Fashion Blogging

Style Bloggers To See Fewer “Courtesy Of” Items?

In the wake of Jessica Quirk’s announcement that she will no longer be accepting “c/o” items, GOMI has received tips that more bloggers may be forced to join in the “NO C/O” movement. Jen Loves Kev had already decided to no longer accept sidebar ads, and now the blog What Would A Nerd Wear has announced she too will be turning down freebies from companies.

Well supposedly we can look forward to similar announcements from more bloggers in the near future. The tipster claims this will be more of a face-saving act on the part of bloggers as companies have decided to not send out as many courtesy items to bloggers in 2012:

A few companies we work with…have informed us that sending items in exchange for a blog mention will not be part of their campaign strategies this year…they are not seeing increased sales compared to the amount of swag they have sent out…

In a nutshell, companies are finally seeing that style blogs don’t have nearly the influence on the buying habits of their readers as they have previously made it sound. This was an inevitable conclusion; no matter how much a reader loves a blogger or the item she’s wearing, if they don’t have the money, they won’t buy anything.

The tipster went on to say that bigger bloggers will “most likely still receive some courtesy items” but the days of “anyone with a style blog” being able to wrangle free goods is over. This could change the whole face of style blogging, making it even more competitive as bloggers try to reach the level necessary to appeal to companies still offering swag.

While some worry it may narrow the playing field to only those with money to drop on clothes on a regular basis, many hope it will force style bloggers to return to a more organic state – real people wearing the real clothes they bought with their own real money. Without a constant stream of free clothes making it easy for anyone and everyone to have a modicum of taste, those with real personal style may emerge victorious in the new blogging landscape.




  1. I'm totally no surprised that companies aren't sending out as much free stuff. Honestly, I've never seen any outfit on a style blog that was c/o and ended up buying something from that company. Seeing anything c/o automatically turns me off.

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  2. avatar psych

    I agree with missminty!! C/o items as seen on a blogger turns me off on the item and the company it came from. For example, Rebecca Minkoff has saturiated the fashion blogger market with her bags. Every one of those bitches has one now. Annoying! I used to love RM but after seeing them on the arms of bloggers' whose style I can't relate to, it makes me reconsider whether I want to buy another one. So lame that these bitches are NOW saying they will no longer be accepting freebies. Good timing now that the well is dry!!

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  3. avatar Delightfully Tactless

    This can only be a good thing. So many bloggers have started to look like clones of eachother that it has become offputting to read many blogs that I used to love.

    A key way of avoiding that has been to find more local blogs (I'm in New Zealand) because the likes of ModCloth would never bother to send swag to anyone so far away unless they had an absolutely epic following.

    This is also why I have a preference for blogs with a vintage bent - the women who buy from vintage or op shops (NZ language translation: thrift stores) tend to have more unique looks that can actually inspire, instead of just adding more things to your internet shopping wishlist.

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    • Yes. The same companies sending out all the same c/o stuff resulted in everyone looking the same.

      I did buy a pair of Blowfish platforms after seeing them on a lot of bloggers this summer, but I had already had a good experience with the quality and comfort of the brand, and took advantage of a 15% off code a blogger was offering. Other than that, I haven't bought anything I've seen on a fashion blog, and those shoes got a lot of wear this summer.

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      • avatar carriout

        I am all about a discount and their shoes are some of the comfiest heels I've ever worn.

        Seeing as how I can't afford EXPENSIVE DESIGNER SHIT.

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    • avatar meowmeow

      I love finding fellow Kiwi Catladies on here :D

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      • avatar Delightfully Tactless

        Oh sorry! Have been moving house! Am now curled up with my kiwi cat at the new place. Hello fellow NZer!

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  4. avatar dogsandmovies

    I have a feeling companies are realizing they aren't seeing any profits from giving bloggers free crap. It's not worth the companies' time or effort anymore.

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  5. avatar melondrama doesn't even have a blog

    It's not just fashion and style blogs.

    I work in online marketing and my clients are finally starting to realize that "blogger outreach" is not a panacea. The ROI just isn't there. Too often, bloggers just take stuff and run, and the relationship generates minimal to no sales. Brands have seen their marketing budgets stay flat or diminish in the past 3-4 years, so there isn't a ton of cash or merchandise lying around to throw at every semi-relevant blogger with 100+ followers.

    Sorry, bloggers. The bubble is bursting.

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    • avatar WashingMachineHugger

      This. All of the free stuff tossed at every sort-of-kind-of-maybe-on-another-planet-not-really relevant bloggers turned into the equivalent of e-mail spam. No one likes it and it's a turnoff.

