not a fashion blogger I’m a sewist but I too see a lot of sewing blogs review things they’ve received for free from sewing companies and somehow the review is always ‘I love it, you should go out and get one now!’ Um no thanks because when you have to fork out the cash for it, you’ll realise that it’s not actually worth the amount! XD

  9. Janita

    When you are representing a product/brand; out of respect you should mention that product or brand, minus the money. It’s all about finding that balance for your readers & the brand you are representing. Either way it doesn’t bother me. We all got here some way or another by following & reading that blog that had that product or brand which made us want to start blogging in the first palce. I’m learning from them and I salute to all the bloggers from the rich & the come up.

  10. Marie Denee

    I think it is 50/50 and I am quite choosy. Not all sponsored posts/gigs/clothing reflects my brand. If I am already in love, then yes. If I am curious and want to give it a try, yes. But if the opp does not match my blog, then that is a different story.

    In terms of transparency, I think this is crucial and critical. And this is also to note too from a brand’s side. I have had few brands who dont want me disclosing… and for me, I take an ethical issue with and more chances than not I do not work with them. For my readers, I share with them my personal love,like, surprise, or let down. I also share openly my policies too!

    For me, it’s keeping myself 100% and my readers in the know.

  11. Ndidiamaka

    It is important to be transparent with your audience and associates about new branding concepts. It will kill your brand if you not open to communicating with readers. It helps in creating a buzz around your brand when you make people aware of new products and brands etc.

    But be careful about playing favorites, it can get you in trouble too. The industry and readers may not play nice if they pick up that you only focus on certain brands on your blog.

    Good Article!

  12. de la Pen

    This topic is always an interesting one. I always disclose when I’ve been gifted a product or compensated but I keep it simple with saying I was sponsored or that I received the product.

    But I never say I like something just because it was a gift. Once I got a product from a new designer and the product fell apart before I could wear it. So I simply sent her an email telling her why I thought the product broke and that I wouldn’t be blogging about it b/c it would’ve been a negative post. I didn’t want to hurt her image since she was a new designer.

    In essence, I think if bloggers were to practice more discretion i.e., not blogging about products soley for money or to get them for free then we wouldn’t have to question their motives. Just a suggestion. Thanks for getting the convo started as always, IFB!

  13. CamMi Pham

    I try to find way to balance thing out. I get free sample, and write sponsored post here and there. But I am trying to reach out to startup and less well known designers and offer to write about them.I get nothing from this it might help them. It is always hard when you are still small. It is a good way to give back to the community