Bloggers and Freebies

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Kath’s earlier post about freebies on blogs got me thinking.  Word on the street is that the Federal Trade Commission is about to lay down some strict laws about how bloggers can review/endorse products on their blogs (which — FYI — I think is a ridiculous and borderline Big Brother).  Here’s another article about the issue that a reader named Whitney passed onto me.


Given the fact that this is a rather hot button issue right now, I wanted to state loud and clear on the blog my thoughts:


The FedEx man and I are BFFs for life.  I get various products from companies mailed to me about twice a week.  Why?  Well, some companies stumble upon my blog and think it would be a great way to do some social media marketing so they contact me directly.  However, most of the time, I get freebies because I e-mail the company and ask for a product to review.  I do this because:  1) I’m a married gal living on a tight budget to put my Husband through medical school, and without free samples, my eats would be boring!  And 2) I know you guys like learning about new products.


Furthermore, there are certain companies that I think are doing great things with their wealth and power, so I like to support them.  For example, I love Stonyfield because they are organic and donate 10% of their profits to non-profits that help the environment.  Similarly, I like to support local restaurants and shops, so I often take pictures of their signs and hyperlink back to their site.


When I tell you guys about a website (like this morning when I talked about Breaking the Tape), it is either because 1) I stumbled upon the website and thought it was worth sharing or 2) The website e-mailed me to tell me about their site, I checked it out, and then I thought it was worthy of sharing (examples include Racevine or Fresh Air Fund).  


Trust me, I’m not a sell-out.  I get requests from companies that I do not support and I say "Thanks, but no thanks."  Or, if I receive a product and it’s not up to par, I say so.  Product review requests don’t mean, "I’ll send you my product if you say it rocks."  It means, "Please check out my product and give me your honest opinion."  Similarly, sometimes I get requests from websites to be featured on the blog and it doesn’t strike my fancy, so I say no.


I almost always remember to tell you that a product is a sample the first time it is featured on the blogKath pointed out that it would be repetitive and difficult to state every time the product was on the blog that it was a sample.  So, I usually state it the first time.  Unless this is a major issue for people, I don’t really want to change this operating procedure because it’s the least time-consuming for me (and you all know I don’t have much time).


….Which leads me to a disclosure statement about the Healthy Living Summit.  To host this event, the planning committee approached our favorite companies and asked for sponsorship.  We would have never agreed to be a sponsored by a company that we didn’t feel was in line with our ideals as bloggers. 


So, the Summit is being sponsored by Stonyfield, Foodbuzz, and Zesty Cook.  This means that they gave us a LOT of money to host the summit (tickets are only $30 because the sponsors were so generous).  As part of this sponsorship, I am asked to eat certain things and mention the sponsors several times a week.    I have no problem doing this because 1) I feel the sponsors are all good companies with excellent products and 2) this sponsorship agreement has allowed us to give you a great Summit.


Furthermore, Nasoya is sponsoring my activities when I am in Boston.  This means they have given me a stipend to enjoy while I am traveling.  I agreed to this sponsorship because, first of all, we did not save any of the Summit budget for said expenses while in Boston because we wanted to give YOU the best Summit possible.  (Note:  we are not making money off the Summit.  I think this is obvious but I just wanted to reiterate it.)  Secondly, I accepted the Nasoya sponsorship because I spent about 5 – 15 hours a week (unpaid) for the last four months planning the Summit.  And last, I LOVE Nasoya tofu and am proud to be affiliated with the company. 


I’ll end this (long) post by saying that I really do not understand why people are in such a tizzy about giveaways/sponsorships on blogs, as long as the bloggers are honest with their readers and do not sell out to get a lot of free stuff.   Sponsorships and giveaways have allowed me to bring YOU a better blog (in my opinion). 


I will always respect your rights as consumers by being up front and honest with you regarding any agreements I have with companies.




**Update:  I have created a Featured Products page, which you can also access via my FAQs **



  • Oxidaisy July 26, 2009, 11:57 am

    I think you are totally right!!

  • eatingbirdfood July 26, 2009, 12:06 pm


  • Jennifer @ His N' Her Health July 26, 2009, 12:15 pm

    I agree with you. I use the honest opinions of reviews when purchasing new items. Also people like different things, so even if it is quality product that is sent, you just might not like it and I could love it. That is why I think all bloggers should give their honest opinion. I think the regulations are a bit ridiculous.

  • Tami July 26, 2009, 12:18 pm

    don't people have better things to be concerned about? you can go into any store and get freebies, etc. keep up the good work

  • Emily July 26, 2009, 12:22 pm

    In my opinion, I would rather hear a REAL persons take on different products rather than reading a box or listening to a commercial. By doing so, I get the real scoop on the product rather than just what the company wants to tell me. Hope that makes sense.

    I agree with where you're coming and cannot believe people are trying to stop it.

  • Nicole ( July 26, 2009, 12:24 pm

    I fully agree. The way you and a lot of other bloggers review products feels more like a friend telling me about something they enjoy and I think that's great! I like to hear the opinion of like-minded individuals before purchasing a product.

    I don't blame you for accepting the sponsorship! I would have done the same. You guys worked so hard and deserve it!

  • Emily @ Relishments July 26, 2009, 12:31 pm

    I agree with you (and everyone else), Cait. Seems to me that samples are a win-win for bloggers and companies. I'm much more likely to find out about and try something from a blog than a company ad. Plus, from the blogger end of things, who doesn't love trying new stuff? As long as we're being honest about it, what's the big deal? (Also, I wish companies were sending me stuff to try! :-P)

  • Feed Me I'm Cranky July 26, 2009, 12:34 pm

    You have go to be kidding me. Does anyone have a link to any proposed rules by the FCC?