      That said, I do think carefully planned, highly targeted strategic partnerships can work. But not sending free stuff- more along the lines of design collaborations and curated collections. And oh, like someone else said - don't let the marketing interns make these kinds of decisions.

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  6. avatar franzia.bot

    Maybe they are just cutting loose those bloggers who aren't returning the investment. It will be interesting to see who will still be listing "c/o" clothes, shoes, etc. as time goes on.

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    • avatar Athena

      I think that's more accurate because I've seen a lot of less popular bloggers getting c/o and sponsors lately and at first it seemed weird, but now it's starting to make sense.

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      • avatar melondrama doesn't even have a blog

        It's possible that big bloggers were:
        - not delivering sales/ROI
        - demanding large amounts of merch and/or fees
        - being pain-in-the-ass divas

        So brands began looking toward smaller blogs that may have more passionate niche followings and can be bought more easily.

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    • avatar Shrug Bitch

      True - Messica and Jen might not be getting c/os anymore, but Glamourai/Man Repeller/Fashion Toast/etc. will always get some.

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      • avatar Kitty LaRue

        Speaking of the Glamourai, her blog is totally ad/sponsor free as well. Although she's definitely on a different playing field than Messica/JLK as she actually WORKS in NYC fashion & is constantly collaborating, styling, etc, so to me, all her c/o stuff was legit & part of her real job.

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        • avatar welcomeback

          And, as someone noted in the forums, her blog is more like a magazine spread than on online style diary, so seeing c/o clothing etc. makes more sense.

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        • avatar awesomesauce818

          Kind of ad/sponsor free ... the links to all of her clothes are affiliate links, so she's making bank. In other words, her pics ARE the ads. Nothing wrong with that, just wanted to point it out. :)

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        • avatar carriout

          Does she have her eyes dilated to take some of those pictures?

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        • avatar melondrama doesn't even have a blog

          I happen to like the Glamourai's blog, but it's FAR from ad and sponsor-free.

          She gets plenty of c/o items - in fact she's holding a c/o clutch today.

          As awesomesauce pointed out, she has referral links.

          Aaaand, most importantly, she has done brand partnerships with folks like Sachin + Babi, Tiffany eyewear and Kelly Wearstler. Therefore, she's accepted cash and/or merch from those brands, and cross-promoted them on her blog. Good for her for having the pull and the self-respect to forge relatively sophisticated partnerships, but she's still in bed with brands and it makes me question what she wears on her blog that she HAS bought with her own money.

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          • i personally don't care if things are c/o as long as they the blogger wears them in an interesting manner, which the glamourai totally does. it's just seeing the same old modcloth dress with tights and jeffrey campbell litas that gets old.

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  7. avatar Take Your C/O and Shove It

    It's about damn time these companies caught on. I'm with psych, minty, tactless: stopped reading the "gifted" (ugh) ones a long time ago. As soon as I see a c/o I'm outta there. All that movement of free crap has done is create a bunch of elitist, miserable little robots who look the same. Bo-ring.

    Rebecca Minkoff totally lost it when she started giving away everything but the kitchen sink to any blogger she deemed trendy. I swear the interns run the asylums at those companies. Is it over yet?

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    • avatar melondrama doesn't even have a blog

      "I swear the interns run the asylums at those companies."

      It was probably a combo of:
      1) marketing managers getting brainwashed about "this whole blogging phenomenon" and getting pressure from their superiors to do "that social media thing;" and
      2) social media interns or community managers who, yup, are really youthful and naive and had no accountability beyond "well I gave all this merch away, can I go to Starbucks now?"

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      • avatar Take Your C/O and Shove It

        Or off to hot yoga. Or simply to tweet, text and Facebook away in the corner. I'm old though so maybe FB is passé now.

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  8. avatar Athena

    This isn't surprisingly. All of those "huge" bloggers are merely saving face. Both Messy and Jen have quit their day jobs that they got from having DEGREES to be "full time" bloggers. The only way someone can do that is if they're making a profit, so it makes NO sense otherwise to stop their income.

    Whenever I read product reviews or c/o items, I'm 100% uninterested. Most of the time it's totally fake and obnoxious.

    Sometimes I do see products or clothes and I'm interested. I'll go look at the company, but rarely do I purchase them. I've never really understood how this was a viable way to gain business? I've seen companies sponsoring bloggers with c/o and they give them certain amounts of cash each month and make them submit their posts and if they don't get enough traffic/commission they cut them off. That makes sense, but other wise, did it ever make any one any money?

