Is commerce killing mummy blogging?

The mummy blogosphere is getting bitchy. Can brands and blogs co-exist in this space, wonders Lori Dwyer

The question has been whispering its way around the Aussie “mum blogging” crowd (arguably the biggest and most influential form of ’bloggers as brand spokespeople’ in this country as yet) mostly unspoken and unacknowledged.

While many mum bloggers will attest that the vibe online has been strange and strained in recent months, they’re reluctant to publicly speculate on a definitive theory as to why.

But within private conversations and among those we trust, there is a lingering question that speaks to the power of friendships formed online. Can the community that exists within the blogosphere survive as the corporate dollar becomes more accessible and important to those with larger online audiences?

It’s an increasing trend for bloggers to form friendships social relationships not only through their blogs, Twitter and FaceBook; but also in face to face interactions with women who are essentially becoming both colleagues and competition.

”It’s like high school all over again. It never used to be like this… people used to share opportunities”, laments one blogger, with a moderately sized audience, who declined to be named in this article.

There has been the suggestion that the catalyst for the unfortunate outpouring of spite and distrust, and the potentially vicious sparring; was the successful and highly visual launch of the new blogging agency The Remarkables, with many taking the opinion that the name of the business itself served as a swipe at other bloggers smaller, but potentially just as engaged, audiences.

Any social relationship, no matter its context, is altered when money becomes involved, especially when the attitude arises that there is only so much business – and therefore, only so much cash– to go around. Realistically, corporate interest in Australian bloggers has gone being from fairly minimal two years ago to the level it’s currently at with little fanfare and much stealth. You’d be forgiven for missing it altogether, until it gets to a point such as now, where it can no longer be ignored.

With bloggers being invited to VIP events, showered with free product and payed thousands of dollars for sponsored content on their sites, it’s inevitable that jealousies are ignited and bloggers who have been writing for just as long– and feel they have worked just as hard– are coming away with the impression that the spoils of this new corporate interest are being shared amongst a lucky few, rather than divided evenly.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be said to contradict that… because it’s the truth. It’s also life, consumerism, commercialism and economic democracy. The more advertising dollars that are funneled into bloggers PayPal accounts, the greater the divide becomes.

There has always been some element of comparison, be it via looking at stats, comments or readers, among bloggers. It’s just that now there is a way to place a dollar value on a blog, it makes the concept that much more offensive to some players in the game.

In reality, this will happen, whether we approve of it or not… it’s happening already. While its entirely possible to blog without entering the debate at all and keeping completely advertisement, review and sponsorship free; if you do venture into the snake pit, here are some salient points to remember.

You time input will always be greater than your profit output. If you combine the time invested in writing, editing; shooting, cropping and watermarking photos; responding to emails and keeping up various forms of social media; and you will find yourself working for an hourly pittance. Come into blogging looking to give up your day job and you’re certainly in the wrong place. I’m blessed to be able to earn a part time income off my blog… but I work full time hours.

There’s plenty to go around. There really is no need to be greedy or grabby. The nature of blogging means that the more exposure we receive the more money that comes in, and vice versa. And the more exposure we get, the more readers Aussie blogs in general– and yours in particular, if it’s any good – can attract.

Can’t we all just get along…? It doesn’t have to be one or the other– communities continue to exist within financial parameters…

Imagine, if you will, the scenario of a small group of craft marketers, all of whom sell slightly different handmade goods on their stalls, but all within the same basic umbrella of ’craft’. They each attend various markets throughout the state every week and weekend.

Are they friends, these fictional marketers…? You bet. Could you call them a community? For all intents and purposes, taking into account their shared value and belief system, shared interests and localities and their inherent support of one another; they are.

They will probably sit and have a cuppa together. They’ll trade funny stories, ideas, maybe even tips on new markets opening up or those with a steady flow of customers.

But will one marketer ever direct you to someone else’s stall, for the same kind of product, ensuring they lose that sale themselves…? Of course not. That’s not the way commerce works.