  • L. Simone July 26, 2009, 12:39 pm

    Three words…
    I AGREE 100%!

  • Whitney July 26, 2009, 12:40 pm

    Caitlin-I agree with what you have said but not all bloggers are as open with their relationships with companies as you and the other Healthy Living Summit bloggers are, and this is why the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking note. I didn't attend BlogHer but I think it is good that they brought up the issue just so that bloggers are aware of the potential outcomes of the rule changes. There were lots of different bloggers at the conference, not just ones in the daily food journal style and it might be a different issue in some of the other blogger communities. I was sad that Kath had to feel crappy for criticism that truthfully shouldn't have been directed at her. I attached a link to an article that I found with a quick google search to put a little more context to the issue.

  • vegetarianontherun July 26, 2009, 12:46 pm

    I think that as long as people are honest about whether the product is donated and also are honest about their review, it is just fine! The most significant endorsement is when you say that you would spend your own money on a product–I think that definitely goes a long way with us readers!

  • Whitney July 26, 2009, 12:48 pm

    Here is another link.

    These rules are still in the rule making stage at the FTC and are not final. I couldn't find anything quickly on the FTC website.

  • runnerskitchen July 26, 2009, 12:52 pm

    I definitely agree with all you said. Healthy Tipping Point is your blog and you should be able to manage it and all that goes along with it as you see best. Keep up the great work! I love reading about new products!

  • just me July 26, 2009, 12:55 pm

    you totally hit the spot on the topic. these people just need to chill out already.

  • MarathonVal July 26, 2009, 12:56 pm

    I don't think you (or Kath, or any of the others) have anything to worry or feel guilty about.

    I completely agree that your blog is more interesting and varied BECAUSE you frequently do product reviews – we enjoy reading about what products you love, and I also appreciate your honesty about the products that you don't think are up to par.

    Just keep being yourself!

  • Leslie July 26, 2009, 12:58 pm

    Good grief. When you think about all the things that need to be monitored (Food Inc.? Hello?), the feds pick blog promos.

  • heather July 26, 2009, 1:00 pm

    i'm not sure why the proposed laws would seem "big brotherish" when they're the same laws that have been in place for many other forms of media for years.

    while i think all the steps you mentioned are important to keep the problems with advertising at bay, i don't think they eliminate the problems. i think the presence of sponsored stuff on the blog frustrates some readers for a number of reasons:

    1) they contribute to an over-reliance on processed food instead of whole foods. this isn't a problem for everyone, but it is annoying for those of us who try to avoid processed foods more often than not.
    2) they contribute to a lack of diversity in meals, both from day-to-day on one blog and across the whole health food blogging spectrum. a lot of readers follow blogs for inspiration, and it's hard to be inspired when every single health food blogger is having an amazing meal smoothie for breakfast, a larabar for a snack, a salad with babybel cheese for lunch, et cetera.
    3) blogs with too much advertising can make you feel like you're reading an infomercial rather than a blog. a big draw of healthy eating blogs is that it makes you feel like anyone can eat healthy. it inspires you to eat well because you know that there are other people out there who also have limited time or funds, like you, who manage to make it work. but once you learn that that person is receiving some form of compensation, it decreases their human-ness and makes them look like more of a business than an individual.

    that said . . . it's your blog, and you should do what you want. if that includes product reviews, you should stick with them. but i also think that doing so usually decreases the quality of a blog, even when the blogger is honest about it. i've found myself deleting a number of health food blogs from my blogroll recently, mostly because they've become too product-oriented. i know i'm not the only one.

  • Danielle C. July 26, 2009, 1:01 pm

    I think you are spot on, honestly I love that bloggers review products because it is nice to see new products and ideas of how to use them. It gives a little kickback to the companies and if their product is solid, good word of mouth (best advertising ever).

  • Mandy July 26, 2009, 1:01 pm

    I agree with Emily… I like hearing what REAL people have to say about the products being reviewed! There have been a ton of reviews that have saved me money… and at the same time, there are some reviews/giveaways that have made me want to buy more of a certain product!

    I don't see the harm in it…

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point July 26, 2009, 1:02 pm

    heather – hmmm i think you have a good point!!

  • itsawrapteacher July 26, 2009, 1:23 pm

    THAT'S OUTRAGEOUS! Can they do that?! I'm so glad you're speaking your mind. More power to you 🙂

  • Heather July 26, 2009, 1:25 pm

    I like the way you and Kath do it. I've seen some bloggers review and plug products that don't align with their overall "blog philosophy" and you can tell it's all a sham, but I never feel that way about certain people (yourself included). Thanks for the heads up about BreakingTheTape – seems cool. Have you checked out Daily Mile, as well?

  • Liz July 26, 2009, 1:29 pm

    I think Heather's comments above summarized my thoughts more eloquently than I would have.

    Everyone enjoys a free sample and I do believe bloggers should be able to say whatever they want to say, and so I really think it is only the integrity of the blg that suffers when it is overloaded with product placement and overly positive reviews.

    A lot of these freebies do make the food blog community boring when you see the same item on every single food bloggers website on the same day, and I have cut down on my food blog RSS list for this reason.

    I do think product reviews can be interesting (for instance-in terms of getting an opinion on how the taste/texture of a new bar might compare to one I typically enjoy). However I definitely take any opinion of a blogger on a product with a gran of salt, and consider it for as a different form of advertizing from he company than a truly unbiased opinion.

