20.2.17

Where Did All The Opinions Go?

Back in 2010 when I started documenting my love of makeup online, bloggers were all about the opinions. We reveled in being able to share our loves and loathes, provide honest feedback on our purchases and discuss issues that were important to us; opinions were at the heart of the bloggersphere and absolutely what made it stand out amongst the run-of-the-mill and diluted glossiness of magazines. Collectively we had turned against mainstream media as we couldn't necessarily trust the opinions and edits presented to us, especially when big brands and mega budgets were having an increasingly negative impact on the information between the covers. Bloggers were honest, transparent and not afraid to share exactly what they thought; a week didn't go by without one of us getting a 'cease and desist' letter from a brand that didn't like what we had to say, and were using their legal teams to scare us into censoring opinions. It was brilliant. It was wonderful. It was a turning point in time. Not everyone loved the same things or had the same opinions on a new launch, but that was ok - because that was a reflection of what was happening in the real world.


I like to refer to this as the 'golden age' of blogging: before it became as glossy, edited and mainstream as the media we were rebelling against. Over the last decade the bloggersphere has evolved (both positively and negatively) to the point that it's almost unrecogniseable from where we started; the editorial style of writing, fashion magazine standard photography and beautifully curated social media feeds that make every 20-something look like their living the life of Gigi Hadid are just the tip of the iceberg. The big issue? As a veteran of the blogging world I'm increasingly aware and concerned about the lack of real opinion - it's like the industry has become too scared to provide insight that's not 100% positive, or to share thoughts that aren't always 'on brand'. You can find literally thousands of cookie cutter blogs out there, but very few of them offer insight or comment beyond 'I love it!/It's so pretty!/This is a must-have!'

With the growth of the blogging community I understand that we're all in constant competition for the latest product sample, press trip or sponsored campaign (and that often playing it safe provides higher return in the short term.) I understand that brands want you to say nice things about their products, because their end objective is to make as many sales as possible. However, what I don't understand is why so many within the bloggersphere are happy to ride the safe train at the expense of their reader. In the words of Caroline Hirons during a recent post: "God forbid you say you didn’t get on with something. God forbid you use your platform to give your readers genuine feedback on an experience, even when it’s done so constructively and without resorting to blanket negativity. Having an opinion does not make you a bitch, and it certainly should not make you ashamed." Amen Hirons, amen.

The digital space has successfully evolved into something aspirational, motivational and incredibly curated, but in my opinion this has been at the expense of raw and unedited opinion - which is why we all started in the first place. We're on very dangerous ground right now as blogs become increasingly fluffy and bland. I find myself continually fighting to be recognised as an intelligent woman with a well-rounded background and informed opinion, but when there are so many others out there focusing on the prettiness of their online space rather than what impact their words have, it becomes somewhat of a losing battle. Super styled beauty images, professionally shot outfits and hired locations that wouldn't look out of place on the pages of Vogue are great, but it's also important for us to use the power of the written (or spoken) word to make positive change or share valuable opinion.

As an example, recently a new beauty concept launched into the UK under the name of 'Beauty Pie'; this subscription platform seemed great on the surface, but when you started to scratch away and look deeper there were a number of issues and problematic areas that needed addressing as part of a comprehensive review. (You can read my full feature here.) What concerned me was the number of features that praised the service as something revolutionary and overwhelmingly positive, without letting readers know about the potential pitfalls (of which there were many.) I've literally read hundreds of articles on the concept, but could probably count on my hands the number of sites that dared to say anything negative (or worse, even bothered to do their own research rather than just repeating what was on the press release.) Everyone is free to give their opinion and share their own thoughts (positive, negative or neutral) because that's the whole point of the bloggersphere, but when there's no opinion at all? That's when it becomes worrying.