    I've also seen that the Delightful Dozen is giving up c/o's too.

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    • avatar FattyMagoo

      I thought Jen quit to be a SAHM? I stopped reading her blog when she got preggo, but I think she was still working at a school then.

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      • avatar Sadie

        She did quit to be a SAHM, but also to "blog". Though to her credit her husband is good looking enough, nice, and has a grown up job. So, I guess there's the difference between her and Messy. Well, that and she has style.

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        • avatar jpa

          I'm pretty sure her husband just started his own business too.

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        • avatar melissa

          well, I don't think she has 'style' or think her husband is cute. ugh I really don't like her, I used to years ago but she has made it plain she can't take criticism and is still a child.

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    • avatar JFA

      Messica husbanded up. That's the only reason she can afford to not work, esp when she used to live in NYC. She better have a baby to justify her existence soon or people might clue in to the fact that she is a lazy fraud.

      If she made more than 50K any year doing this I will eat my own panties. And that is being generous. Her book flopped.

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      • avatar JFA

        I really will never understand these guys who marry these layabouts and are fine with it. Never. Most guys I know prefer women with a) income and b) ambition. If you are a full-time mother it's different (but I would never be one myself, I am a fan of having a career). Please no one jump on me, I'm entitled to my opinion about it, thanks!!!

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        • avatar melissa

          seconded 100%

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        • avatar Megling

          I mean, I'm a full time mother and I still have ambition. One day I'll go a whole day without turning on that goddam Nick Jr. to entertain my kid for an hour while I zone out on the computer....

          shit that's not the same thing is it?
          I keed. I agree with you, these guys HAD to know what they were marrying. Because I have a feeling that a lot of these chicks would be this way (lazy, unscrupulous and vain) no matter what they do.
          SO why in the actual hell would you marry a cow like that?

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          • avatar JFA

            Being a stay at home will never be my thing but a) i think it's mad hard and b) it's a valid lifestyle choice. As opposed to quitting your job at 26 and relying on your husband because you are too fucking lazy to actually do anything hard. No respect for that, at all, and no idea why any guy would sign up for that in 2012. These are educated liberal urban types. Someone explain this to me. Do not understand. Any guy worth his salt wants a woman who has a life.

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          • avatar Megling

            EXACTLY!

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  9. avatar Amy

    I would love for this to carry over to the free food/appliances/other products that "healthy living" bloggers receive. Presumably these things would be far more affordable than the clothes and accessories that style bloggers get (or used to get), but even still, I can't see a huge ROI for any company that reaches out to a blogger - it's just a saturated market; once you've seen it on one blog, you've seen it on them all.

    Maybe this'll be a little bit of a wake-up call - a lot of employees are facing cuts in their jobs; now bloggers can relate by facing cuts to their perks.

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    • avatar Shrug Bitch

      I doubt there will be much of a change in the HLB community - maybe in terms of free Lulumon, but a $10 jar of almond butter (which is ridiculous anyway) is less of an investment than, say, $100 dress.

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      • avatar GrumpyRD

        does lulu even really give much away?

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        • avatar SaneLogic

          Nope, I've never seen Lulu given away and I highly doubt they would do this.

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          • avatar oyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

            LosingWeightIntheCity did a post where a bunch of fitness bloggers or something went to a Lulu store event in the run up to the NYC marathon, and i'm pretty sure they each walked away with a piece of free clothing.

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    • avatar J

      I was just thinking that. I have a feeling that many people blog mostly just for the money and free stuff.

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  10. avatar TurkeyVulture

    The only place I do legitimately see ROI in "blogger outreach" is in marketing books, particularly independently published or small-press books. Decent book review blogs tend to have bonkers numbers of readers, and ebooks are cheap; blog readers will buy it if it gets a good review and it's up their alley.

    But $5 for an ebook is obviously a vastly different outlay of money compared to $200 for some ugly pants.

    No shock.

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    • avatar Albie Quirky (No Relation!)

      It's crazy cheap to send out e-galleys for review. Heck, sending out actual printed advance review copies costs less than $5 per, including postage.

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  11. avatar SilverOak

    I saw this coming for sometime. I can see it now, all these bloggers are going to want cushy jobs where you get to fly face to face for meetings, but work from home, because you know, the cubicle is the death for them.

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    • avatar carriout

      The cubicle is the death for me too, but I'm not putting baby in a bathroom.

