7.31.2007

Lookin' Out For Mah Peeps: That's You.

In my BlogHer panel on Saturday, I got to touch on the concept of not taking paltry pennies for the ad space on your blogs. Because really - none of us are getting 4 digits for those Go Meat ads.

(Unless Dooce - are you reading? Welcome, girl! Loving your hair lately.)

My feeling is that if you're giving brands free real estate on your site through Google Adsense or affiliate programs, while not even making enough to get the minimum payout for them, then maybe you should, um, think twice about having those ads?

I believe I said something like "Stand up for yourself. You're worth it. "

Paid bloggers, especially those of the female variety, undervalue ourselves. And that's worth discussing.

Consider the programs that pay you based on clicks--what that means is you end up losing if the advertising sucks. Example: Say in my evil capitalist day job I write an ad for $600 solid gold toenail clippers that runs in Farmhands Magazine. For some crazy reason, no one buys any!

So is that Farmhands Magazine's fault? Should they make less money for that ad because the product is stupid? Or because their demographic is not interested in $600 solid gold toenail clippers? Should they make less money because maybe hiring Gary Coleman to be a celebrity endorser for $600 solid gold toenail clippers wasn't the best idea?

(Ew! Gary Coleman toenail clippings! Ew!)

Well that's what cost-per-click programs essentially do to bloggers.

And then!

Just yesterday comes along the perfect PR pitch to help me make my case--all while tying in Stefania's point about lame PR pitches to bloggers which I touched on about a year ago and Kristen has posted about hilariously as have others, including the few PR folks who get it. (Edited to add: In fact, David Wescott posted about it today from the PR perspective.)

Stefania (center) about to give the PR world a verbal whuping.

First I noticed the pitch was addressed to "Julie."

Then I got a quick follow-up email saying:
I don't know why I called you Julie either ;)
Yep, a winkie thingie. Not an apology. Just a winkie thingie. Because hahaha, isn't it funny when that happens? And by the way, it happens every week.

But the letter got better from there. And I'm sure some of you reading got the same one, maybe addressed to Julie too:
Hi Julie,

I'm presently working with [client] to help them expand their presence online and think a blogAd on Mom-101 would make an excellent addition to their online ad campaign.

Since the [client] is a fairly small company, I was curious to know what sort of discount you are able to extend toward a one-week trial campaign. Should the results of the test prove fruitful, we would be glad to continue advertising on your blog at a rate commensurate with your normal price structure....

What kind of discount I am able to extend? Seriously?

Here is my exact response (minus one extraneous paragraph):
Hi Danny,

You called me Julie because you probably mailed this form letter to Mothergoosemouse right before you sent it to me, and forgot to change my name in the salutation.

I am pleased you would like to advertise on Mom101. I am not pleased that you are asking for a discount considering it's what, 30 bucks for a week? It would cost more to buy a set of magic markers and make posters.

If you want your brand to have real estate on my blog and reach thousands of women, you are welcome to pay the full price. It is not my job to take a hit on the price if your creative is not compelling, creative, or clear enough to encourage people to click through. As someone with "a lot of experience with blogAds" surely you know that the prices are often paltry and out of step with other advertising programs. Asking mom bloggers - many of whom do this as their only source of income - to cut their rates is unconscionable.

I don't usually respond to requests like this but frankly, it pissed me off.

Mom101
Argh.

Now I will say we had a very respectful exchange afterwards in which Danny apologized for insulting me and the value of my blog, and that since he's working for a small advertiser with a limited budget, his approach was basically "it doesn't hurt to ask."

My response was that wrong, it does hurt to ask.

It hurts the momblogggers who, like his client, are also small businesses, and might in fact take the 10% cut because to them, 90% is better than 0% when this is their sole source of income. And that sucks.

I'm not retelling this conversation to be a dick. I don't think Danny is a bad guy or that he was intending to be as sleazy as his first email came across.

But I am retelling this because I don't want to see his client's ads on any of your blogs, knowing that you took 10% off the price for him.

Don't mess with my girlz. They be my mommygang.

Labels:


73 Comments:

Blogger Mocha said...

Yeah, I was looking for said mommygang the other day when I asked my question at that same panel. Even though I would be as upset about getting a form letter to "Julie", I just want the damn form letter. I just want in and that is pissing me off as of late. So, "Danny"? Where are you?

