Evil mommies are forcing you to buy things!
Although I could easily recount a hundred fabulous things about this year's BlogHer conference, I have largely avoided discussing what I felt to be a pervasive undercurrent amongst some of the non-parent attendees. Although (for me) that was but a tiny piece of my overall experience, it was there. And it was this: Who cares about stupid mommyblogging? Why is mommyblogging the hot thing right now? Now there's entire companies advertising on mommyblogs? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.
I have my own opinions about the answers to those questions (plenty of people; perhaps because the majority of adult humans either are or have parents, and there are a lot of really interesting people out there blogging about it; yes there is, and it's called marketing where the iron is hot), but I'm just delighted to see that the argument about blogging and advertising has landed squarely on the mommyblogger segment. Because heaven knows it's bad enough that we're out there blogging about our kids as if they're somehow interesting, but now we're making money off of it? Well, there you have it. Proof of all that's wrong with the world, right there.
Okay, maybe no one said it quite that way. (Actually, some people did, but I'll try to stick to those who make more direct points for the purposes of this discussion.)
And there's no disputing the fact that some people believe deep down in the cockles of their idealistic little hearts that blogging is blogging and business is business and never the twain shall meet. Bloggers, this faction avers, should never ever blog for money, lest they sully their authenticity. (I have often wondered if those people believe that novelists who publish have similarly compromised themselves, but that's another topic for another day.) What is interesting to me, now, is that the focus on mommyblogging has brought out the naysayers who seem to want those involved to feel an extra measure of guilt. After all, we're moms. Just like with raising our children, we should apparently be blogging purely out of love and selflessness.
Liz of Mom-101 is taking the critics to task with her usual mix of savvy and humor:
Interestingly, there's one consistent phrase that I've seen in both kinds of discussions, either by the author or the commenter. And that's the idea that those who disdain blog ads, do so in part because they make me buy products I don't need.
I had no idea we were so powerful. Neither did Liz.
Now personally, I would loooove to know which blog ad--the majority of which are poorly designed, and show a complete lack of understanding of the blog audience in both content and style--has that ability. Because if I knew it, I would be rich. Rich beyond my wildest dreams. So rich that I could buy you each ponies, and then ponies for the ponies, because hell, even ponies must dream of having their own ponies. And then we'd ride off together on our ponies (these are very sturdy ponies), with our ponies' ponies in tow, headed right for Canyon Ranch, where the Bali Spice Body Mask and Hot Stone Massages are on me.
One of the posts that prompted Liz's discussion was this piece by Jen of MUBAR about how blogging as a whole is changing, and not for the better:
The idea of being paid to blog certainly is a seductive one and one I've considered strongly. And I certainly do not think badly of any blogger who receives remuneration for her work (in fact, I think that as more and more people get paid to blog, it will become more democratic and less a hobby of the middle and upper middle classes). But one of the great things about the blogosphere in its infancy is that is was free from advertising and corporate meddling. It offered us something that other media channels didn't. Those days, I fear, are all but gone. (And yes, I've read all of the verbiage about advertisers not having an impact on content. But their patronage does complicate the blog conversation just a little, because it's a little like trying to have a serious conversation with a good friend with a guy from P&G sitting in the corner, taking notes.)
Content used to read as raw and fresh, no one was trying to sell you something or increase their site traffic. There was collaboration among bloggers, not competition, because, well, there was nothing to compete over. But now, money and fame has entered into the equation and because we bloggers, enemy of the ad-driven mass media, are not supposed to be thinking of this like a business, we hide our underlying intentions. Instead of competing directly for market share, for advertising dollars, for readers, and then sitting down to have a friendly beer at the end of the day, we seem to be doing the frenemy thing and write mean comments and parody blogs and leave throwaway comments designed simply to promote our own urls. It's a trend that threatens the very goodness of the blogophere: Goodbye Children's Television Workshop; hello Maury Povich.
The piece at MUBAR reads reasonably enough, although I still find myself feeling it's a bit of an oversimplification. A lot of the behaviors she points to (both between bloggers and in terms of personal blogging goals) are ones I saw plenty of evidence of when the "goal" was merely readers, not dollars.
But what about that, the popularity side of things?
In response to the post on MUBAR, crabbykate of tripping the life unbalanced has a few choice words to share:
What I take issue with is not necessarily the intent of the ad world, but rather the intent of blogging for fame. It seems like it's become a slippery slope from blog popularity to narcissism. And this state of constant need for popularity is rooted on by companies like Technorati and Sitemeter and Blog Shares. It's a world in which links and comments become ads themselves. It's the same world of obsessing about how many links you have, who links to you (and who doesn't), how many hits you get, and on and bloody on. What is problematic, of course, is when there is more focus put on linkage and less on content. I'm no stranger to this obsession myself, and I need to let it go.
The new economics of blogging means you hold up your words as product and look for the best buyer. And we continue to push for bigger and better buyers, damnit.
I'll confess that she somewhat loses me right at the beginning, as honestly I think we all have to agree that starting a blog at all involves a certain measure of narcissism. Then again, some people call a healthy dose of narcissism by another name---confidence.
Here's where I start shaking my head:
I'm not saying that popular blogs are bad. I'm not even saying that we should do away with advertising on blogs, per se. What I am saying, rather, is that the blogging world (and the "mommy blogging" world in particular, I think) could do with some reality checks in this regard.
I'm confused. Mommybloggers in particular? Why is that? Because mommyblogging is hot right now? Because mommies should know better? I'm not certain of the author's intent here, and I don't want to put words into her mouth. But why should the moms in particular check themselves? There's a message here, either way, that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Ann Douglas discusses The Parenting Media Revolution and puts forth a list of questions for her readers to consider in relation to the growing marketing segment on parenting blogs. It's her last question that gets me:
- Is "the Golden Age of the Blog" (that time of idealism and mutual support and sharing) over? Or has it only just begun?
And that seems to be the crux of the complaints; add marketing to honesty, and somehow, now, you're not longer honest. Now you're playing your audience. Now you're about business rather than authenticity.
I know I'm biased on this issue. I'm a mommyblogger, and I don't have a problem with carrying advertising on my blog. Furthermore, I don't feel that it has affected my content, other than that it has allowed me to keep a high-frequency blogging schedule during a time of my life when finances would've prevented that were I not receiving a bit of income from it. And you can call me idealistic (you'd be the first, actually), but I still believe in the basic principle of cream rising. By and large, I think most "popular" bloggers have attained their following through superb craft. If they start subverting themselves to the almighty dollar and writing crap, I think their audiences will go elsewhere.
And I think this is particularly true amongst mommybloggers, as there's certainly no shortage of mommyblogs out there right now.
What do you think?
[image courtesy of Blogs4biz]