The Ethics of Food Blogging

This post has been on my mind for a while. I started blogging for fun - as a way to release my inner monologue. Apparently, what's on my mind a lot is food. And people started reading... and following... and wanting to know about my latest learning to cook adventure and where I'd recommend they go for an important meal.

Once the PR people pick up that people are reading your blog, you start getting invited to media tastings and events. You get access or taste things in advance of the public for free. (I should know, I *am* a PR gal.)

What I didn't anticipate was that I felt a little weird about going to these events and then blogging about them to you.  Would the fact that they are free influence me?  Research says that even if I think it doesn't, it does. But I've been holding back interesting stories, creative menu concepts and fun experiences simply because it wasn't something I paid for on my own.  But, I'm not made of money so I'd hate to limit what we share to my meager trying-to-buy-a-condo budget.

Even before blogging, I still got some gratis love. What if I just know the bartender? Or I chat up the manager and they send over a free dessert? They don't know I blog... they're just being nice... or trying to pick me up...

So, after a hot discussion in my Twitter community yesterday, here's where I stand...

I will start blogging about whatever I like, but I will disclose to you when I got it for free or if it's an experience you can't access on your own.  I'd like to find a subtle way of doing it, like an icon next to freebies or something... if you have ideas, please let me know in the comments.

If it bothers you that I got it for free (and disclosed), let me know in the comments or tweet me. I'm happy to rethink it if you don't like it.

Either way, I vow to tell you what I loved and steer you away from what I don't.  After all, honesty is the best policy. (Although, now you're gonna have to hear about all of my favorite bartenders in town, because, blog or not, I love me a gratis refill at the bar...)


urban bohemian said...

I too have been mulling this over for a while and I think we (by that, I mean my twitterati) all handle it fairly well. I definitely think there's a difference in going to a place for a meal you paid for and writing about it positively or negatively versus being invited to a specifically comped meal or "media lunch".

But first and foremost, my blogs are my hobby and they should remain fun. If I'm racking my brain all day worrying about losing my objectivity, then it's time to walk away from the computer for a while. Maybe go have a drink on a sunny patio. :)

Tammy Gordon said...

Totally agree. And I'll see you on the patio. We can flirt with the bartender for free drinks without peril. ;)

mary said...

Tammy, I just added a badge to my blog. Thought you might be interested given this post.


Capitol to Capital said...

I agree. Just because it was free doesn't mean it wasn't fun or delicious! I think readers value an honest opinion and a disclosure, if one is necessary. I don't get lots of free stuff or offers, but if I did I'd probably come to a similar crossroads! http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf

Anonymous said...

Great post and I'm happy that it got featured on DC Blogs! I do a small FTC disclaimer at the bottom of my posts.

I posted a product review this week and received a comment from a reader who was surprised that I didn't rave about a product that I got for free from a boutique (my affiliate). The boutique encourages me to be brutally honest since to the owners, it's more about education than sales.

I think that people eventually will realize -- if they don't already -- that you are a person of integrity. Good or so-so, you'll let us know, and the amount of money you did or didn't pay for it won't play a huge role.


Anonymous said...

I try to be as clear as possible if something was free in the first few sentences or at the end in a very clear disclosure line. I really think that as long as you are giving an honest review, then you are fine! And on the other side of things, restaurants/businesses/PR folks should never offer something for free with the expectation of a positive review (or a review at all).