After reading my post from yesterday my mother gave me great advice about posing difficult questions to groups en masse: Yes. I have a question and it's not rhetorical. I'd like to have it answered.

It's a great opening line I think.

7/31/07, 9:23 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Mocha - totally agree. I think that this happens because people with hands raised for a long time end up asking what they intended to ask before you changed topics. I'm sorry it wasn't me that redirected the session back to you (although I couldn't get called on either!). It was an important question and probably deserved its own panel, let alone a focused discussion.

Still, I think it's a numbers game with PR people. I don't think they go to you as a black bloggers any more than they come to me as a Jewish blogger. I think they click on top technorati rankings and go for a mass market.

So maybe the greater question is why women of color don't have the top rated momblogs.

7/31/07, 9:33 AM  
Blogger Adventures In Babywearing said...

This post has me nodding my head in agreement... you said it way better than I could have. I've had a couple PR emails addressed to someone else, too. The nerve!

Steph

7/31/07, 10:01 AM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

I've been approached by a couple of people, not even willing to pay me. Just offering me discounts on subscriptions to their services, that I don't even use. Seriously, people. I am not a billboard. I'll post things that I believe in and wholeheartedly get compensated for. That's it. Period. End of discussion.

7/31/07, 10:06 AM  
Anonymous BC said...

Although my blog is not nearly big enough or popular enough to gain a form letter like the one you're talking about, I can see why it would be frustrating. So many people (not just moms) are looking to turn a quick buck, and would be happy to take whatever they can get from anyone, anytime. It makes the rest of the more what I like to call "professional mommybloggers" look bad.

I'd love to get into advertising on my blog, but I also want to keep my blog about ME, and not the ads. Still looking for a way to get into this sector, and to keep it balanced so it doesn't overwhelm the readers that have stuck by me.

Great post.

7/31/07, 10:07 AM  
Anonymous chris said...

This is what I mentioned during my panel also. I so want women to not devalue their work, dammit. It doesn't just hurt them, it hurts all of us.

Also, speaking of PR people I open my email box this morning and have an email from Pay Per Post telling me how to monetize my blog. Pay attention much?

7/31/07, 10:12 AM  
Blogger myminivanisfasterthanyours said...

I learned more about ads on blogs in this post than I was able to figure out Googling it for the past two months.

And now should I ever make that leap, I'm armed and dangerous, baby! Seriously, I'm so glad you wrote this. Thanks, Julie.

7/31/07, 10:12 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Chris, that's unbelievable. I called them out in my panel as well.

7/31/07, 10:18 AM  
Anonymous sam said...

I wish more people spoke out about ads on blogs. That was one thing I would have like to have been at BlogHer for. I've never really understood the incentive for smaller blogs (like mine) to put ads. I mean, I even thought about BlogHer Ads, but for me, my number of hits... I'd make about 5 bucks a month. No real purpose in that.

I've been asked a couple times to review things that I'd receive a fre subscription or something and almost felt obligated to do so. I can't explain why, maybe it's my loving personality. *cough, cough*

But that's all I know. I wish there was more relevant information out there.

Thanks for posting this!

7/31/07, 10:20 AM  
Blogger kgirl said...

It's unfortunate that we also equate being solicited with popularity - as if we are now 'made' simply because Blogher ads approved our application, or some two-bit production company asked us to review a crappy video.

And hey, (fooling myself though I may be) knowing I'll never achieve top technorati rankings, I admit that even if I don't fall for the pitch, I might just fall for the ego boost of being 'recognized.'

7/31/07, 10:22 AM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Thank you for this, Liz!

I've begun getting the emails from PR people & usually just ignore them. Because they're really not offering enough to make it worth my while. I think maybe in the future, I'll respond and let them know what my rate is. The rate that I'm worth.

7/31/07, 10:41 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Sam - if you go with a service like blogads, you might make a few bucks. But more than that, you get free offer codes so you can trade ads with other bloggers, or give friends' small businesses a chance to be seen. I love that aspect of it. The only issue is, you need to get an invite to participate and they don't give many out.

I'm happy to answer other questions (if I can) if you want to email me: mom101[at]mac

7/31/07, 10:41 AM  
Blogger BOSSY said...

Of course you're not retelling the conversation to be a Dick when clearly you're a Julie.