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  12. avatar Andi

    I'm wondering if this will affect the food bloggers. many of whom use auto- traffic software to garner 300K to 1 million hits/page views per month? Because of this, they get KA mixers and thousands of dollars worth of top kitchen gadgets and electronics, one for themselves and one to give away to their readers, plus get paid for the reviews. I mean, how can these companies be making money off of 50% to 90% bot hits?

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    • avatar food blogger

      woah. what is auto traffic? how come I know nothing of this?

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    • avatar peoplearecraycray

      I think it is true that most food blogs do these kind of giveaways, but I think the best one out there (and the most respected) - Smitten Kitchen - never does that stuff and is still hugely popular. I guess this would separate the wheat from the chaff. The people who are actually quality without lame giveaways to draw people in will survive while the others will fail.

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      • avatar JoFro

        I love love love smitten kitchen. She was the first food blog i ever found. I also really like Annie's Eats, she does giveaways but very rarely and most of the time she uses her own money to purchase the item.Both give great, solid recipes with easy instructions.

        I'm a sucker for smitten's photography.

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        • avatar Andi

          I am not talking about older blogs like Smitten Kitchen they are totally legit. I am talking about the new blogs that appeared late 2010 and throughout 2011 once they saw there was money to be made in blogging. They have literally have gone from 10K to over 300K hits per month in less than a week - all around the same time. As for Annie Eats, pretty pictures, but no originality. She rips off most of her recipes from blogs like Smitten Kitchen.

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      • avatar m

        Ah, Smitten Kitchen, how I love you. That's one blogger-written book I'm dying to buy.

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        • avatar featherbrained

          I've been using her recipes a lot lately. Very helpful and great, especially for someone trying to eat healthier. I don't really read the blogs at all, or know anything about her, but I have not a bad thing to say about the recipes.

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        • Yes! Smitten Kitchen is always the first place I turn to when I want to cook something new. And I love that she includes a link to a pic of her kid in every recipe because, dang that kid is ADORABLE!

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  13. avatar keevz

    Could it be for tax reasons? Even if your c/o loot was dwindling in comparison with the glory days it seems odd to make such a public declaration about it. I would have expected someone like Messica to have just swept it under the carpet - she's not exactly known for her principles and integrity. It's almost as if the official announcement was like "hey IRS - I don't do this anymore and I can prove it!"

    My guess is that these dumbtards have realised that they have to pay tax on their free shite. That a modcloth dress that was 'worth' $100 is taxable income and that the shitty dress they didn't even like and only wore once is actually going to cost them hard cold cash (probably the tax payable would be roughly equivalent to its ebay value) .... hence Messi's ramblings about them not being 'scalable'.

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    • avatar Sadie

      They have to pay taxes on c/o's?!

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      • avatar umhi

        Who knows if everyone actually does it, but my understanding is that you have to report them as income. So if you're gifted $200 in clothes every month, you pay the taxes of someone who was making $200 more (even if you're not paid to review). Bloggers, lawyers & accountants, feel free to tell me I'm wrong.

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      • avatar umhi

        Eh, I realized I just basically regurgitated with Keevz said in her second paragraph. I also realizes that was more of a rhetorical question Sadie, so feel free to just ignore my entire reply.

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        • avatar Sadie

          No, I was actually surprised. I didn't know they had to pay for free stuff. It doesn't make sense to accept it then.

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        • avatar rr

          you're right. "income" under the IRC is any/all benefits you receive, unless the IRC says it is not. you can receive income in the form of money, propety or benefits. even something like airline miles obtained through business travel is techincally considered income (except in this case, airline miles are not federally taxable because congress just plain doesn't want to deal with it). **not intended to be legal advice**

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      • avatar keevz

        They are on public record all over the internet as 'professional bloggers' deriving 'income' from their blogs.
        They have also disclosed the date and value of their gifties on their websites - so they cannot really hide it!

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      • avatar peoplearecraycray

        Yeah, I think it's the same idea as the celebrities who have to pay taxes on the swag bags they get at events and such.

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    • avatar keevz

      It seems that as they have declared their blogs to be a business then their income is taxed as business income rather than a hobby. The IRS says that "Barter dollars or trade dollars are identical to real dollars for tax reporting. If you conduct any direct barter - barter for another’s products or services - you will have to report the fair market value of the products or services you received on your tax return."
      Link to the IRS page on bartering http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=187904,00.html

      But that said - I am not a US tax expert, no I may be off beam here.

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    • avatar KAS

      If someone pays you more than $600 in a year, they have to give you a 1099 (we pay a lot of independent contractors at my church, every year we have to sort through who we paid $600 or more so we can report to the IRS and give them their 1099). Is the limit the same in term of C/O items?

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