Blogging for toilet paper

When I started this blog a year ago, I did so without the intention of commercialization. I was just a girl who had a few things to say about poop and hangovers.

But after a few weeks I noticed that many other bloggers had installed Google ads on their sidebars, and even though it made my blog look like a big hot mess I thought "Extra money for pancakes? Don't mind if I do!". But after two months of waiting anxiously every day for the mail man to deliver my big payout, nothing came. Then I read the fine print and realized I get like a nickel for every 10,000 clicks.

So I quickly removed them.

Then my blog started to gain momentum and I got my first pitch from a local PR company. I accepted because:

1. They adequately compensated me for my time
2. It was for a company who I truly admire (they do a ton for the community)
3. I had worked with the PR company a few times when I was working at the ad agency and I have a lot of respect for them
4. I was overwhelmed that someone actually read my blog and liked it well enough to invite me to write a review

Little did I know at the time, but this is not the norm. Immediately following this review I started to have email exchanges like this:

from: XX On Behalf Of CSNPromoTeam
to: ""
date: Fri, Jan 7, 2011 at 3:12 PM
subject: Giveaway Opportunity with CSN Stores

Good Afternoon
My name is XX and I’m part of the Promotions Team here at , a Boston based company. We have been seeking out high quality websites and blogs, gauging interest in doing a giveaway with one of our sites.

We love the look and feel of your blog and think that your US and Canadian readers might be interested in a giveaway of a gift certificate valid on any of our 200+ sites!

Have a look at a couple of our sites; , , , , , , or and let me know if you think that this might be something you’d be interested in. I’d be happy to brainstorm some other ideas with you if you’re interested. Alternatively you could do a review of something from our site.
Please let me know if you have any questions for me. I hope to hear from you to further discuss the details of the giveaway or review.

Kind Regards,

from: Hannah Mayer
to: XX On Behalf Of CSNPromoTeam
date: Sun, Jan 9, 2011 at 1:48 PM
subject: Re: Giveaway Opportunity with CSN Stores

Hi Jamie,

Actually, your timing is perfect!

In the coming weeks I'm going to begin training for a marathon and I've been shopping for a BOB double jogging stroller. I am going to chronicle my training with periodic video and text posts on my blog throughout the next 10 months.

If you would be willing to send a double stroller I would not only be happy to do a product review but I would also include you in video and text posts as well as my regular Facebook status updates about my training until my completion of the marathon (if I don't die trying to run it, which is a possibility) in October.

Let me know your thoughts, or if there is any additional information I can provide.


Hannah Mayer

from: CSNPromoTeam
to: Hannah Mayer
date: Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 3:01 PM
subject: RE: Giveaway Opportunity with CSN Stores

Hi Hannah, Thanks for getting in touch with me! I’d love to run either a review or a giveaway on your blog This time around I’ll be providing you with a $20.00 promotional code to use on any of our websites. It’s worth noting that not all items ship for free so please take shipping costs into consideration when selecting your review item.

All I need from you is a post prior to your review OR a post announcing the giveaway (we ask that you choose one or the other), depending on which you would prefer to do first. When you are ready to do the initial post, please link the term “tv stands” to as the FIRST link in your post. I would just ask that you have it flow as naturally as possible within the context of the post. I am currently responsible for improving traffic to that site, so it would be greatly appreciated if you could do that. Below is a similar example of a giveaway and a post prior to a review I recently helped set up that you can use as a point of reference.

· Review Teaser:
· Giveaway Post: We do have some general terms and conditions for the post:

1) The post should not be noindexed or nofollowed (if you have no idea what I’m talking about don’t worry about it!)
2) The blog post should be posted on the blog we agreed upon
3) The post should remain on the site for at least a year (can be archived)

If you choose to do a review then after you have received the item, you will then get an email from us asking to review the item on our site, please fill this out as soon as possible and we will be good to go! The review on our site will take anywhere from 4-7 days to appear, so please don’t worry if it doesn’t show up right away!

Please let me know if you’re interested in this opportunity and definitely let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy to help. Have a great day and I look forward to continuing our conversation!


from: Hannah Mayer
to: CSNPromoTeam
date: Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 5:28 PM
subject: Re: Giveaway Opportunity with CSN Stores


WOW! A whole twenty dollars for hours of my time and months of hard work and dedication in generating thousands of blog followers that you can use to your advantage? Sign me up!


And, as part of the ethical bloggers code, I am informing you that I will be doing a negative review of your company on my blog.

And tweeting about it.

And sending it to my hundreds of business page fans as well as personal Facebook friends.

And offering negative commentary about your company on every site where I see you have placed a banner ad.

And writing negative Google reviews.

You shouldn't worry, though - it's only $20 worth of negative publicity.


Hannah Mayer

That last one was after my daily glasses of wine but I would have written it anyway.

And then... THEN... this happened.

I got a pitch from a PR company to sit in on a conference call with a D-list celebrity who is promoting her new DVD with the promise of a Q and A. So I asked my Facebook followers if they had any questions they'd like to ask, and several did.

So there I am, on the "call" (which was actually a Web-X - you don't get to talk) and every question I had was ignored. It went something like this:

Moderator: So, does anyone have any questions?
Me: I'm interested in how XX got her own show on Bravo.
Moderator: Any more questions, anyone?
Me: Yes, how did XX get her own show?
Moderator: Well, if there's no more questions I guess that's it!