Bossy lurves that you caught their cheap form-ass in action.

7/31/07, 10:47 AM  
Blogger David said...

as usual, Mom101 ROCKS. push back enough on the flacks and they'll shape up - but you have to be firm. make sure they understand there are risks to being sloppy and disrespectful...

7/31/07, 10:53 AM  
Anonymous dana said...

You've inspired me to take my adsense ads down, because frankly, haven't received any compensation yet and I felt guilty if I had taken them down.

Not anymore. I think you're right, it does devalue my work and I am tired of it.

Thanks for all the great advice. I really do appreciate it!

7/31/07, 11:13 AM  
Anonymous MetroDad said...

The worst is getting those PR pitches or AD salesmen approaching you when it's clear that they've never read your blog at all. Or worse, they cut and paste your name into an e-mail without realizing that they used a different font where your name should go so it's clear that it's a form letter. Then, to make it worse, they have a space where they try to reference something from a recent post.

Welcome back, Liz! Didja get me a t-shirt?

7/31/07, 11:16 AM  
Anonymous mayberry said...

Can I use your comments to say something I never got to say at BlogHer? Which is that it works the same way with being compensated to write for another blog or online publication. Don't do it for free unless you're getting something else valuable out of it. That something could be exposure for yourself, your blog, or a cause dear to you; it could be traffic; it could even be free stuff. As an editor who is accustomed to paying people cash money for their writing--I'm still learning about the other forms of currency. It's just another way to stand up for yourself.

7/31/07, 11:19 AM  
Blogger the new girl said...

word, yo.

7/31/07, 11:20 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Right on Mayberry!

7/31/07, 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Selfmademom said...

I totally agree with your assessment, Liz. It's infuriating to me as well, and I work at a PR firm and get bad pitches all the time! I would also add, that I don't think this problem is limited to just the blogosphere. I would venture to say that if you called up a "mainstream" reporter, they'd have the same problem with us PR people too. Our firm is trying hard to educate our staff about "blogger relations" but I think, like anywhere you go, there are going to be people who get it and those who don't, no matter how much training you receive. Or maybe our training should improve. I'd love to see a whole session on this next year. Wouldn't it be fab? "The art of pitching bloggers." A girl can dream.

7/31/07, 11:53 AM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

Liz, you make an excellent point about calling these solicitors on their BS. If we continue to simply hit the delete key without telling them exactly how their approach has turned us off, they will continue in the same vein. Because frankly, they are LAZY.

And as I commented at Stefania's site, I'm proud of how we at PBN strive to include bloggers of color in our network. As Mocha and Stefania pointed out, they aren't seeing these pitches themselves. But we're providing a way for their voices to be heard nonetheless.

7/31/07, 12:26 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yes, yes, and yes! I'll admit that a year ago, when I was just starting to get pitches, I took anything that came along because I was simply so flattered that someone wanted to know what *I* thought.

Now I only try products that actually interest me. No sense being sent a cookbook if I don't cook, right? I've got plenty of clutter here in my house, and I don't need any more with the condition that I have to write about it as well.

When it comes to ads, however, I think part of the problem with bloggers selling themselves short is that many have no idea what they should be charging. There's no guide out there for what to expect from ads. When BlogHerAds came along, I was so thrilled that they actually told us the rates up front, so we'd know how much we'd be making.

Adsense is a joke - $.05 per 1,000 views? I keep them at the moment, but only because I've earned enough in the past two years that I'm close to earning a check. Once I get that check, they're gone from my blog. I have better uses for that sidebar real estate.

7/31/07, 12:27 PM  
Blogger CPA Mom said...

Liz, it was a pleasure to meet you. You were so kind.

I was in this panel audience. I understand what you are saying even though I do not have any blogs big enough to have ads of any kind. Nor do I receive any pitches beyond the one PR firm I already do product reviews for - but her target is my audience and she always asks me if I want the product first. I have the right to refuse anything.

I do know my worth but am glad you are getting the word out for anyone else who does NOT know their worth.

Pay per Post? PISSES me off.

7/31/07, 12:28 PM  
Anonymous Redneck Mommy said...

Well said Liz. Thanks for taking the time to address this issue. A lot of women devalue their writing worth and it PISSES me off.

I feel better having said that.