    I think it is up to readers to be discrimminating about the information they get from all blogs and certainly if a blog is too inundated with product placements, readers will "speak up" by stopping reading that particular blog

  • Claudia July 26, 2009, 1:29 pm

    I hope I don't get hated on for saying this but I think the FTC is on the right track. I don't think it's a stretch of the imagination to understand that the reason companies send you products is because they want you to advertise their products – they are just conducting business. They send you a $5 sample and they reach thousands and thousands of potential consumers – it's dirt cheap advertising. The investment is low yet even 5 readers purchasing the product yields positive return.
    The fact is that bloggers are increasingly becoming a credible source among consumers – food bloggers especially can't deny this fact when they themselves purchase products that they saw on a different blog. I'll use the nut butter rage as an example because I myself have bought into it. Have I always liked nut butters? Absolutely, I've always enjoyed a good PB&J. But have I noticed a change in my consumption since I began reading food blogs? Absolutely! I never would have tried different flavours of nut butters before or felt I needed to eat it every morning in my oatmeal or in a smoothie or on toast. Do I have to now? No, no one is forcing me too but I think it’s necessary to recognize that my consumption has been affected because of what I read and expose myself to.
    The fact is that readers give bloggers legitimacy by reading their blogs and changing their lifestyles to fall more in line with those of the bloggers that they admire (eg. green smoothies, running half marathons, dehydrating foods, going vegetarian or vegan or raw). Although some may argue (and I wouldn't disagree) that these are positive lifestyle changes that are not doing any harm, it still has to be recognized that bloggers influence the way that people act, think, eat and what they buy. Therefore, when there's an agent with that much control or influence on other peoples lives regulation may be necessary so as not to dupe the consumer.
    One of your arguments speaks to how if not for free samples you would not be able to afford to have “interesting food”. I would argue that, perhaps without intending to, you are implying that cheap food is inadequate – not worthy of a food blog. So in turn, these free samples that you get are glamorized and shown off on the blog. People (and I would argue mostly females) run out to try these glamorized products and therefore providing revenue for the companies. Products that perhaps we don’t really need but are inclined to try and purchase so we can feel like we belong to this community or club of food bloggers and readers – it plays on our desire to belong and be part of something.
    I apologize for all the tangents but my point is that because of the affect and reach that bloggers have on people it is not a bad idea to make them accountable to the masses. To disclose where their products are coming from, what they’re being paid for etc – I believe it’s all in the interest of the public good.

  • Tiffany July 26, 2009, 1:33 pm

    I agree with you. I personally love reading a real person's opinions on products. It is how I have found tons of foods and gadgets that I now love and use daily. People need to stop being so uptight.

  • Serena July 26, 2009, 1:35 pm

    Yes they can do this – like Heather said, these laws have been in effect for YEARS to protect consumers from nefarious advertisers. You are not one of those advertisers, and you are one of the honest people out there who makes it clear what's what so your readers get it. These laws are not meant to hurt you, they're meant to prevent advertisers from using bloggers to promote their products in unfair ways. When an advertiser promotes their product on TV or in a magazine, consumers understand it's advertising. Blogs are a new form of media and present some interesting benefits to advertisers and challenges to regulators, and the FTC just wants to make sure that the American public understands what may be a legitimate review/opinion from a real person versus an opinion that is essentially itself advertising because a sponsor has paid the blogger to say something about its product. People – especially young women – can be unbelievably impressionable, and I think the disclosure requirements (which you can read about on the FTC's website) are pretty balanced and won't affect what you're doing. I appreciate your honesty and think you are doing the right thing by promoting products you sincerely believe in and being honest about how you get some of these products.

  • Tiffany July 26, 2009, 1:38 pm

    …also wanted to add that the whole "big brother" presence in this country is getting way out of hand. They should be more concerned with the food and products that are being promoted, not the promotion in its self. I think our government needs a private screening of Food, Inc.

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point July 26, 2009, 1:39 pm

    tiffany – oh hells yes our govt needs to see food inc!

  • Jenn Eats Nutritiously Now July 26, 2009, 1:42 pm

    That sounds like such a FUN new tradition!!

  • The Faux Foodie July 26, 2009, 1:44 pm

    Heather's comment is right on target…so well said….

  • Jenn Eats Nutritiously Now July 26, 2009, 1:46 pm

    Sorry, that comment was meant for the post before this 🙂

  • Jennifer @ His N' Her Health July 26, 2009, 1:53 pm

    now that I have been sitting here thinking about this more… I don't think I would review a product that I wouldn't consider buying myself. What is the difference in me buying something and saying it is good or bad and doing the same thing if it is free? Even if you buy it you are influencing people like Claudia said. I just really don't understand the difference between the two.

  • tryingtobefit July 26, 2009, 2:02 pm

    I love getting all of your guys' reviews of products and restaraunts. Actually all of the restaraunts makes me jealous of where you guys live. haha! But I have bought many different praducts or researched many because of you all talking about them.

  • hopskipleap July 26, 2009, 2:09 pm

    I believe that reviews are completely exciting and fun. It's true what Heather said about it seeming like an infomercial or not everyone being able to have an amazing meal for breakfast… but they can know that there are those products out there that they CAN go out and buy if they choose to. I love being able to see what other health bloggers love and hate and in between. I 100% agree with all your standards and disclaimers!

  • Susan July 26, 2009, 2:12 pm

    Yeah, this whole freebie thing kind of took me by surprise. I had no idea people had issues with it. Personally, I love discovering new products through product reviews. I trust the reviews are honest, because a lot of bloggers seem apologetic when they don't like something! Personally, I feel like a company is taking a risk by sending me things to review on my blog because there's a chance I won't like it. I assume they're confident enough in their product that they think it will get positive feedback from me!

