We, the editors of Beauty, Inc., your monthly guide to beauty, fashion, and the path to a better you, have some surprising news to share in this, our latest and probably last issue. This is going to blow your mind, so settle into a comfortable chair, take a deep breath, and read on.
First, skin care products do not make you look younger. There is no way to erase wrinkles or spots, no matter what the label on the jar says. And really, why would you want to erase the lines in your face? We earn our wrinkles. You know what makes you look younger? Smiling. Stop worrying about your skin. I mean, put some sunscreen on, but then stop worrying.
Second, you don’t need any makeup. Seriously. Not a bit. There is no need to put shellac on your eyelashes or a paste of dubious pigments from China on your lips. Ever wonder why it is that guys get away with looking so great without a single one of these products? Because they just do. And you will, too. Really.
Third, you know how we were always telling you that buying these products was a great way to pamper yourself? Wrong. Turns out that buying these products was just a way to transfer some of your personal wealth to a large, anonymous corporation that doesn’t care about you. Instead, we have some really good news about what you could be doing with the money you are currently spending on perfumes, creams, and lipsticks. Turns out that the amount of money Americans alone spend on cosmetics every year can provide clean water and sanitation to families all over the world, and the amount Americans and Europeans spend on perfume can provide reproductive health care to your sisters in impoverished countries all over the world.
Imagine–women getting to safely deliver babies, and then have clean drinking water to keep them alive! How’s that for pampering?
We’re sorry to have said the opposite for so many years. We don’t know what we were thinking. We’d be happy to continue publishing this magazine if you’d like to continue subscribing, but the message going forward will be: Wash your face with soap. If it feels dry, rub on–we don’t know, some coconut oil or something. Smile a lot. Floss your teeth. Go run around outside. Eat some fruit. Don’t worry about going grey. In the end, nobody cares about your hair. They care about what you did with your life. Go forth and do meaningful things. This is going to be so much easier now that you’re not worrying about whether you have lipstick on your teeth.
We hope this news comes as a huge relief to you. It certainly does to us. We’ll see you next month–maybe.
The Beauty, Inc. Editorial Staff
Why won’t you ever read this letter in a beauty magazine? Because beauty and fashion writers simply can’t stay in business by telling people they don’t need any of that stuff. The whole idea of beauty and fashion writing is based around the belief that we need all the stuff, and we need help deciding which stuff to buy.
Garden writers, on the other hand, can and do tell people they don’t need to buy stuff. We, and our fellow garden writers around the blogosphere, have written many times about the benefits ofpassalong plants and seed saving, the uselessness of any number of sprays, potions, and powders, the silliness of gadgets and expensive grow lights, and so on.
You really need almost nothing to garden. Which is not to say that we don’t all buy stuff. Garden gloves, garden shoes, shovels and pruners, plants and bulbs and seeds. But that’s not all there is to gardening. Far from it. There is art and sex and music and, of course, drinking. And food. And marriages. And politics.
To follow on Susan’s post yesterday about a long-simmering discussion about garden bloggers and sponsors, advertisers, etc, here are a few more thoughts. If this discussion is getting tedious for you, please don’t read on.
All garden writing (and most other kinds of periodical writing) is supported by ads. Most magainzes and newspapers you subscribe to? Your subscription price barely covers the printing and deliver cost, if that, and it doesn’t begin to cover the cost of actually writing and photographing the articles. With few exceptions, advertisers have always bankrolled publications and, by extension, writers and photographers. The writers generally have no idea what ads might appear next to the articles they write, yet their paychecks come largely from ad revenue.
Ads in a sidebar don’t bother me in the least. They’re just like ads in a magazine. Off to the side, easy to skip past. Pop-up ads? Obnoxious, noisy, animated ads? Nobody likes those. But bloggers that manage to post something new almost every day, or write a long, thoughful post once a week? That takes some work! I don’t begrudge them a little ad revenue. I want writers to be paid for their work.
This discussion is nothing new. For years, “mommy bloggers” have been dealing with this issue of product reviews. For instance, Blog with Intergrity came out of this discussion.
Product reviews only get weird if bloggers let it get weird. Personally, I’m a little irritated with the FTC for applying its freebie disclosure rules to bloggers but not magazines, newspapers, TV, etc. The FTC itself explains its reasoning thusly:
For a review in a newspaper, on TV, or on a website with similar content, it’s usually clear to the audience that the reviewer didn’t buy the product being reviewed. It’s the reviewer’s job to write his or her opinion and no one thinks they bought the product – for example, a book or movie ticket – themselves. But on a personal blog, a social networking page, or in similar media, the reader may not expect the reviewer to have a relationship with the company whose products are mentioned…
I’m not sure that it is clear to readers of, say, a beauty magazine, that the magazine is literally floating in free stuff. But whatever. Those are the guidelines, and as guidelines, bloggers can follow them or not. (On the same page, the FTC says, “There is no fine for not complying with an FTC guide” and “we’re not monitoring bloggers and we have no plans to… If law enforcement becomes necessary, our focus will be advertisers, not endorsers – just as it’s always been.”) So these really are guidelines–more like advice than laws or regulations–for bloggers.
Keeping some editorial independence is really pretty easy. Using some kind of intermediary to dish up ads that you can accept, reject, ignore, etc, helps. Google AdSense and BlogAds are just two examples. They act like the advertising sales division of a magazine or newspaper in that way–they go out and sell the ads; the writers don’t.
And as for freebies? While I don’t mind saying that somebody sent a product to me for free, until those rules get applied to other forms of media, I’m not going to get too worked up over it. I just wrote a book review for a major newspaper and nowhere was I required to disclose that I got not one, but two free copies of the book. But sure, yeah, it’s reasonable to mention that a freebie is a freebie. You won’t, however, see me getting up in arms over whether or not somebody disclosed a freebie. I’m a grown-up, I’m hardly harmed by what somebody writes on a blog about a product, and I’ve got no time for blame and games of “gotcha.”
The key for me is writing an unbiased review. I’ve had PR people ask me to use certain phrases in a video when describing their product, and ask me to link to a particular page on their site using particular words to help with their SEO strategy. The answer is always a resounding NO. I remind them, over and over, that they can send something to me, but it’s up to me to decide if, when, and how to review it. Period.
Oh, and about giveaways? We did our first giveaway in 2007, (remember the Sloggers?) and people seemed genuinely thrilled to win something. Over the years, we’ve given a lot of cool stuff to our cool readers. It costs us nothing, it’s kind of fun, but it certainly doesn’t make us feel beholden to the companies giving the stuff away. Honestly, as I’m writing this, I can’t come up with the names of even five companies who have done giveaways lately. Hard to feel obligated to someone whose name I can’t quite summon up anyway.
Sorry for the long rant. I didn’t have time to make it shorter. Your thoughts, if you are not too exhausted or bored to share them, are welcome as always.