I feel incredibly uneasy about the future of blogging right now, because I think we're in serious danger of becoming as edited and vacuous as the magazines that we're supposed to be replacing. Too many are focused on whether everything is 'on brand' for them, rather than using their voice and influence to impart knowledge or advice; too many are worried about losing out on that next press trip or bundle of free lipsticks, rather than focusing on creating a strong persona that their readers can relate to. Too many of us are being shot down for having an opinion or told that we should just get back to talking about lipsticks, while the blogging elite are focused on their next big pay rather than whether they would genuinely recommend a product without it. I've always made it a priority to share my true thoughts and bring you an honest account of my experiences; a great brand will understand that not everyone will adore every product, and a reader won't expect you to. Opinions are vital to the bloggersphere and how it operates, but they seem to now be as rare as a limited edition Mariah Carey lipstick. I think it's about time we brought them back...
But you know, that's just my opinion.

What do you think about the scarcity of opinions within the bloggersphere right now? Does it concern or worry you? Have you noticed a change over the last few years, or do the sites you follow continue to tell it how it is - no holds barred?

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47 comments

  1. I have definately seen a shift of many of my favourite bloggers turning into a high end editors. No longer they say anything that is worth mentioning about an aspect of a product that does not work. The whole "I only talk about things I like" also annoys me because I want to hear about things that are not so great and why. I want to be able to compare with my experience and understand the other persons thinking.

    I have found myself more and more passing by blogs and youtube channels that have moved on to good money and glossy pictures. I want the truth and I want to be able to relate to the person writing the blog. It's really sad that it has shifted to something that no longer talks to me.

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    1. I understand the 'only talking about things I like' as it's hard to edit products down to only a few worth writing about, but equally if something doesn't live up to hype or is just blooming awful it's important to say. It's an important balance.

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  2. You are the only beauty blogger I follow, all the other blogs are lifestyle or food. I can't say I noticed anything, but, as I said, I don't follow beauty bloggers. When it comes to lifestyle, I prefer blogs that are similar to mine, focused on the positive. I would never write a bad review on my blog because it's my happy place. I can write negative reviews on trip advisor (like I did last week), but not on my blog.
    In a niche though, I think it should be a balance between good reviews and bad reviews.

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  3. Really enjoyed this post, I completely agree that blogging has changed, it's all a bit too flawless these days and life is never flawless so it can be really hard to relate to some bloggers. I also just wanted to say I love your blog, there is absolutely zero fluff on here haha, just opinions and thought provoking topics that I love reading about, you make me question things and I think that's how bloggers should be! x
    www.sophieblxck.com

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  4. I can see exactly what you're saying - I feel like it's difficult to know which products genuinely are fantastic because it's hard to tell what's genuine and what isn't. For me, blogging should be all about real opinions and honesty and being yourself x

    LuxeStyle

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  5. Hi Hayley,
    I couldn't have said it better! I totally agree with you, although I only have a small blog and it's fairly young. I have noticed the same thing: blogs have become online magazines, showing products that have been gifted and pretty much only saying positive things (the abused words: "love", "amaaazing"). Just as you said, bloggers are probably afraid of saying something negative because they'll miss the chance to work with that brand in the future, or they just don't want to have "enemies". I could say many more things but English is not my first language and I think you've already said everything I thought on the topic. Well done.

    Silvia
    www.theskincabinet.com

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Silvia. I just want the real opinion to come back really!

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  6. Anonymous20.2.17

    Amen! Good point. What I find interesting are youtuber/boggers raving about a or more product/s but you never see said products (which was interestingly a sponsored post) never again in another blogpost. Because of that observation (which happended a long time ago) I'm more and more untrusting when reading blogs in general.
    It's simply put a case of a snake eating its own tail.
    A bloggers biggest asset is her/his voice/opinion/review and uniqueness and authenticity.
    It can't come down to just pretty pictures - if only that matters it just ain't blogging anymore.

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    Replies
    1. You're very right - a lot of sponsored products are never seen again. I have to say you see a lot of them on my site time and time again, because I only work with brands I really like and trust. And often a spon post introduces me into a new fave too!