    I've never had the guts to contact a company for samples, and I rarely get them sent to me because I'm in Canada. Means I also don't do giveaways. I will say I do feel pressured to do giveaways sometimes. Kinda sucks because I don't really feel like giving out free shiz is the point of my blog…

  • Kimberly July 26, 2009, 2:16 pm

    Caitlin, I think you've established yourself as a "responsible blogger" (and one who has balls enough to give her honest opinion), so your readers trust you and the integrity of your reviews/advertisements. That said, there are definitely blogs out there who use their domains as nothing more than indiscriminate corporate shill space (like Hungry Girl, which reads like an infomercial and really peeves me because she seems to be marketing her many "awesome" processed diet products to teenage girls.) As an (admittedly naive) teenager, I remember how surprised I was to learn that women's magazines are compensated for those "Best Product" and "Best Diet" lists they're so fond of – once I knew that, I no longer trusted their opinions and stopped taking their reviews into account – no big (same with the American Heart Association, once I learned that a corporation has to pay a fee for that little AHA endorsement.) So while I think that a blogger should be able to say whatever the heck he or she wants in their own space (advertise or pan away!), it's important that readers be aware of any corporate support or relationships, so they in turn can make an informed decision about how much they want to trust the blogger's opinion. Basically, I think full disclosure is where it's at, and gov't regulation beyond that is bordering on unconstitutional.

  • Anonymous July 26, 2009, 2:35 pm

    I completely agree with what Heather stated earlier so I won't repeat what has already been better said. There have been some very questionable promotions (like last week's postings promoting a food blogger's entry in a recipe contest) lately so I'm glad this issue is finally being addressed. It's frustrating for me as a reader because I believe 99% of what you guys do is so beneficial and I recognize that it takes a ton of work. I turned to healthy living food blogs when I needed a complete lifestyle change and it was unbelievably helpful and reassuring to see so many people balance the same challenges that I was facing. You guys are leaders in this niche and I hope and believe take that responsibility seriously.
    That said, I am glad that you posted some clarification on the summit sponsorship and the requirements that go along with that sponsorship. Maybe I'm naive, but I was surprised to learn that you are required to eat/post about their products frequently. If I know that you are being sponsored by Stoneyfield, I, as a smart consumer, am always going to be more cautious about accepting your opinion. It doesn't mean that I will disregard it. When you review products in the future I think it would be very beneficial if you stated how you came across the product. Did you purchase it? Receive it from the company unsolicited? Request it from the company? Buy it yourself? Are you sponsored by the company? Do you receive other benefits that we do not see? This would greatly increase transparency and help the reader to filter your review better.

  • Chloe (Naturally Frugal) July 26, 2009, 2:36 pm

    I think that the blogs I read (including yours and Kath's) try to maintain a level of honestly with their readers that is very admirable. I hope that other bloggers do the same, but that is most likely not the case for every one.

    It does seem silly that the government is trying to regulate this. My question is what they get out of the deal. It would make sense if you were being paid to review a product but that's not the case.

  • operationmuffintop July 26, 2009, 2:37 pm

    I think too many people get their panties in a knot over the dumbest things… I love your blog and think it's awesome, and love reading what you have to say about certain products! If people don't like it, well you're not forcing them to read your blog, now are you? 😉

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point July 26, 2009, 2:39 pm

    anon – thanks for your insightful comments! i will definitely take this into account when reviewing products in the future. ps – i really really really do love stonyfield, with or without the summit!!! LOL

  • HangryPants July 26, 2009, 2:40 pm

    I just linked to your post because I think it's important. I think freebies are a nice perk of blogging. Blogging is hard work and it takes a lot of time. I do think, however, that bloggers should say when they get something for free. Also, I wish people were slightly more honest about when something isn't good. I've seen too many things declared as the best ever and they stink.

  • emily July 26, 2009, 2:57 pm

    While some companies have been Very generous I don't get very many samples (I do not request things and my blog is pretty teeny) but I 100% agree/support this post!

  • Tammy (Defining Wellness) July 26, 2009, 3:06 pm

    Wow, I had no idea this was going on! I agree with you 100%!

  • Allison July 26, 2009, 3:09 pm

    I think there is nothing wrong with sponsorships and freebies! But at the same time, I think a disclaimer that you recieved the product for free is important – I like your system, saying this the first time you try it.

    That said – some other bloggers don't seem as honest as you, and I don't think some regulations are necesarily a bad thing.

  • Bec July 26, 2009, 3:16 pm

    I've only recently started getting free samples and while I do review them, I say I got them for free and am honest in what I think about the product.

  • Anonymous July 26, 2009, 3:19 pm

    When I first discoved blogs and "healthy living" blogs I was so in awe of all the products, recipes, lifestyle changes I could make. I'm so thankful I found things like Amazing Grass and Green Monsters! I've made healthful and delicious changes in my life because of the blogs I've followed.

    However, sometimes reading these blogs is like reading Vogue magazine (seeing all the great, beautiful, amazing clothes but knowing I could never afford them) because I know I don't have the money to regularly spend on the rave products bloggers are using for free.

    It took me a very short time to take product reviews I read with a grain of salt. I've started realizing when I see pictures on a blogger's review of a heaping box full of products that I should analyze carefully whats being said because, seriously, what person wouldn't like to get loads of free stuff and then perhaps temper their review? I've found lately that I enjoy a lot of the newer, less popular blogs for this reason (they are a little bit more believable to me.) I LOVE YOUR BLOG and I don't think you're dishonest in any way – but I do definitely agree with there being mandates to control the freebies and giveaways in the blogging community!

