Back to gear review ethics and stuff for a minute.

Was thinking today, as I’ve been considering where this is all going, and in particular the issue of whether paying for a review would create bias in the reviewer, and I wonder:

Do readers know that most gear sites make money off affiliate marketing?

This means that when you click on a link on a site, it might take you to the manufacturer’s site, or to a retailer’s site. When you make a purchase from that site within a certain amount of time, the gear site gets money; a commission.

If a site is trying to sell stuff, how does that not affect the content of the review? I mean, if you’re trying to get people to click on the link and buy it, why would you admit that you don’t like the product? Surely you’d try to market the product like, oh, I don’t know, you are trying to sell it, because that’s what you’re doing, right?

Even if the reviewer says they don’t like the product, and the reader clicks on the link and buys something else, the reviewer still gets a commission for the click through. So…what does THAT mean in regards to bias? That’s rhetorical, by the way. I’m not sure about this one. If the point is getting the click and the sale, why not be honest? But is a reader likely to click through on a review that trashes the hell out of a product? Again – I don’t know. I should analyze my stats and come up with an answer (note: I am unlikely to actually do this. I have other/better/more fun things to do).

So, I’m starting to see the point of these new FTC guidelines for bloggers. I freely admit to you that I used to use affiliate links to try to make a few bucks, but stopped doing it for a number of reasons. I now believe that there’s some sort of conflict of interest in using those links that isn’t well articulated in this business. So I promise to you to always tell you if any of the links I post are affiliate links or if I stand to make any money off of the links (ha! won’t that be the day). I’m going to be feeling my way through a few changes in the upcoming months and I’ll do my very best to be up front about the changes, why I’m doing them, and what I hope to gain from them. I think that promise encompasses the very basics of reviewing gear – be honest and up front about what you are doing and why, and what benefits you get from doing it.

As for me: I am reviewing outdoor gear, mostly for women. I am doing it because it’s fun, I like having a platform to showcase my writing, and I want to be influential in the industry because I think the industry needs more female voices, particularly in regards to gear. As far as benefits go, I’ll say that I end up keeping 99.9% of the gear I review. Maybe I keep it for myself, maybe I give it away, maybe I donate it, whatever. I let my reviewers keep the gear they review. I have never been secretive about this fact. I’ll warrant that most gear reviewers keep most of the gear they review. I’m direct with clients that I don’t return gear with very few exceptions. I DON’T spend hundreds of dollars shipping stuff back and forth; that would financially break me within a few months; hence my “no returns” policy. I still spend hours and hours on maintaining the site and not a small amount of money developing the site, and going to trade shows and other events. There. That’s the straight story. Telling you all this up front is my obligation to you and I’m glad to do it.

I appreciate you reading and lending your feedback. I think, based on some of the recent comments, that you readers are a large part of the entertainment value of this site. Thanks again for stopping by/coming back/leaving your comments. Love ya! Mwah!