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  7. Yours was the only fair and balanced article on Beauty Pie, all the other ones I read were singing its praises. I'm so glad you write about the good, the bad and the ugly. I try to do that as well and if I really can't get on with a PR sample, I just don't write about it on the blog. I recently got sent a sample that I didn't get on with, and rather than writing about it on the blog, I mentioned it on my Instagram and explained why I didn't write about it.

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    1. It really frustrated me to see so many posts that said the same thing - when I KNEW there were issues that you'd see if you only spent five minutes doing some research. We're all busy, I get it, but that's surely not too much to ask?!

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  8. Halle-bloody-lujah, somebody talking honestly about the blogging world today!! I've switched off from so many blogs now as it's the same old stuff being recycled from the same bloggers, it's like they've cut and pasted a press release and think that's a suitable review.

    Don't tell me you've tested an eye cream for a day and just LOVE it.....properly test and review it for six weeks and THEN give your honest opinion.

    Thanks for this post!!

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    Replies
    1. YES SARAH! People that try skincare for a day and sing its praises are my bug bear. You can try a lipstick once and love it, but a face cream? Nah.

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  9. Great post and I totally agree. I'm only interested in nail polish, no other make up/beauty products as a general rule and luckily in the nail polish world it seems most people are still quite happy to say something chips too fast or doesn't apply well but even there you will find some that think everything is perfect and amazing and it's quite obvious that a lot of them are saying it because they want to make money from their blog and seem to feel the way to do this is to suck up to the big companies and get free samples for reviewing.

    I however am like you and want that genuine opinion. I don't want to know what someone has effectively paid you to say. I've even done it myself; I sell A England nail polish and whilst I love all the polishes I went so far to do a review of a few different top coats and stated that whilst the A England one is good and everyone should go buy it from my shop, that actually I thought a completely different one was better and that's what I use myself.

    I think it's a problem faced by every possible career; as soon as it becomes a viable career/money making opportunity it's too tempting to let honesty go out the window and just say what will bring the cash in.

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    Replies
    1. It's difficult juggling, believe me as someone who's always having to question/argue/turn things down, but it's so important if you're in it for the long haul.

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  10. This is my 6th year of blogging and I honestly think a lot of people bland themselves down as they see it as the fast route to money. They see the most successful bloggers doing it and think that's the way to go, and many of them are right. I fell into wanting to be the brand darling a year or two ago (which took me by surprise as I'm been a black sheep since birth) and it made me MISERABLE. I nearly quit blogging. I'll never win an award within my genre (plus size fashion) because I've pissed off just about all my peers with my big gob at one point or another (which is why being a finalist of the Thirty Plus Blog Awards was extra golden) but I can look in the mirror and know my blog is 100% a reflection of me, not what I think brands want me to be. Outspoken women are never a bad thing, so thanks for being someone to look up to among an industry sometimes full of clones. xx

    x LoveLeah x

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Leah - that means a lot. And just keep doing what you're doing too, because you're awesome!

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  11. I gave up reading glossy magazines because they were all too similar in their views. When bloggibg was new I was excited because at last I could get an honest opinion. I have unfollowed a lot of beauty blogs in the past year because they stopped giving me the honest opinion I prefer. If I am going to spend money on beauty products I prefer to research first.

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  12. You've completely hit the nail on the head Hayley. And I wrote about Beauty Pie too, which on the face of it seemed pretty great, but actually wasn't all that when you did the maths. I must admit that I haven't read any other reviews, but it's such a shame that other bloggers aren't telling the full story to their readers.

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  13. Anonymous21.2.17

    Hi Hayley,

    This was a really interesting and honest read and as an avid reader of beauty blogs I found it really refreshing to hear some critical opinion for once! You are right that this is what blogging should be about.