I later Tweeted about what bullshit that was and the moderator told me that questions about the show were off-limits. WTF? That's the only interesting thing about this woman.

So anyhoo, as an incentive for sitting in on a 45-minute Web-X where my questions were ignored and writing a post on her new DVD bloggers were promised a gift basket.

This is what came in the mail yesterday:


Seriously... what.

They sent me toilet paper. TOILET PAPER!

Each blog post takes me between 1-3 hours to write. You know why? Because your time is valuable and I feel like I owe it to you not to just shit something out because you choose me over the other 500 million blogs out there.

Whether I have 1 or 10,000 readers I would do the same.

And I get toilet paper.

I write all of this publicly with the full knowledge that I'll probably never be contacted by another PR company to do a product review.

But you know what? I could give a shit. You all don't want to hear about that crap and I don't want to write about it.

All I can hope is that other bloggers will express similar frustration with working their asses off for nothing and companies will start compensating them for what they're worth.


Jane @ The Borrowed Abode said...

Oh my gosh.
I am wordless, in regards to the TP.

In regards to CSN giveaways:
1)I wondered how they worked. So many bloggers (small and large) that I follow have done these giveaways, and I was curious what the "rules" were, per se.

2)For the record, I can't stand CSN giveaways now. Clearly they are just doing this to build their pageranks / backlinks for each of their sites.
Not to mention that they're such an impersonal company.

3) 20 dollars for your review? You gotta be kidding me.

Thank you - THANK YOU - for sharing this bs.

-Jane @ The Borrowed Abode

Jeannine | The Small and Chic Home said...

I have to admit that I milk CSN every time they email me. They have never asked for my links to remain active, so perhaps they've given up on that.

I've never spent any money on an item from them, but I have stacked a few codes that I've won in order to buy a Le Creuset grilling pan. :)

I ignore most of the PR emails I get and I resist the urges to monetize my blog (some of my blog friends tell me I'm crazy for not having ads). Blogging is a hobby for me. The second I start making money from the blog, I think it'll be come a job. If I was a stay at home mom, I might have a different perspective.

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Thank you for the heads up on CSN! I got an email from them yesterday and wrote back that I'd be interested in doing a review. Guess I know what to say if they email me back. :s

Hannah said...

Yeah, seriously. Did you SEE all that crap they make you do for a measely $20? And then they make sure to tell you that shipping is extra so keep that in mind as you're choosing how to spend your $20. Thanks for the heads up, jerk off.

Lisa said...

YOu know what? I've gotten that one too, come to think of it. I get tons of pitches each day. But they're all pretty much alike. They all want to "offer an amazing opportunity" like free tickets to a show but you must write three blog posts before and one after. Oh yeah and Tweet it out and FB your people. NO THANK YOU!

Years ago I reviewed Del Monte fruit cups. PR company gave me ONE fruit cup. Opened the box and it had leaked. What a mess. I disclosed on the site at the time that I rat out people who are stingy with samples. So my review consisted of, "I don't know if this product is any good. My son got a hold of the ONE fruit cup I received before I could try. Apparently they are quite good but I think Del Monte should fire their PR firm because the brand comes off looking stingy when we're only sent one fruit cup yet we're expected to take an hour of our time to write a review."

That PR firm took me off of their list. And that's ok. :-)

I know PR firms have budgets and at times are expected the buy the clients' product. But there's got to be a "happy medium" somewhere where every one is treated fairly and in a respectful manner.

Rita Templeton said...

I'm pretty frustrated with companies wanting to do giveaways, myself. Case in point: my latest giveaway from EdenFantasys. (Keep in mind, this was my second giveaway from them.) They wanted me to give away a $50 gift code, and in return, promised that I too would get a $50 code (plus an extra $5 if I included one of their banners, which I did). So after I posted the giveaway under my site's "Giveaways and Reviews" tab - JUST LIKE I DID FOR THE FIRST EDENFANTASYS GIVEAWAY - I got an email from them asking me to put the contest on my main page. I told them sorry, no can do: that's why I have a SEPARATE PAGE for my giveaways, and it's not like they didn't know that when they contacted me. So then I get a pretty snippy email back from them, saying they'd honor the giveaway *this time* but any in the future would have to be on my main page.

And then they didn't give me *MY* gift code. WTF??


Anyway, that is some sweet TP. Doesn't it just make blogging worthwhile when you can do it for such a fabulous payoff? *snort*

Unknown said...

I feel like the amount of time you wrote this post complaining about CSN Stores required more time than the free $20 item teaser and review would have required.

Why they offered you only $20, I havent the foggiest. Most times I get offered $35-$50+ and get some damn good items that I will personally use for just paying $5 shipping.

I feel that now anyone who reads this will think poorly of people who accept reviews from CSNStores in the future or posts giveaways on their sites sponsored by the company. Most sites operate with clauses of free gear = free review. Couldn't you just have said no?

Hannah said...

Son... there are like, a gillion blogs out there and you are going to waste some serious brain power worrying about how what's written in each one makes you look.

I guarantee your followers don't give a hoot what I say about CSN stores.

Blog on, brother.