Perhaps that’s the way we should begin to look at blogging– a free market, with ourselves as the stall holders, free to trade within our beliefs and ethics (and, naturally, the law).

It doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the community we have there, tucked away in the softer side of the Web known as the Aussie blogosphere. But it will require a shift in attitude, a rethink of the way we do things, and maybe even a more limited scope of trust in those around us.

Some will say it’s a shame, given the remarkable sense of friendship that once existed. But really, we’re just catching up – the rest of the online world got to this point a long, long time ago. And while many communities have survived a financial upheaval, there’s very few who have been able to turn their backs to the call of the shiny, almighty dollar.

Comments


  1. Ash
    1 Aug 12
    11:14 am

  2. Great post from a great blogger…

  3. Hannah DeMilta
    1 Aug 12
    1:45 pm

  4. Excellent thoughts Lori — this idea around bloggers feeling competitive toward each other is really interesting to me. There is most certainly a marketing and self-promotion element at play. The bloggers who work hard to establish themselves as brands and businesses might be the ones who score more VIP spots, rather than just the most influential in that niche at times. One opportunity leads to another as well. Once someone sees that you’ve worked with x, y and z brands perhaps your chances of getting the next invite or offer is greater. I don’t know if there is really a solution or answer to the bad vibe that happens as a result of this. However, I can say that there will continue to be more opportunities for bloggers who want to monetise – it’s true, we are just catching up.

  5. Fiona
    1 Aug 12
    2:31 pm

  6. I have to admit to having some of the bitchiest conversations ever recently ;)

    Reow!

  7. Hannah Law
    1 Aug 12
    3:11 pm

  8. Thanks for being so honest Lori. I think your markets analogy is apt at reflecting the commercialisation of this (relatively) new industry. There will always – naturally – be competition when it comes to business and money but I don’t think that should prevent people within the same industry from having a healthy, positive relationship with one another.

  9. Fiona
    1 Aug 12
    3:28 pm

  10. (actually at times it reminds me more of the posturing of grade six, than highschool)

  11. Tina
    1 Aug 12
    4:25 pm

  12. Proofing and spellcheck go a long way

  13. Cate
    1 Aug 12
    7:07 pm

  14. Very good points raised, Lori. I think everybody is still learning how to deal with this new ‘beast’, and how it changes the world of blogging.
    Something I find very interesting is that no matter how much support bloggers even do give each other publicly, every blogger and blog reader I have spoken to privately says they rarely read sponsored posts, they are just not that interested in them. So who is? Will the brands realise they are not getting their money’s worth out of Aussie bloggers and go back to peddling their wares elsewhere? And where would that leave bloggers who have decided to make it their business?
    Certainly a minefield of discovery ahead for bloggers in this country, I just hope we all get through it without being disheartened. It’s supposed to be fun!

  15. Ted Haggard
    2 Aug 12
    1:27 am

  16. Thankfully, there are still many blogs without “ads”.

    However, if you blog with the intention of being paid, you are hawking your wares and ultimately running a business and as such if you want to be successful it should be run like one.

  17. Madmother
    2 Aug 12
    9:51 am

  18. Very, very well written and thought provoking.

    I must admit I do miss the earlier days when it was far more of a community feel. I miss the connection and the friendships, but I also realise that blogging has evolved far more than it was thought it would.

    For many it is their lifeline, income, business. And as such the blog world has to change.

    I wonder about the point Cate makes though. I too skip the majority of sponsored posts. They hold no interest for me.

  19. F2
    2 Aug 12
    12:25 pm

  20. Actually the Remarkables all worked hard to get where they are, and I have followed each of their blogs for awhile (read years) – they deserve the success – it is no different to the highest circulating and most popular print mags or TV programs attracting the most ad dollars, so why the whinging?
    One could argue there’s enough advertisers to share around in traditional media, but strangely they aren’t interested in advertising is less popular or successful media.
    For all Bloggers’ carry on about being so different to traditional media, the basic ecomonies of life and necessity to eat are still a priority.