    Over the last year or so I have become disillusioned with my once favourite beauty bloggers as they rebrand themselves to have a more high end, magazine style aesthetic. Instead of drug store favourites or honest reviews, such bloggers seem to be focused on high end products which are well out of most people's reach. Their blog content read like ads, so carefully worded to be on brand. Also there's less and less focus on writing and more about images and making sure their backdrop makes their home look like it's straight out of a anthropologie ad.

    I'm really glad that some bloggers like you are still willing to give your opinion. Beauty pie is a great example, I saw all the insta photos and got sucked in by it, but after reading your article I think I'll hang on to my money!

    Great post, keep your honest opinions coming!

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    1. Thank you! I love a pretty picture, but I also know it's about more than that - for me and my readers. And do hold on to your money too..!

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  14. YESYESYESYESYESYES! I couldn't agree with you more if my life depended on it!
    I ensure that I keep my integrity as a blogger by posting my true and honest feelings about everything, positive or otherwise, but these days, I feel as though many brands solely reach out to work with blogs who post "fluff" reviews rather than those of us with one or two negative opinions scattered amongst our posts. It's sad. I used to trust a bloggers recommendation fully back in the day.. now, I'm more than hesitant to believe a glowing product review unless it's coming from one of the very few bloggers that I know are still keepin' it real.

    Christie's Take on Life. xx

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  15. I completely agree. I'm so sick of reading the same "oh my god, it's so beautiful, I'm obsessed!" eleventy hundred times every time a new lipstick is released (and I love lipstick). Beauty Pie is a good example, as us Sunday Riley Luna - barely anyone mentioned the blue dye, alone seemed to know what Retinol was actually for.

    Sometimes I uncharitably put it down to how young most bloggers seem to be now, but that's only part of the reason, obviously. One of the biggest offenders, imo, is a huge name who's been blogging for years and who seems incapable of ever being less than thrilled with anything. It's exhausting.

    I think that everything is so political now that it does feel as if having an less than positive opinion about a brand/product/trend will get you vilified on Twitter etc, which is scary. I'd love there to be fewer sheep and more sheep-pigs though, who aren't afraid to be different.

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    1. Me too. I get vilified a lot for having an opinion or calling something out - but many others don't have the confidence to do it. It's unfair. And don't even get me started on Sunday Riley praise from 23 yr olds who don't even have a fine line to test it on.

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  16. Yes! Well done 👍 what an awesome piece. I have unfollowed so many bloggers and you tubers aka influenencers in the last 6 months cause that's all they are, brand reps. If they don't do negative reviews or don't show me a receipt every so often then they are gone. My favourite words to hear /see from a blogger are "I'll probably never get PR from this company again but heh" that's the way it should be. Of course it's exciting to get these products but you're followers are there for your honest opinion not to see an ad! Oh man I could go on for days!

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  17. It is enlightening to hear that in a democracy, the minute you say something that is an honest opinion you are threatened with lawyers. I have to say that in my experience, it is not just bloggers who are bland in voicing their opinion, but in life in general, it is hard to find people who will stand up behind their opinions. I too am fed up of reading "non-reviews" and only wish there were more bloggers full stop prepared to give the real details. I used to follow a lot of sewing blogs and the same blandness infiltrated them too. e.g when a new pattern was released, there was nothing with it, it was easy to follow blah, blah, blah. This was not true by and large, but people covered it by saying perhaps I made a mistake or I used the wrong fabric etc. It's sad that people feel unable to be honest these days, especially given that we should have freedom of speech!! Keep up the good work, your blog is worth reading for me and don't descend into bland please!!

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    1. Thanks so much Mimi! In regards to the lawyers, that was 6-7years ago when they didn't really understand blogs; I haven't heard of this happening for a long time.

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  18. I couldn't agree more with the other comments, it's getting so boring now hearing about just how wonderful every product is. If I wanted to read such gushing words I would go back to reading magazines. Yours is only a few now who really give good and bad reviews on products so please don't change doing that.