  • havefaith4ever July 26, 2009, 3:20 pm

    TOTALLY AGREED! I think all this hubbub about giveaways and freebies is ridiculous. Thanks for posting this!
    <3 jess

  • Anonymous July 26, 2009, 3:41 pm

    Anonymous posted: "like last week's postings promoting a food blogger's entry in a recipe contest"

    and i wanted to pipe up to agree that when i saw giveaways and things of that nature in exchange for a vote, i definitely wondered whether that was against the rules (for all we know, it was encouraged).

    And my grievance with Stonyfield — its soy yogurt is not vegan; it contains dairy. What's the point of soy yogurt that contains dairy? I think SF is missing out on a pretty big audience there. (I buy Silk, but i'd absolutely by SF if it were to change the recipe.)

  • sloank July 26, 2009, 3:45 pm

    I have to say, I think my only issue with all your cool products is that you get them for free and I have to go out and spend my own money on them; it's totally a jealousy thing!! However, I can understand why companies would send their products to you; as someone who used to work in advertising, it is a GREAT idea! And seeing as you spend many, many, MANY hours a week working FOR us I think you totally deserve it!! I am jealous of your freebies, but NOT jealous of the amount of effort you put in daily. I think you deserve all these products and I think it is AWESOME that you are being sponsored!!! Thanks for being honest with us!!

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point July 26, 2009, 4:07 pm

    anon – re: danica's recipe contest, i chose to NOT do a giveaway for vote's for danica for this exact reason. i'm not judging the people that did, but i was not comfortable doing that and just plugged the recipe contest on the blog, which i am happy to do for fellow bloggers.

  • Gab* July 26, 2009, 4:26 pm

    I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with receiving free products as long as you’re open and honest about it, as you seem to be Caitlin!

    As few years ago (ok, just checked, it was 10 years ago!), there was a scandal in Australia concerning well known radio personalities passing off paid advertising as personal comment, it was known as “Cash for Comment”. It resulted in the regulations being tightened so it’s now illegal. I guess these people were in a position of trust and the government had to regulate them to stop them abusing that trust as they couldn’t be trusted to ‘self regulate’.

    Legislation has to cater to the lowest common denominator and set the minimum standard, I don’t think they’re trying to stop people like you giving frank reviews of products you have been given. So keep doing what you’ve been doing, I don’t think you have anything to be worried about!

    Cash for comment:

  • Anonymous July 26, 2009, 4:29 pm

    You didn't mention, though, that you agreed to eat/blog about Stonyfield a few times a week, though…until now. Don't you think you should have if you were really being up front?

    I'm sorry if I missed it, and you did in fact mention this. And I should note that I think in general, your blog doesn't come across as a constant advertisement, unlike some others. I don't usually leave comments, but I do love your blog!

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point July 26, 2009, 4:33 pm

    anon – i guess i thought was obvious because im on the planning committee of the summit and the summit is sponsored by stonyfield. and i blogged about how they are the sponsor until i was blue in the face. if it wasn't obvious, i'm sorry! i've been such a headless chicken lately. i will do better in the future (which is why i told everyone about nasoya now).

  • RunToFinish July 26, 2009, 4:34 pm

    AMEN, isn't it freedom of speech? I mean I was an advertising major and I understand misleading statements and I know some bloggers just say things are great, but for those who are honest and open leave it be.

  • Katrina July 26, 2009, 4:40 pm

    Well said!

  • irunisweat July 26, 2009, 4:45 pm

    I like the idea of a product review. I guess my question would be, could you sustain such a healthy lifestyle without the freebies? For example, greek yogurt is substantially higher in price than "regular". And, without sponsorship, would people be able to afford to go to the Summit?

    I like the reviews, and I review on my blog, but only after I've purchased the item. I like your reviews, but it seems its more saying "I'm eating (insert brand of food)", instead of, I'm eating (type of food) because I feel like its good/whole/healthy.

    So my thoughts are two fold:
    1.) The companies keep sending products to the same 5-10 blogs. I'm so tired of seeing liquid grass being consumed by people, that it's starting to be annoying.
    2.) Without these freebies and sponsorships, would you be able to afford to stock your fridge/pantry with the same products?

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point July 26, 2009, 4:51 pm

    irunisweat – yes, without a doubt, i always buy greek yogurt. it is far superior and i will pay for higher quality products, as well as organic products. i spend a lot of money on our food and would do so even if i didnt get freebies. the freebies allow me to eat a bigger variety of things (like different brands or new types of bars) than i would probably spring for. which i think is good for readers cause ya'll get to see something new.

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point July 26, 2009, 4:53 pm

    irunisweat – oh also, i liked amazing grass SO much i bought my own tub. so when you see it on healthy tipping point, its a "real" product. 🙂

  • fifiandtherealworld July 26, 2009, 4:56 pm

    Three quick thoughts:
    1) I think what makes the food blog world more complicated for me is that it's hard to tell where the free samples start and stop because of the cross-pollination between blogs (I hope this makes sense!). Let's say Blogger A gets invited to sample a product on her blog and she raves about it. This product gets picked up by other blogs and starts to spread throughout the blog world. Often times, some of those bloggers bought the product themselves, while others got it for free. It can be hard to differentiate who is reviewing & why.
    2) I am among the people who would like to know if something was a free sample or not. A lot of bloggers do a good job identifying the product as free when they get the big box or when they do the initial review, but it generally takes time for them to use up the product. Therefore, someone coming to the blog later (or who just forgets!), might not know that the blogger is "reviewing" the product instead of just writing about what she happens to be eating (I'm thinking here about times where a blogger does an initial review, but then continues to eat the product – i.e. "just had a larabar – yum" as opposed to "broke into my stash of larabar samples – yum").
    3) I def. understand what everyone is saying about the conditions of food production in the U.S. and the need for the government to deal with all the Food, Inc. type problems, but generally those issues fall under the FDA's jurisdiction and not the FTC. The FTC has its own mandate, which is, even though it can be annoying, to deal with things like this/consumer advertising-related protection. Reading the comments here and on other blogs, I think that we're generally a pretty informed group of people and can formulate our own opinions about products/why bloggers are writing about them, BUT just as there are less-scrupulous bloggers out there, there are also people who fall for that and do need these type consumer protections/disclaimers/etc.