Now, please, go kiss that kid of yours. I'm pissed that I never got to hold her. Dammit.

And tell your Momma I said hello. I do believe I liked her more than you!

Wink, wink.

7/31/07, 12:32 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

I just added a disclaimer on my blog because I'm sick and tired of getting pitches for:

a) CRAP
b) CONTESTS that involve no crap for me
c) FREE SERVICES (see A and B)

If you want us to tell our readers, then pay for it or use Parent Bloggers.

Or send me a Wii.

7/31/07, 12:43 PM  
Anonymous WhyMommy said...

Yeah! Love the post and the comments. Am SO TICKED I couldn't go to BlogHer and hear you all in person!

-- (Nearly Bald) WhyMommy

7/31/07, 1:04 PM  
Blogger metro mama said...

Thanks for this Liz. We need to talk about this stuff more and understand our own value. It finally became clear to me at BlogHer.

It was great meeting you.

7/31/07, 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Susan Getgood said...

We did do a blogger relations panel at BlogHer Business in NYC, on the theory that the companies who might do blogger outreach were the ones who needed education. I was on it, as was Elise Bauer and Michelle Madhok. And given the response this week, I think the topic will be getting LOTS of BlogHer attention in coming months.

My profession, and business, is marketing consulting, and I do blogger outreach programs for some of my clients. It frosts me when people do lame-ass crap outreach, when it is possible to do it well. Problem is, it takes time and effort to do it well, and many don't want to bother.

Pay Per Post? I don't like it at all, and think it devalues the work. Freelance writers get paid far more than what pay per post offers. From the client perpspective, it is not targeted well enough to surface the right people to write on something so I don't recommend it to my clients. But I respect the right of other bloggers to try it. If they can weave it into their work organically, are happy with the results, and their readers like it, that's great for them.

7/31/07, 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Danny said...

Here is the complete exchange, so that everyone can see how much of a jerk I am and how I'm clearly out to swindle bloggers:
-------------------------------
Hi Julie,

I'm presently working with Nutrition Research Center (http://nutritionresearchcenter.org ) to help them expand their presence online and think a blogAd on Mom-101 would make an excellent addition to their online ad campaign.

Since the Nutrition Research Center is a fairly small company, I was curious to know what sort of discount you are able to extend toward a one-week trial campaign. Should the results of the test prove fruitful, we would be glad to continue advertising on your blog at a rate commensurate with your normal price structure.

As an early adopter for a few online companies on the buying side and later as a publisher, I have had a lot of experience with blogAds and know that finding the right match between advertiser and venue can create strong and mutually beneficial relationships. Hopefully we can get something going that will prove to be a fruitful, long-term arrangement!

Looking forward to hearing back from you,

Danny
-----------------------------
Hi Danny,

You called me Julie because you probably mailed this form letter to Mothergoosemouse right before you sent it to me, and forgot to change my name in the salutation.

You should probably check out this post today - http://citymama.typepad.com/citymama/2007/07/putting-pr-peop.html
because there's about to be a lot of discussion about things like this in the blogworld. In fact I'll probably add to it tomorrow so feel free to check Mom101 then. This exchange could very well be a part of it.

I am pleased you would like to advertise on Mom101. I am not pleased that you are asking for a discount considering it's what, 30 bucks for a week? It would cost more to buy a set of magic markers and make posters.

If you want your brand to have real estate on my blog and reach thousands of women, you are welcome to pay the full price. It is not my job to take a hit on the price if your creative is not compelling, creative, or clear enough to encourage people to click through. As someone with "a lot of experience with blogAds" surely you know that the prices are often paltry and out of step with other advertising programs. Asking mom bloggers - many of whom do this as their only source of income - to cut their rates is unconscionable.

I don't usually respond to requests like this but frankly, it pissed me off.

Mom101
------------------------------
Thanks for your prompt response, I appreciate all of your feedback. I'm truly sorry you felt insulted and angered by my e-mail as it was certainly not my intention.

As the adage goes, it doesn't hurt to ask. My clients run a very small company with a limited advertising budget; arranging trial placements is simply a conscientious business practice, not a personal attack. I always ask (regardless of the type of venue) because it is a sound way of testing unproven venues. These clients, for the record, are a husband and wife working dilligently to run a home business, not some monstrous corporate entity.

