When I first started blogging I was excited to hear from a few companies wanting to give me "free stuff". My "bribes" have decreased significantly over the past two years (ie non existant), but over the course of my blogging career I have received a beautiful prAna revolution mat at 50% off, a gorgeous Tonic yoga top, a recycled content yogoco yoga mat bag, some makeup samples and a yoga book to review.
I'm not going to lie, getting free stuff rocks, especially if it's products that I would endorse without bribery and can't normally afford (the prAna mat is a great example). Although it felt a little weird to get bribes from "the man"... no matter how awesome the company.
More frequently in the blogging community, sponsorships and endorsement posts are the norm and an fabulous way to make a bit of money while doing something you love (blogging). However, when it comes to critical blogging, it becomes a balance to strive for unbiased reviews or reporting of information and essentially being "paid" to promote a certain product.
This topic is an important one for the blogging community and although the environmental blogging community has discussed this on several occasions (please feel free to link in comments below- my memory is fuzzy this morning), other blogging spheres still have some work to be done hammering out what is ethical for your readers.
Many blogs have product endorsement and sponsorship policies and guidelines publicly posted on their blog for potential sponsors and readers. Environmental blogs typically have strict guidelines regarding what companies and products they will endorse and often will state in some manner in the post a disclosure on sponsorship.
Personally, I made a decision some time ago that I wouldn't accept an active, ongoing product endorsement and any "freebies" for review would only be accepted with the clear statement to the company that I would be critical and honest (even if I don't like the product). This doesn't mean I disagree with bloggers accepting endorsements, I just didn't want the pressure or hassle myself, personally.
Recently, a blogger friend commented that they felt uncomfortable and disappointed when reading a sponsored post that was not clearly advertised in the post title. They felt misled that they were reading an unbiased review of a product only to discover at the very end of the post that it was sponsored.
I will admit that I do take sponsored posts with a grain of salt. It's hard not to when the writer is essentially paid to promote a product and as a result is not unbiased. It's the reality of accepting a sponsorship role in blogging. That said, I do appreciate when bloggers are honest about the origins of the review and potential bias, and I also feel very confident in certain bloggers' strict sponsorship and endorsement policies.
What are your thoughts on blogging sponsorship? Do you have companies that you are confident promoting? Do you struggle advertising the fact that the post is sponsored?