  • Lori July 26, 2009, 5:25 pm

    I have no problems at all with reviews as long as the blogger states that they were given the product. Sometimes it is good to hear from a real person and not just a schill, you know?

  • Kelly July 26, 2009, 6:18 pm

    I think this is definitely an interesting topic. I'm surprised I hadn't heard about it since I work in marketing and blogger outreach is something that is frequently done. If anything I'm surprised it isn't being approached from a monetary perspective. I know giving free products to paid journalists is often an issue and there is actually a cap which when exceeded the person would have to pay taxes on the product. Because of that most of the things we give are either inexpensive or loaners.

    I do think part of the murkiness comes though that there is becoming a blurring line between blogging and journalism especially with things like bloggers getting press pass access and other perks. I'm glad that the blogging community is being noticed for its talent but I do think it brings to mind a need for a blogger code of ethics. As other posters have mentioned some bloggers are honest and candid and others are not.

    The only thing I don't like is when freebies get in the way of the content. There are a few blogs where I have stopped reading because it became more a showcase of the free product of the day vs. quality entries. In that case though it's less about rule enforcement and just about not reading if you don't like the content.

  • hookedup July 26, 2009, 6:31 pm

    I really do not understand why people are in such a tizzy about giveaways/sponsorship either.

    When I see a new product being reviewed that I have seen before but not been sure of. I can also do the same for. For the last few weekends the grocery that I go to has been having some serious sampling going on.

    I love giveaways because, it's a great way to try a product before buying it, especially if it's pricey and you're not sure you will like it. I live on a budget too, so does quite alot of people.

    There is …arg I am so pissed. When I read it on KERF, I was like why is 'The Man' getting into this, what can they gain, what is the point?

  • Anonymous July 26, 2009, 6:32 pm

    I would like to respectfully bring up a point about these disclosures. I work in an industry where I frequently interact with the government and I am required by law to report to my employer anything I received from a customer–even if it is simply a sandwich at a working lunch. Most of the small things are passed off as acceptable, but the point is that my employer needs to be aware of any potential conflicting influences that may inhibit my ability to properly do my job. This isn't a new idea, it just hasn't been applied in this sphere. If blogging is to be considered a job (which I have no doubt at your level it is), it should be subject to certain regulations.

    That being said, I think that most of your product reviews are done tastefully and well. I just think that there should be some sort of formal disclosure. Maybe a sub-page on your blog that lists companies you receive compensation (or products) from?

  • Amy July 26, 2009, 6:39 pm

    What an interesting post! I loved reading all the comments.

    I'm in Canada, and I must admit I have some serious "green eyes" for all your bloggers get get the free swag.

    I'm like you, I was sent some Amazing Grass and loved it so much that I too, bought my own… paid duty and everything! 🙂

    I just want to say… I love love love your blog. You keep it real. Its not about promoting your business, bragging about your running, or providing uneducated advice about how to prevent cancer. I find a lot of the foodie/heatlhy living blogs these days are becoming a bit of a gong show. Yours is not the case. I thank you for being so real and honest Caitlin!

    Unfortunately some of the 'gong show' blogs have me so sucked in… that I tune in daily to see what kind of hideous advice they are providing. I guess its kind of like a roadside accident… you just HAVE to look! 🙂

  • roseyrebecca July 26, 2009, 6:46 pm

    I love reading your reviews!! I don't think you should have to announce every time you get a sample!!

    I agree with this whole post!

  • Anonymous July 26, 2009, 7:00 pm

    What an interesting conversation you have started, Caitlin, well done.

    To be perfectly honest, I don't think alot of bloggers are clear when they recieve a free product. I feel it is the responsibility of a blogger to make it clear that they are reviewing a product, which they recieved FREE from a company. I also believe that a blog reader, needs to keep that in mind, when they are reading it and take it with a grain of salt. Some bloggers are much better about making this CLEAR than others are.

    On another note, it is pretty clear to a reader bloggers who are trying to turn their blog into a business, while others who are blogging because they enjoy it/it is good for them, etc… I know someone mentioned being more attracted to the smaller blogs, because they don't have the viewership that bigger blogs do and often are reviewing products they bought with their own money.

    I do believe that a blogger has every right to review products; it is your blog and you can decide what direction you wish to take with it. That said, and as others have mentioned before, blogs are turning into a new & powerful form of media and advertising for companies. Therefore, I see no problem in their being some sort of government guidelines.

    I have yet to see a blog that addresses their prodcut review guidelines anywhere in their blog. If I am wrong and someone can lead me to this, please share.

    To address the issue of the Stonyfield sponsorship, I have to say that I didn't catch on that you were forced to mention them till you get red in the face. Not criticizing you in any way, shape or form, rather just speaking as one person.

    I take bloggers product reviews with a grain of salt, just as I do with their eating habits, idea of "healthy" and exercise. Just as I think bloggers should have a clearly written product review guidelines, I think readers need to not hang onto every word that a blogger says.

    Caitlin, while I don't completely agree with all that you wrote, I do commend and applaude you for being the first blogger (or at least first blogger that I read) to take the time to address this issue and how you approach this.

