In the last few weeks, the value of words on a blog has come up a number of times. In my Eroticon workshop I encouraged writers to put a monetary value to their writing, and stick with it. Be proud of the money that your words can earn. In a few conversations surrounding Eroticon, the topic of sex toy reviews came up, and the relationships between the sex toy retailers and the bloggers. Then today, another sex toy company has come into my twitter timeline after a contest for “best blogger” turned into a complete PR nightmare when it was exposed how the actual contest worked. Coming from a world where my words are written primarily for monetary gain, I may be coming at this from a slightly cynical standpoint, so forgive me if I sound like a black cloud.

In full disclosure, I feel I should advise you of the following – I write for a sex toy web site that does seek out bloggers to review their products. (I also work with one who doesn’t.) I run my own sex toy web site and I currently don’t supply sex toys in exchange for reviews. In addition, I have a reviews subdomain where I review sex toys and other sexy things. Do what you will with that info. 

I have real worry that there are sex toy review bloggers out there that think that the sex toy companies are seeking them out for their “craft” – their writing skills, their way with words, their opinion on a particular sex toy. Sure, there are the few small sex toy traders out there that may do that, and I can think of a couple off the top of my head that may. But for the vast majority, all sex toy bloggers are is a source of backlinks, link juice, PR, and on a minor level – outreach to potential customers. A sex toy web site that gets 75,000+ pageviews a day isn’t going to be that fussed about the hundred or so that you could potentially send. (Unless you’re what they call a “whale” in the gambling and affiliate marketing world – then it’s a whole other story and a whole other blog post.)

This does not need to be a bad thing if it’s put out there in the open, and you (as a sex toy blogger) are fine with that. I would be much more comfortable reviewing for a sex toy company if they just came out and said “I’ll give you a toy and the ability to earn cash through affiliate links, and in return, you’ll give me a 500 word post with contextual backlinks and a couple mentioned on your Twitter account.” But it doesn’t seem to happen that way. It’s almost as if the blogger is doing the sex toy company a ‘favor’ and they should be honored that they have been chosen to receive this free toy. Keep this in mind when looking at entering a contest as well – what am I getting out of this? What value will winning (or entering)  this contest add to my site, versus what needs to be done to win it (as in backlinks, linkjuice and traffic to the contest holder)? Don’t be afraid to ask these questions, as you may uncover what is “really” going on – as was discovered today in the case of one sex toy retailer.

Let’s not forget how the money flows with this, either. Sure, the sex toy you got for free costs £50 on the site, but that retailer probably paid less than £20 it wholesale. So really, the sex toy retailer is paying you less than £20 in exchange for your work. Are your words worth more than that to you? Break it down to a per-hour or per-word cost – does it match what you would be willing to sell that same piece for? Do you get anything other than a toy in exchange for this review (like dofollow links back to your blog, the ability to use affiliate links on your links to their site, or twitter mentions from their account)? Don’t be fooled – the sex toy company is making this calculation as well.

“Hmm, this Blogger Suzie only has a PR1 web site, and Alexa says her traffic is only around 300 a day. It’s not worth sending them the £40 toy for that backlink. See if she’ll take the £20 toy or we’ll look at her again when it’s PR2.”

“Looks like Blogger Mary’s site is up to a PR4 now. Let’s see if she’ll do a review of this rather expensive toy we are trying to push this month. She’s got 40K followers on twitter too – see if she wants to do a contest.”

For me, sex toy reviews are the equivalent of a one night stand. If both parties go into it knowing that you’re just going to fuck, get off, then go your separate ways, it’s a great relationship. If one party goes into it thinking that there’s anything more, that’s where it gets hairy. Sure, the one night stand may eventually develop into something more meaningful, but that’s as rare as it is in sex as it is for toy reviews!

Filed under: Ruby on Writing

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