Opinion

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.

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