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point July 26, 2009, 7:03 pm

    anon – that is a very eloquent response! i think im going to add a "Featured Products" page listing all the companies i've received samples from. it's good advertisting for them AND it keeps my blog entirely up front.

  • Nina July 26, 2009, 7:04 pm

    Wow. Caitlin, you are an amazing woman. Good for you for standing up for what you believe in. I started my own blog because of you, and I wouldn't change a thing on yours. Keep up the good work. You are an inspiration.

  • leslie July 26, 2009, 7:24 pm

    caitlin, thank you for taking the time to write such an honest and open post (as always), and for bringing up an issue which hasn't been addressed much in the past. i agree with much of what others have said, and i think that you do a very good job of presenting product reviews in an honest manner.

    when i worked at a major magazine, i was shocked by the amount of content that was determined not by the editors, but by their obligations to advertisers. (perhaps this was naive of me?) because of that experience, and because blogging is such a new medium, i do think some type of regulation needs to exist; otherwise it could become tough to distinguish who is and isn't being up front about the products they feature.

    i agree with the idea of a "featured products" page, as long as you make sure to disclose which you got for free (and you always do!). caitlin, really, i think it's wonderful that you brought this up and are responding in such a proactive way – it's what makes you such a responsible blogger, and is one of the reasons i wholeheartedly trust your opinions!

  • MareBare July 26, 2009, 7:35 pm

    i love your product reviews! they let me know what new and exciting foods are out there and really help jazz up my sometimes repetitious healthy eats by giving me new ideas. i say your a blogger and u work hard for your job enjoy the perks and if you share the love with some give-aways, well thats just above being awesome but i think u should be rewarded you do a great job!

  • CeciLiA July 26, 2009, 7:39 pm

    Oh don't you worry Caitlin, you are doing a great job on your blog 😀

    Regarding the FTC regulation issue – I think there are some blogs out there that really need it though. What I mean by that is, some blogs are turning into somewhat a 'blog-mercial'- they seem to blog for the purpose of FREEBIES from company (in return, they give a half-hearted review on the items they received) … so yea!

    All in all, keep doing what you are doing – your blog (and you) = FAB!!!

  • NYgirl@heart July 26, 2009, 8:17 pm

    Sorry Caitlin, I deleted my comment because for some reason there were a ton of left out words and typos. It was long so I don't want to re-write it–I just wanted to let you know why I deleted it. And you rock.

  • Julia @ Jogging My Memory July 26, 2009, 8:36 pm

    Thank you so much for addressing this issue and allowing people to share their opinions. As a fellow blogger, but a new one, I'm wary of what things on blogs offend or bother people and apparently this a big issue. I've just recently started receiving products from companies to review, and am actually starting the post for a bridal shower that I received a very large number of free samples. Now I will be sure to mention that these were free, but as you do, I will give honest opinions and got opinions from all the people that tried the chips which I plan to share.
    I do feel like it is a bit extreme for the government to step in here. It seems to me there are much more important things to regulate and better ways for legislatures to spend their time than on controlling whether or not bloggers can receive free samples.

    I also see the other side of the coin, which is that there is no one to regulate whether or not bloggers are honest in their reviews of products. However, I would raise the same question in response to commercials for products such as ProActiv where prominent figures are used to advertise. I'd be curious as to what sort of regulation occurs there and if it is similar to that proposed for bloggers?
    Thanks again for covering such "hot topics" as this and for informing the blogging community and bringing more awareness to us all!

  • Jess July 26, 2009, 9:03 pm

    Great post, Caitlin! I agree with everything you (and Kath) have to say and follow your guidelines when I review products on my blog too. Honesty is the only way to go, no matter the perks behind it.

  • Holly B July 26, 2009, 10:08 pm

    i absolutely agree that these new rules and really code of ethics has a place here in the blog world. I worked for the Wall Street Journal in advertising, and we weren't even located in the same building as the editorial staff for these types of reasons. It makes sense. No one is trying to take away the precious and coveted samples. Just keep bloggers honest.

    it just struck me reading this post…is this why you and some of the other bloggers (who now that i think about it are summit organizers as well) have been driving traffic to random Zesty Cook posts???

  • Samantha July 26, 2009, 10:55 pm

    Great post! I read Kath's similar one and just finished yours. Coming from a background in sales and marketing, I firmly believe word of mouth can be a company's best or worst form of advertisement. Personally, I've found MANY products (food and otherwise) I love from the honest reviews on my blogs I read regularly. The only complaint I have had was against Amazing Grass. They've given out so many free packages for people to review, but left PAYING customers like myself with zero customer service. (I emailed them repeatedly hoping for assistance on an ordering issue and was never responded to)

    I'm not sure what all the fuss is about with there being issues over bloggers doing a sample/review for various products. In my opinion, its similar to sending out packages to a test group, just not anonymous.

    Thanks for being honest in your reviews, and reassuring your readers where your stance is!

  • Erin July 27, 2009, 12:45 am

    I completely agree with you. As long as you're honest in your review (which you are), then why does it matter if the product was free or not? Is it any different than you buying the product yourself and reviewing it?


    Keep doin' what you're doin'…

  • wholebodylove July 27, 2009, 1:06 am

    I don't really have enough of a following yet to get free samples to review. But, I do think that most bloggers are fairly honest about the products that they have recieved for free. I also appreciate the honesty of a not so great product review. I think it's pretty obvious when someone praises every product that they may be getting these as samples.