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  19. What a great post. I think sometimes things change so rapidly we lose sight of what's happening, and you're so right. We definitely need people to be sharing less positive and truthful reviews!xx

    Lucy x | lucy-cole.co.uk

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  20. Great blog post. As a relatively new blogger to the game, I feel as though I can't really comment but I totally agree that it feels as though bloggers are wary of giving a bad review of something they receive. I think it's something hopefully that will change!

    www.upyourvlog.com

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  21. Yes this! I think maybe because we don't have a fear of brand reaction that it's easier - we've done it long enough to know that it's okay to let a few brands go now and then if they can't cope with some honest feedback. In all honesty, nothing much does happen these days if you don't love a product - brands can cope! Very few have the long term in mind - if you're too bland and lose readers because of it, you won't have a blog for much longer! We're just too interested in pleasing brands to care about pleasing readers.

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    1. Exactly Jane! I have enough connections with people that 'get it' to not worry if I don't love or rave about everything; I've actually been told by a PR that my feature on Beauty Pie was the reason they work with me - for honest, researched opinion.

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  22. Its clear many 'big bloggers' have gone very editorial and whilst I enjoy them in the same way I enjoy flicking through Vogue magazine I don't find them offering me anything more than something pretty to look at.

    I also find everything is becoming a little bland, the same products are being promoted at the same time and appearing on every blog in the same 'these are great must haves'. Even the trend for blogger mail has become boring as you open Insta Stories and see the same products being opened it's all just a little dull and a way for brands to get coverage without any actual 'work' or reviews taking place.

    I try and be objective with my product reviews and try to speak as a 'real person' using products in their actual scenarios rather than for the benefit of editorial and I don't understand the avoidance of 'negative' reviews. I appreciate not giving time or space to something you don't like but if you don't, why not, tell us because when you do like something we can put in our minds to work out if it is something we'd agree on and offers more value to your content. It doesn't have to be a brand bashing, I write 'products that don't work for me' posts and I'm currently decluttering my make up and going to share posts on what I'm getting rid of explaining why.

    Victoria
    FlorenceandMary.com

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  23. I have been blogging for 7 years and watched many who started after me become big and sell outs. I have stopped reading many because they all say the same thing about the products they receive.

    Me? I am still blogging and have been rejected by brands and ignored. I have to fend for myself when it comes to many of the beauty products. I have no affiliate links and have turned my beauty blog into an underground beauty blog. This means I write without the image bullshit. I don't live in a photoshopped world!

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  24. Over the last years I have carefully selected the bloggers I follow and trust (Caroline Hirons!) and educated myself in reading labels and analyzing claims. Too many blogs I read are similar to flicking through a magazine, offering ads more than opinions. If this is a development that will ruin blogs and blogging, I am not sure, but I for one am happy that I don't rely on my blog for income. I have worked with brands in the past and have already had a PR company cut me off because they did not like my reviews. Oh well, less lipsticks, but no danger for my bills. I do understand the pressure you are under if you earn your living with the blog, and I have seen a few that never seem to get enough, but there are honest bloggers with opinions out there, and as long as that is the fact I am not extremely worried.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

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  25. I have just started blogging this past month and already have found it easy to go down a different path away from what you really want to say. As a new blogger i can admit that if i put up posts about products i don't like then i am not going to get noticed and become a better blogger. However i know in myself that i need to stay true and grounded to who i am as a person. This is what i want my blog to be about. To me blogging is not about the followers or whatever, i am doing it as something to focus on apart from my depression and anxiety. This is another matter i'm starting to become annoyed about. After suffering in silence for years and becoming worse before i visited the doctor, i don't see how so many people can be so open about mental health. There are so many people with it in their bio or whatever and to me i cant help but feel some people are doing this for followers. Yes i understand its great to talk about it and thats what helps but in the same time some people over do it.
    Anyway rant over.
    Thank you for a great post, this is great to read and to keep myself right as a blogger just starting out. :)

    natalieejane.com

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  26. It's all just seems so blooming dull in some sections of the blogosphere as everything looks and sounds the same.