I derive part of my income from running a blog and personally do not mind extending discounts to new advertisers because I feel it shows a belief in my product; however, I certainly understand not wanting to lose out on potential income. It's clearly your prerogative to not extend discounts to new advertisers but it seems odd to berate someone for simply inquiring. Again, I'm not saying that to be argumentative but rather because I feel like my initial e-mail was misconstrued.

While you are correct that many blogAd venues represent a cost-effective option for advertisers, this has changed dramatically over the past three years to the point where most blogs actually feature grossly inflated rates when you examine unique visitor and cost-per-click metrics. We spend a lot of time and attention changing creatives, testing different combinations of images and text to ensure that the results we receive represent an honest evaluation of a given venue's performance.

Thanks for providing the link; I actually came across that post earlier today. It's a tricky situation for people on both sides of the equation. Bloggers want to maintain their integrity but also want to earn money for their efforts; advertisers want to reach certain demographics but don't want to appear disingenuous. It's tough to accept money for ads on one hand and then attack advertisers one is approached by on the other. There are no easy answers.

Again, I sincerely apologize for having upset you and hope you can see this was in no way intended as an assault on you or the work you do. Hopefully if you reread my original e-mail you'll see it as a more of an optimistic introduction than a slithery act. At the very least, it's clear you feel very passionately about your writing and that's something I definitely admire.

All my best,

Danny

PS - I'm unfamiliar with mothergoosemouse but will definitely check it out. Apologies again for spacing out when addressing your e-mail; it happens to all of us sometimes.
------------------------------
Thanks for a thoughtful response that was kinder than the one I sent you.

I'm a professional advertising executive in my day job and I'm very sensitive to the tactics of a lot of marketers when approaching parentbloggers. As your client is just a mom/pop business (which I totally support) the publishers you're approaching are just individuals as well. It's not ivillage and it's not espn.com and it's not right to ask them to cut their rates which, really? Not high. I know what everyone's charging at least in the parentblogger community. It's also not an ad-savvy group and I do think your approach, while optimistic, preys on people who sometimes feel like they should take whatever they're offered because it's better than nothing.

Cost-per-click metrics unjustly penalize the bloggers/publishers unlike any other advertising medium, where the cost is not conversion-based. Brand impressions are valuable whether or not the customer clicks through right away. Say for example one of my readers sees an ad on my blog 20 times, and then clicks over to citymama, sees the same ad, and then decides finally to click through. Now you stop advertising on my blog because I didn't give you that click and she did. This is an overall industry issue and not yours of course...but I'm sure you see where I'm coming from.

Food for thought.

L
---------------------------
Thanks for an equally thoughtful rejoinder; I'm glad neither of us will walk away from this steamed.

Not to drag this out any further, but I wanted to note that the flip side to the conversion/brand identity dilemma is that small businesses by necessity tend to need results in the former arena. Nissan can afford to drop cash on building brand awareness, but mom and pop businesses tend to have (for better or worse) an eye toward a more immediate return. So yes, it's unfair that online ads are scrutinized by standards like CPC or CPA... but it's equally unfair that old media ads are so much more difficult to quantify. Realistically, it's just a change that publishers will need to accomodate and embrace.

Anyhow, when the time comes for our next round of trials I'll recommend a spot on Mom101. If anything, this exchange has shown that you ardently believe in what you're doing and that you're interested in engaging people in dialogue, and that counts for a lot.

7/31/07, 2:47 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

You're brilliant, Liz, no one could have said it better.

(So great to meet you again, too.)

7/31/07, 2:57 PM  
Blogger nomotherearth said...

Hi! I've been reading for awhile, But I don't think I've ever actually commented. I just wanted to say thank you for giving me some perspective on this whole advertising thing. I don't know much about it, and not having gone to BlogHer, I haven't had much chance to talk to other bloggers about it. My blog is too small for anyone to want to advertise on it, but I always like to be armed with info should the impossible happen. :-)

7/31/07, 3:01 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Danny - I flat out said in my post that you were not out to swindle bloggers and you were not a jerk.

I didn't reprint our whole conversation because it's very technical and my audience doesn't give a hoot about my theories --or yours--about the advertising industry in general or stuff like "brand/identity dilemmas" and how fair or unfair it is to advertisers.