  • Kathy (Moving Beyond Perfection) July 27, 2009, 5:22 am

    Samantha- I ALSO experienced TERRIBLE customer service with amazing grass!!! It wasn't until I e-mailed someone mentioning that I had heard of them through blogs and wrote one of my own, and was extremely dissappointed with the customer service (I ordered from AG with my own money but had an issue with my order), that they FINALLY got back to me. It took them 3 weeks though! I can't believe they would seriously disregard their regular customers like that and only offer quality service to established bloggers advertising their products. Even though I still love their products, it is a dissappointment for sure. Next time, I'm just ordering from amazon to bypass their customer service.

  • colleen July 27, 2009, 5:59 am

    In general, I think you're really good about letting us know when you're reviewing free samples that you've received. The one exception to that is the overabundance of Oikos appearances on the healthy summit blogs. Did you all set up an agreement with Stoneyfield to post about Oikos with a certain frequency w/o explicitly mentioning you were consuming free samples? I'm just curious b/c it seems like a glaring exception to your otherwise stellar record of being upfront about your reviews.

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point July 27, 2009, 6:04 am

    colleen- thanks 🙂 i have stated a bijillion times (LOL) that stonyfield is the primary sponsor for the summit and that i'm on the planning committee, so i thought it was pretty clear they are sponsoring my yogurt consumption. if it was not clear, im sorry! one of the troubles with this issue is that if i say it once, not all readers are going to read it. which is why i created the featured products page.

  • colleen July 27, 2009, 6:13 am

    not to belabor the point, but I'm not sure you answered my question…Did you agree to blog about Oikos w/o explicitly mentioning the free samples? I'm not asking to be a pain – just very curious about how these things work 🙂

  • Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point July 27, 2009, 6:20 am

    colleen- sorry i must've misunderstood your question. no of course stonyfield did not ask me to blog without saying they are sponsoring the yogurt consumption. they are a very transparent company and i'm a very transparent blogger. i would never agree to do that nor would i ever work with anyone who asked me! thats lying and misleading my readers.

  • redhead75 July 27, 2009, 7:33 am

    Who cares if it was donated or you asked for it?? All I want to know is if it's worth my $$! If I want to find out for myself all I have to do is e-mail and ask for a sample…it's that easy.

  • Laura W July 27, 2009, 7:41 am

    It seems like you do the best you can when it comes to letting readers know if you're showing something on the blog that was a freebie. I wouldn't think for a minute that you blog for the "free stuff"- it's clear that blogging takes way too much time for that to really pay off! You put hours upon hours into this so it's really only fair that you get to try complimentary new products.

    It's no coincidence that my favorite bloggers seem to be honest and "real" about their work, and that comes through in their blogs. I would agree that some bloggers spend way too much time reviewing products, but, that's just my opinion and no one forces me to read those blogs.

    I really appreciate your honesty– you never review 12798749 products just because, and you just went out of your way to explain how the summit is being taken care of!

  • Melissa July 27, 2009, 8:04 am

    Hi Caitlin,
    I like product reviews as long as they're honest. My only problem with the reviews is that lately it seems like a lot of bloggers are being given the same products to review and they're all eating them at the same time day after day. The blogs are starting to become repetitive and the personalities are missing. I see many bloggers eating the same things for breakfast, then lunch, and then dinner. Some bloggers have seemed to stop cooking and are just relying on the products. It's a change I haven't liked, but I understand that you have to do what you can to make money and to pay for things like the Summit. I just hope this won't be a permanent change.

  • KK @ Running Through Life July 27, 2009, 10:18 am

    Right on.

  • Sam July 27, 2009, 2:26 pm

    Kathy-We live on Guam which is a US territory but some companies (them included)consider it int'l shipping while others do not. The ONLY shipping option it was giving me was $185. I tried calling (their 800 # won't accept calls outside CONUS) and emailed CS twice, then the CEO once and never received a response. So I was never able to order it at all. I found Life's Greens at Vitamin World which I'm using instead.

  • eatingRD July 27, 2009, 7:52 pm

    wow, I didn't get to read all the comments, but there are definitely some great points out there. Honestly I never really thought about this topic in this way before and never looked at food reviews in a negative light. I think they are a great way to introduce others to different foods, especially when they are honest and true to their review. I think that disclosure would be a beneficial aspect to blogging, but everything shouldn't have to be mentioned every. single. time. That will get just as redundant as the eating the same products over and over and over gets. A featured products page is a great idea. I mostly like to look at what original recipes a blogger has to offer rather than products, but I'm not going to lie that they do influence even if we may not even realize it. And you know, I don't know if I can speak for others when I say this but, to be honest I'm jealous!! 🙂 You certainly have worked your ass off to get where you're at now and you completely deserve success and free products/sponsorship by all means. But, it can be like a commercial sometimes when blogs just review free products they receive all the time (dvr for blogs?). I think your blog, out of most of the more trafficked, I have to say I don't feel that way. I think you represent a true person, not friggin' perfect all the time, who eats nutritious meals on a budget and busy schedule. Sometimes I feel like I don't want to read other blogs because they are TOO perfect, but I always keep coming back to yours because it's true. 🙂 Thanks!

  • chezjulie July 29, 2009, 2:56 pm

    I don't have a problem with someone reviewing freebies, clearly stated as such, on a blog. But I would have assumed that "sponsorship" of an event simply meant that the company allowed its name and logo to be used in advertising, signs, etc.

    I would never have guessed that the sponsorship also snuck in a product placement requirement, which makes me more uncomfortable. Like product placement in the movies, it is not transparent to the viewer/reader, and ultimately changes the director/blogger's creation.

    I do think it is good that you have explained the sponsorship deal to your readers. Like others, I get many ideas from reading food blogs.

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