So what motivates bloggers? Sounds like it's the freebies and being first in line.
I never even considered those when I started, nor do I consider them now.
My story of how I started liquor blogging:
I've always loved to write. I did a lot of short story writing, occasionally participated in NaNoWriMo, and eventually thanks to a friend of mine picked up a gig writing video game reviews and MMO blogs for GamersInfo. I also covered E3 every year, did local press events, etc., for that. My payment was free video games (usually shitty ones, natch) and getting to attend those events (though transportation was on my dime).
The thing is, the video game industry sucks. I've met some great people in it, but over all, it sucks big fat hairy donkey balls. As I worked my ass off at E3 every year and saw other reviewers go from our site and do jack, and saw how our site was ignored whenever anyone bigger showed up, I was steadily burning out on it.
I'd started a personal blog where I ranted about stuff, wrote book reviews, etc. But that was mostly just to keep the writing urge at bay.
In the spring of 2007 I decided I needed a new hobby to siphon off my extra energies and money. I started considering getting into Warhammer 40K miniatures (because I am a huge dork, and also because I hoped to meet the moms of some of the other players...) when Marshall came up to me.
He said, "We're going to start using fresh juice for our cocktails, and making our own simple syrup, and check out these blogs I've been reading about cocktails!"
Given that my usual cocktail was ... uh, beer ... I was like "WTF are you talking about, dude?"
He talked me into it. I said, though, that if we were going to experiment with cocktails, we should write up what we were doing, because it was interesting. So we started a LiveJournal for it.
We blogged away, not really expecting anything of it. Got to meet some other blogs (online meeting, that is) and found them friendly. Marshall heard of a mystical place known as Ace Beverage, and we went there, and found Joe Riley to be very friendly and welcoming.
Anyways, the Museum of the American Cocktail was having a dinner one night and we decided to go. I know all the "big names" would be there, but given my experiences in the video game world I figured they'd be aloof if not unfriendly. Marshall was much more willing to dive into the fray.
We went and the first drink I remember seeing was Adam Bernbach's "Parappa the Rappa Punch" which was named after a video game character. We chatted for a bit and he was quite friendly. We then got to meet other folks like Gina, etc., but what cinched the whole blogger thing (SO BLAME HIM) was Mr. Derek Brown.
We got a chance to chat with him, and he was extremely friendly and gregarious. "Oh, I love reading your blog," he exclaimed. "We need to go out drinking some time, I'll introduce you to some folks!"
"Yeah, right," I thought, and went off into the night, figuring he was just saying that to be nice. Marshall took him seriously, followed up with him, and soon he took us out and introduced us to all kinds of folks (except Tom that night, since he'd already left for the night).
What I discovered is that the industry is full of incredibly friendly, awesome people who just want everyone else to have as much fun as they do (or more). What I tried to bring to my blog is that enthusiasm, that sense of learning about new things - be it history or be it new flavor combinations or new places to visit - and to help other folks learn and get excited about cocktails and liquor and the industry.
Is it cool that I get free stuff sometimes? Hell yeah it's cool! I also try to give away as much of my free stuff as I get so others can try it, and I tell PR folks etc. that I won't guarantee a good review (or one at all) unlike some other sites. My last bottle I got for free was fairly not-good, but I haven't seen any reason to do a whole blog post on one bottle (and to say "meh"). If I can put together some others, I might. (Those tend to end up as Twitter micro-reviews, really, as more and more bloggers use Twitter as a fast and easy way to interact with readers without having to write a whole post.)
Do I get to go to cool events? Yeah, but usually I'm paying for them. I'm off to Tales in 6 days, but no one is paying my way. The only time I got any compensation for Tales was a couple hundred bucks for a panel I sat on (and heck, I was on the board of directors for our blogger non-profit - and now I'm the president of it! But we have no budget.)
There are people who blog because they are working their way into for-profit writing and journalism. Good for them.
There are people who blog because they like free stuff and want to be "cooler" than everyone else. Not good for them.
Most of us are just folks who like to write and share knowledge and the fun - like, I'd wager, most folks on this board. What motivates me? The sheer friendliness and generosity of the industry motivates me to try to pass that on, whether through the blog, on Twitter, or in person.