Also, I didn't want to take you on point by point, starting with the notion that our personal blogs are "products" that we need to "demonstrate a belief in" by cutting our rates. Or how I disagree that in fact, no, it is not "tough to accept money for ads on one hand and then attack advertisers one is approached by on the other."

Accepting advertising is not mutually exclusive of being offended by PR people who pretend to know us, or by an ad professional offering us less than the set price, as if we were bartering over our old towels at a garage sale.

I did not misrepresent your pitch to me in my post, or the tone of our subsequent emails, and I stand by it.

7/31/07, 3:25 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

Danny just clearly affirmed that PR folks that pitch us do not read our blogs.

Way to take one for the team, Danny.

7/31/07, 3:31 PM  
Blogger Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

Yet another reason I hate that I missed Blogher this year.

Thanks for this great post and reminding us that we should never devalue ourselves.

My Google ads are history.

7/31/07, 3:36 PM  
Anonymous ec said...

Hilarious! Can't believe he asked for a discount -- even if his clients have a small business, a $30 ad isn't exactly going to break the bank. Great post.

7/31/07, 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Sundry said...

I'm really trying to understand why bloggers would be all het up against bad PR pitches, but . . . wait, WHY is this a problem? I field lame PR pitches all the time at my office job, and it would never occur to me to be offended that they didn't understand our company more thoroughly or spend the time to read about our services or respect our business. The same goes for spammy pitches that come to me via my blogs, if it doesn't interest me I throw it away. I'm truly curious why is this a contentious issue among bloggers right now, to me it just seems like any other marketing you're exposed to throughout your day: either ignore it, or don't.

7/31/07, 4:42 PM  
Blogger slouching mom said...

Wow. I have just realized how ignorant about all this I really am.

Thanks, Liz, for educating me. I'm absolutely going to rethink the Google ads.

7/31/07, 4:56 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Great question Sundry. Excellent.

I get 10 or more emails a day here and mostly I delete them. Sometimes I laugh at them. Once in a while, I post about them.

As individual approaches, they're a benign annoyance at worst. Nothing to be angry about. But when I look at parentblog pitching as a whole, it brings up a lot of issues. Like:

1. The assumption that all moms care about are cooking and cleaning products.
2. The perception that a mom's time is worth so little, that she is willing to do advertorial for a FREE ROLL OF PAPER TOWELS! This is something pervasive in marketing - check sometime what mothers are paid for focus groups versus single young women, or businessmen.
3. The lack of respect for bloggers and a lack of understanding of their influence by current MSM types.
4. The way PR ignores women of color in the blogworld.

Aside from those affected by the fourth point, I'd say we're less angry than annoyed. The discussions here help educate the marketing world (who is still very much in the dark about their role vv bloggers) and educate one another.

I'm open to other povs however! Any angry bloggers out there?

7/31/07, 5:01 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

This was one of the most important topics I took away from Blogher. Yes, we are important and we are worth more than the paltry sums that most PR companies are trying to "flatter" us with.

Really sorry I missed your panel but meeting you in person (and that gorgeous daughter of yours) was a pleasure.

7/31/07, 5:07 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

Liz, thanks for the education and for looking out for us. As someone who is contemplating ads/reviews for the future, I appreciate the knowledge.

I enjoyed seeing you again and meeting your mom and Sage!

7/31/07, 6:20 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

Why be hell bent against folks who want something for nothing?

It's not fair -- and you can absolutely delete or take your email down.

Or, you can offer them some guidance or create a dialogue so that perhaps we might be able to create a working relationship.

7/31/07, 6:32 PM  
Blogger Chag said...

This line was priceless: "It would cost more to buy a set of magic markers and make posters."

Keep fighting the good fight!

7/31/07, 11:11 PM  
Blogger bitemycookie said...

the trick is to be so convulsively offensive on your olde blog that nobody but sex shops will advertise. perfect audience, happy tryer-outters of products and able-handed review writers. and most of them have a buck or 2 to spend.

as an adslut myself, i think it's the very subconscious reason i shun ads on mine. i was a brand consultant to a couple of small clients when i first started blogging and would have never considered some of the tactics old danny boy was up to. blogs are sacred places and should be treated as such. time's not free, and neither is blog real estate any more.

i think it's time that bloggers turn the model around (and maybe this is already happening; i am so stupid as to how a lot of this stuff works these days) and start pitching companies with deep pockets whose brands would benefit and thrive from being posted on yours and other niche-appropriate sites.

every blogger should make a Top $40 list. or whatever the hell. write down your dream advertisers and them make it your business to get on the phone!! (omg, yes! pick up a g.d. phone for once) and track down the marketing director. pitch your stats. send a few samples of your writing.

that way all players mutually benefit from having the right ads on the right blogs, and "product placementy" types of things that they want, need, would use, and the maker can benefit from the built-in focus groupiness of it. time to get some strategic blog planners on the case, no?

i think i sniff a new agency model. anyone? anyone?

