Recently, Singapore's favourite blogging personality Xiaxue moved with her husband to a new apartment and had it renovated. Even though every description of her contains some combination of the words "unashamed" and "sponsoring", I was still taken aback when she detailed in a blog post which items she still needed to be sponsored for (among them: air conditioning, temporary housing while renovating went on and movers). Later blog posts show that she managed to find sponsors for most of those (but not for the aircon, I believe).
Then I noticed that she's hardly the only blogger to take advantage of the advertising clout a big audience brings with it.
Another petite female powerblogger, Thy Dowager, has kindly agreed to be the spokesperson and Singaporean guinea pig for a Korean plastic surgery company (you can follow her journey on her blog and her facebook, and, of course, Instagram - @thydowager).
Satirical blogger Mr Brown, known for his anti-establishment jokes and critical outlook, had his living room transformed by sponsored LED lighting (it is not quite clear if this was a freebie or not - which in itself is cause for concern).
Cheekiemonkies, my go-to resource for all things child-related in Singapore, surprised me hugely the other day with pictures of cows and windmills. The family had been invited to the Netherlands for a week by a global, but Dutchland based dairy brand.
Marketing man Alvin goes into the specifics of his audience in quite some detail on his site Alvinology. Since I started reading his blog some months ago, I noticed that every single one of his posts is in some ways sponsored - either by inviting Alvin to special presentations, or giving out plane tickets, or some other form of freebie.
I myself, with my meager readership and tendency to post stuff in Dutch when the mood strikes, have received An Offer of sponsorship. (Thank you delivery service foodpanda!*) And of course I took advantage of the bloggers' presentation of the new Coca Cola Olympic themed glasses (a new one with your McDonald's meal every week, so go out and collect!) to meet my first Famous Singaporean. And I took home a full set of aforementioned glasses, so now we can invite twelve people to our house at any one time and offer them drinks in proper grown-up glass glasses, which is a 100% improvement compared to before.
Of course, not all bloggers are created equal. Dentist-cum-blogger Yours Toothfully took issue with Thy Dowager's sponsorship by a "high profile hair care institution" and asked: What is your reputation worth?
"Aren’t they afraid their reputation may be tarnished? Hell, no. They’re more afraid that another hair care institution named after a southern province in China might poach their customers and kill them off. So what if they have eminent TCM practitioners onboard? They still need Peggy Heng [Thy Dowager, K.] to bring in the customers."
Many well-read US blogs publish their views or even policies on advertising on their blogs. Usually, a blogger either refuses all sponsorship so as not to compromise their integrity, or they will only review products they enjoy using and would have, in all probability, bought or purchased anyway.
I have not found such a policy or view on any of the Singaporean blogs I read (although Xiaxue at one point exasperatedly pointed out that since she buys so many of her clothes from one particular brand, she does not understand why they don't simply sponsor her). Even marketing man Alvin restricts himself to "shamelessly plug[ging] myself a bit here". But he only plugs himself to advertisers, not to his readers.
Another thing I have not found yet on Singaporean blogs: a negative review of a sponsored item or product.
As a journalist, I would not have accepted the Coca Cola glasses. Or, if I had, I would have left them for general use at the office. I once won an iPod Shuffle during an assignment. I gave it back.
I have however, as a journalist, been to countless conferences and dinners and press presentations without having had to hand over any money. The understanding is that a journalist will write about these events or products. The understanding also is that however much the journalist is pampered, he or she will still write an honest opinion, praising and criticizing where necessary (which is not always in equal parts!).
Before my One Big Junket, a first class return flight to New York, including a stay in a designer hotel, the chief editor grilled me on my knowledge of the industry and prepped me with critical questions, so I wouldn't be overawed and taken in and ending up writing a praise piece out of thankfulness. That is not what readers expect of a journalist.
Or of a blogger, if you ask me.
But maybe that attitude is exactly why we have no such blog sponsorships in the Netherlands. Bloggers in the Netherlands write and publish to build their brands and market themselves. They make money by assignments outside of the blog-o-sphere. In Singapore, the blog-o-sphere itself can be a money-spinning machine.
And I got some really nice glasses, a lovely evening and the chance to satisfy my craving for chicken nuggets. (Thank you pregnancy gods! That was a timely intervention.)
So, if any liquorice company would like to sponsor me (I'm looking at you here Panda and Autodrop), feel free to contact me. I have a lot to say about the mint-filled Panda log liquorice, which, incidentally, is not yet available in Singapore. Speaking of mint - Lipton, I could do you a rave review of Minty Morocco tea for a year's worth of bags. It's a steal, really.
*This shout out is for free, simply because I was so tickled to be asked.