  21. Elizabeth
    2 Aug 12
    10:42 pm

  22. I’m not a mummy blogger and my blog isn’t monetized so perhaps my perpective on our scene is incomplete. But, I am an avid reader of blogs and I agree that sponsorship and media interest has changed the landscape a lot for our community. A few days ago I even wrote about my frustration with where things are heading. It led to some great conversations about the challenges that we’re facing as a relatively young form of media.

    Putting blogging aside for a moment, in my professional life I’ve found that the most valuable support can be found from my peers – colleagues within my workplace, and those in the competition. There’s a professional respect that exists in my industry that encourages growth, a culture of exchanging knowledge, and networking that can easily be harnessed for individual gain.

    In my experience the blogging community isn’t so different. The leading voices in our community are sharing so much knowledge, and I love that about what we do! I’ve noticed that the people who are most generous with their time and knowledge (I’m thinking here of Darren Rowse, Phoebe Montague, Pip Lincolne etc) are also rewarded the most with the loyalty and respect of their readers – readers that are largely made up of other bloggers.

    It makes me think that there’s plenty of opportunity to go around, and lots of resources being shared as well. And as you say, the more that we invest in each other, the more exposure we’ll attract as a group.

    If we bloggers are the craft market that you described in your analogy, then the obvious strategy for personal growth is to offer a point of difference in your product line. More people will get out of bed for a craft show with variety.

    We have a choice here – we can spend our energy complaining about the girl in the next stall who stole our tea cozy design, or we can develop a new product that leaves tea cozies in the dust. I know which person I’d rather be!

  23. Kristy
    3 Aug 12
    9:25 am

  24. These past few months have left a dirty taste in my mouth.

    I think there’s no problem with mothers who blog making money from blogging. Why shouldn’t they? To me it seems like there is a line that may have been crossed that is affecting how genuiniely we perceive certain bloggers. Perhaps some of them have ‘sold out’ and by that I mean they’ve monetised their blogs so much that it’s difficult to believe their opinion any more.

    It’s for this reason that I’ve stopped reading certain blogs. I just hate being taken for a ride. I find myself seeking out bloggers who are small. It seems a lot more interesting and a lot more genuine and closer to the reasons why I started reading blogs in the first place.

  25. Craig
    6 Aug 12
    8:30 am

  26. I refuse to take money or show ads in my blog.

    But I’m a daddy, not a mummy, so few advertisers target me anyway. Apparently most men don’t know how to use the Internet yet and prefer to spend hours in stores rather than shop online.

  27. Cas
    6 Aug 12
    2:13 pm

  28. Wow! I had no idea any of this was going on. I don’t have advertising on two of my blogs unless it’s something special that I’m promoting because I want to or it relates directly to my business. But one of my blogs is set up for advertising as it’s a blog dedicated to a business community. I blog for my readers, not for a “blogosphere”. If people want to monetise their blogs so they can keep blogging, good for them. It will only work though, if they promote things they believe in and maybe that’s where people are falling down. Interesting debate. Thanks for a great article.

  29. Mike
    7 Aug 12
    4:01 pm

  30. “there’s very few who have been able to turn their backs to the call of the shiny, almighty dollar”

    Turn their backs on …?

    If people aren’t reading sponsored blog posts that’s because they’ve been badly written or are on the wrong blog.

  31. Brent
    8 Aug 12
    2:51 pm

  32. There’s also the growing factor of Google becoming suspicious of Guest posts and paid-for posts in general. I wonder how many of you have your Google authorship sorted? Kinda important for bloggers.

  33. Christie (from Kids Business)
    27 Aug 12
    2:55 pm

  34. So great reading your thoughts Lori. I’m sure this blogging space will continue to evolve rapidly over the coming 18 months. It will be interesting to see how the opportunities for bloggers and brands grow and diversify. There are some great sponsored posts being written that feel transparent and honest so readers can make up their own minds on the product.

    Hope we see you at the next Bloggers Brunch and you can fill us in!