what are sponsored reviews?

Posted on April 29th, 2011

Yesterday we ran a “sponsored review”. You see more of these around the web now, called sponsored posts or paid posts. I thought I’d be totally transparent about what these are about for me, here.


In a shell of a nut, they’re posts that are supported in some way – in $ or in kind – by a brand or service. The concept is derived from what’s known in magazines as “integrated advertising” (you see pages that look like editorial, but are actually an ad and usually have a banner at the top saying ‘advertisement’ or ‘promotion’). In newspapers and on TV, travel features and car reviews are mostly paid for by clients (an airline, a hotel, a tourist bureau). A line generally runs at the end: Sarah Wilson traveled with XYZ Llama Treks (or whatever). Since I’ve worked across all media, I know this dance intimately and I know how to tread the line…I’ve also seen how it is often crossed very tackily and dishonestly, especially online.

Why am I doing sponsored reviews on this blog? Two reasons

1. I’ve been writing posts six days a week now for almost two years. My blog costs money to run. A little bit of revenue will help me out. I don’t write for the money. It’s not why I started this blog. But I have rent to pay!

2. I get approached by a lot of great brands and services wanting me to experience their stuff so I can share it with you. These are brands that fit with the vibe of what I do here – they’re about making life better in some way. But I’m personally not comfortable reviewing or promoting products without disclosure that I didn’t just “stumble” upon [insert cool product], but that I was invited to give it a whirl. A sponsored review creates that distinction and allows me to share with you all about my Llama Trek (or whatever), where previously I’ve turned down the offer.

And just so you know…

1. We will only be reviewing stuff that I think readers of this blog could benefit from. And I will be honest.  I’m not interested in getting grubby.

2. I’ll be clearly specifying when a post is sponsored. The font will also be different. A soft grey, in fact.

3. These reviews will not affect anything else I feel like ranting about on this site.

Now, as you were…


Posts on sarahwilson.com may contain links to sponsors and affiliates with the capacity to receive monetary compensation, which helps to support the growth and development of this site. Giveaways are sponsored promotions and will always be stated as such on the post. Books, eBooks and other products that align with my site and ethos may potentially be accepted for review, but please respect my desire not to clutter my life with “stuff” before you send your wonderful product or press release. I am not a medical professional; rather, a wellness advocate, therefore anything written by myself on this site is my own (researched) opinion and not advice from a trained doctor. Here is a full breakdown of my position on sponsored posts and advertising.

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  • Jem

    That’s cool. You’re cool.


  • breezy

    ” The font will also be different. A soft grey, in fact.”

    Haha Sarah, you’re awesome! The fact that people want to approach you and say “Hey do this, try this.. what do you think, what do you think, what do you think?”… Is awesome!

    Absolute respect.



  • Lauren

    Hi Sarah,

    I have absolutely no problems with sponsored posts at all. I know some people get funny about them.

    One thing I’ve always wondered about them is what happens when you don’t like the product? Say I came to you with a new museli bar for example. And you thought it was disgusting. Obviously I’m not going to want to pay you to say it was awful and obviously I don’t want you to say it was awful even without the pay. What happens in these circumstances?


    breezy Reply:

    I would expect dollars a day for keeping quiet.


    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    It’s a good question Lauren…the way I wish to work here…I won’t review it or I”ll point out positive qualities and say that the flavour wasn’t for me. I’ve gone through the pain of having to sell my soul during my years at Cosmo and it’s not for me anymore. I’ve spent a long time building up a following here of people who trust my honesty.


  • oh……………..i was hoping this wouldnt happen here


    Jem Reply:

    Irene, would you suggest then that Sarah minimise the amount of time she spends on this blog and find paid work instead? I don’t see why earning money from sponsorship is an issue. And as Sarah said above, the products she sponsors fit in with the theme of this blog, so perhaps we all benefit.

    We all enjoy reading this blog for free. Sarah has to earn a living somehow.


    irene@nourishedlife.com Reply:

    what’s wrong with just charging $$$ for med-recs down the side?


  • Mia

    In a perfect world artists would be well paid for their contribution to society without expecting anything in return but their art. This is not, unfortunately, a perfect world.

    And, you review products anyway – those that you think may be of use to people who read your blog. Might as well get paid for it. I agree with Jem – unless we want to pay to read blogs, this kind of thing isnt a big deal. I especially like that you are upfront and transparent about it, that’s nice work.


  • Ross

    Actually it is not unlike being a book reviewer. I do not get paid for reviewing books sent to me, but I do get lots of kewl books sent to me – for free!

    I have written some reviews of things I really hated, but have gotten to the point that if I don’t like it, then I have to really hate it before posting. If it is someone that I know in person, I now refuse to review it. If I write a positive review, it looks like I am looking after a mate. If I write a negative review, I may well not have a friend any longer or at least a darn uncomfortable feeling between us. So I take the easy way out and just refuse to review it.

    Where sponsored posts really get to me is those people who try to play innocent about it. “What? Someone paying me to say nice things? Nooooooo”


  • Ross

    Oh – and I forgot to also mention that I for one am very glad that you do blog like this and that I discovered it. Thank you.


  • Klaus

    Nice article, thanks a lot Sarah.

    A sponsored review is something quite usual I guess. I think the author has to be honest and also needs to talk about the things he didn´t like about the product. If he would not, it would not be a review but public relation …

    There are also other possibilities for bloggers to earn money by writing sponsored reviews and offering them at link marketplaces, like at teliad.com – so called blogpost.
    It´s pretty interesting because you can decide about the topics or things you want to post about and simply set a link from one of the keywords within the post to the page of your sponsor…


  • I have no problem with sponsored posts as long as the blogger is up front about it to their readers. You are and that is great. It’s all about editorial integrity at the end of the day. It appears that some US based bloggers have sponsored posts without letting their readers know this. That’s a pretty shitty way to treat your readership.


  • Stephanie

    This is very interesting. I wouldn’t judge you – you seem like an honest and fair person. In fact, just the other day I was wondering about how you find the time to put solid content up almost every day. Not to critique the Happ. Project per se, but I stopped reading because I found it to be repetitive. Your blog is not. It is a challenging task to write well about new content so often, so my hat is off to you. I think that Leo at zenhabits has resisted advertising, but he follows a generally different busineess model (less frequent posts, guest posts, sale of e-books). Certanly your readership will buy your book when it comes out, but you need to eat before then! Good luck!


  • Anika

    Sarah I think this is a great idea. It’s a win win for everyone. You get paid, we get enlightened about products and services we may never have heard of; and brands get a chance to gain exposure.


  • sarah

    i have been informed and validated many-a-time by your great combo of integrity and insight for FREE! About time you saw some $ for it!! By being transparent, it is totally win win and still a complete bargain for me!


  • Lisa

    i think it’s totally cool the way you have approached this – i’m all for you earning some $ out of this…i think your blog kinda provides a service and there certainly aren’t any free services in life. i like your blog that much that if you had to start charging for me to read it i’d be cool with that to. keep up the great blog, i love it and tell all my friends about it.