I told this editor that first, gardening is all about buying stuff. You buy plants, soil, fertilizer, tools, gloves, benches–there is a lot of consumption involved. You can share plants and seeds and use secondhand tools, but at some point you’re going to go to a nursery and buy something.
Second, all the articles that appear around my garden column in this paper–book reviews, music reviews, movie reviews–also involved buying stuff. If you don’t think a book or a CD or a movie or a concert or an art exhibit is about buying stuff, just go ask the artist!
Some publications have a policy of not accepting free stuff. If you’re going to review a product, either the writer or the newspaper must buy it. This doesn’t extend to book reviews, where publishers regularly send free copies to newspapers and magazines in the hopes that they’ll write a review.
I actually think accepting free stuff is a perfectly fine approach and I don’t think it engenders bias. If you send me a crappy product, I’m either going to write a scathing review or ignore it entirely. If you send me something I love, I will tell the world–through my blog, through my column, across the back fence, at a party, at the nursery, etc.
Most of the swag that garden writers get is not very fancy anyway. We’re not getting power tools or hand-forged copper fountains or $5000 benches. We’re getting seeds, gloves, bulbs, or maybe a little packet of fertilizer. (Horticultural industry: If you’re listening–you’d be amazed at how many people have bought an electric chipper/shredder at my recommendation. I bet two dozen people contacted me to tell me they’d bought one after reading my article–and that doesn’t count all the people who might have purchased one without contacting me about it.)
So yeah, sure, send us some stuff. And by the way, when my next book comes out, I’m going to get a stack of review copies and offer them to bloggers, with the specific request that they post a review–good or bad, of course. Special consideration will go to those who also want to embed the video. Where did I get the idea for this? From Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, of course.
Oh, and back to those industry people looking to get their products into the hands of bloggers–I’m also in the market for a smart phone, which I’ll be using as a blogging tool (and, uh, telephone) on the next book tour. Drop me a line and I’ll let you know where to send those Treo 700s and Motorola Qs. Now, you’ll include the activation fees and 2-year contract with it, right?