    I've seen a few posts like this. No one goes into blogging to work with brands or chase followers. They do it because they have something to say and want to connect with people. Quite a few people are talking about consciously stepping back so they can reconnect with what bought them into blogging in the first place.

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  27. I've been thinking this for a while now. There's a lot of 'fluff' everywhere and no real opinions. I've seen blogs full of sponsored posts and nothing else. Not there's anything wrong with earning a little cash for a job well done .... but so many blogs now lack personality because it's all scripted and 'censored'.

    Katie - www.bloomingfiction.co.uk

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  28. I've been blogging for 7.5 years now, and the blogosphere is definitely a different place now. People are so desperate to appear professional that colabs and bright white photography are all that matters, even if the content is bland and un-original. This also means that people are afraid to speak truthfully and have opinions because they are a. afraid of losing followers, and b. afraid of trolls or negative comments. It's a really mine field online these days because things are so easily taken out of context and readers are so quick to burn people. And when you get such a boost in engagement by putting out mindless posts that are just bubblegum for the brain, why try any harder? I will say, however, that even in the past week I have started to see a change in the kind of posts people are putting out. I have read some amazingly articulate, thought provoking and opinionated pieces from bloggers of all sizes (your's included) Maybe there's a change in the air? We can hope!

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  29. I have been reading blogs and for a long time and now for the past couple of years have been interested in YouTube. Now, I feel like the blogs and youtube are all the same! All homogenized! It's boring and I have started to pull back and not read or watch as much! I used to love to read magazines from cover to cover and now I also find the fashions horrible and the articles stupid, and I love fashion--with a CAPITAL F! Also, it is patently obvious when a post is sponsored. I guess the twenty somethings don't know or maybe they don't care. Just my two cents.

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  30. Yes to all of this. It was part of the reason I got into blogging etc, there was so much fakery around. Now I always give an honest review regardless and if I'm honest most PRs are entirely fine with that, so it's not cost me anything - although I have had a certain amount of hate because of it. It's all just become same same. I can understand being nervous about it, but I always let brands know what they can expect and my readers/community know that I would never lie to them. Not worth it, I'd rather have the trust.

    Honestly Aine

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  31. Great post, couldn't agree more. I personally have found (as someone who blogs) there is a huge amount of pressure on smaller bloggers to keep up with the over edited, super glossy big blogs out there. It's all become too samey and boring in all honesty. Your blog is the only one I come back to post after post as I'm guaranteed good 'old fashioned' honest and raw posts from you. Times are changing and which way it goes is anyone's guess.....

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  32. I relate to this so much. I don't want fake comments or one liners I want a conversation, I want my blog to mean something and I want to be part of a community that aren't afraid to give a proper opinion! This post is so so important to the identity of the blog world as it is tosay!!

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  33. I say: Amen HPayley! :)
    I´ve noticed the same change, and I couldn't more agree with you! A lot of beauty blogs appear void to me today...
    Thanks for this inspiring post!

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  34. This is totally true, that's why a lot of people uses "big established" bloggers just to have updates about products releases or nicely done swatches to buy online. For true opinions I go back to "small bloggers" or non bloggers at all.

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  35. Anonymous9.3.17

    I started looking at YouTube and reading blogs relatively late for reviews on make up and beauty products. I was struck by how bland a lot of the bloggers are but also very successful. I also wish a lot of them would it make it clearer when they have been sent something for free, or its an ad or sponsored post. Yes you can put it in small print somewhere but why not be upfront and just say/write it straight away. I've also noticed on a lot of favourite videos various bloggers will all love the same product. I'm assuming it was given to them at around the same time but then you may never hear them mention it again. I don't really trust a lot of their opinions but I just check the videos for the latest products. I have a 9 year old daughter who is very trusting and whilst she is more interested in watching people play Minecraft then apply makeup, I've already had to talk to her about why we should think about the reasons why some bloggers/vloggers says and do the things they do.

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