--sorry i got so long-windy there. tell my adoptive mother hello. still smiling from meeting you all.


oh! and dan, you have Isaiah Washington Syndrome. just shhhh. she was trying to save your nards and you put them back in the vice all by yourself.

7/31/07, 11:41 PM  
Blogger bitemycookie said...

oh and i also got the the paper towel request. the only one of its sort i've ever received. you have NO IDEA how many disgusting things i almost video blogged doing with those paper towels. i will wreck a mofo with some bad press for a stoopid idea. why? because it's fun.

7/31/07, 11:44 PM  
Anonymous the weirdgirl said...

I can't believe he did that! That's absolute bullshit. When I worked for startups, I did the media buying (i.e. we bought ad space directly from magazines, radio, etc. without using an ad agency) and you only got "discounts" when you bought larger amounts of space or developed long-term relationships. If I had ever asked for a discount because we were "small" (and we were), especially for a short run, I would never have been taken seriously.

And BiteMyCookie gives a great suggestion about approaching advertisers. I got pitched all the time by smaller companies or other startups who were offering ad space on their sites... and yes, sometimes we took them up on it. Frankly, some of those ads on smaller, targeted sites (like all of your blogs) provided the BEST return on investment!

If anyone decides to pitch companies directly just be smart about looking professional. Get all your stats together and have clean, professional-looking materials to email or leave behind. (Just two cents for the bloggers who don't have a background in marketing. I think there are a few out there.)

8/1/07, 12:34 AM  
Blogger Girl con Queso said...

I love it. Fist in the air.

8/1/07, 12:51 AM  
Blogger prescott said...

Hi Julie --

I think you have an interesting view of the PR world. (Gary Coleman is my favorite actor!) Speaking of which, there's a great new cleaning product that I think would be a great fit for your audience. Let me know if you would like a sample to review, and I'll send it out so you can get a mention of it on your blog toot sweet.

8/1/07, 1:16 AM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Hi Liz. I'm a little surprised you have this POV since you are in this industry (adv/PR). It's my opinion that mommy bloggers are way too emotional over this issue. It's just business. My husband works as a PR professional and we know that most of them are not sitting at their desks saying "Hey, how can I rip off the mommy bloggers because, ya know, they just sit home all day and would be happy to get a few paltry pennies thrown their way." That's NOT it. It's an advertising professionals job to get the most value for their buck. They look at the traffic a blog gets and consider what that is worth to them (or their client). If the advertiser and the blogger can come to terms, great. I agree with Sundry, it never occurs to me to be offended. They are just doing their job.

When approached for advertising or advertorials, bloggers have control and choice. Every blogger has the absolute right to negotiate and accept whatever they feel comfortable with. I don't agree that bloggers who take lower rates devalue the others who demand higher rates.

8/1/07, 8:38 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Hi Shannon, thanks for weighing in.

What's that campaign with the line: "An educated consumer is our best customer"? That's what I want: A community of personal bloggers who are aware of the issues (and have a forum to discuss them) so that they can make educated decisions.

Control and choice are only powerful when you know what the choices are in the first place.

8/1/07, 9:24 AM  
Blogger bitemycookie said...

shannon, i have to respectfully disagree. what liz describes (and you say isn't at all the case) is EXACTLY how this practice started: blogs were a new beast, PR and ad agencies had no idea to exploit this new-fangled reality media; and the research on how and what women with children do all day supports marketers presumptions that "these women" would absolutely be un-savvy enough to want to get "paid a little" in a penny-for-your-thoughts kind of way.

that was then. and in the ad-world now -- not much diff. the industry is run by men, for feck's sake.

the bigger firms seem to get it a little more now than then - it's the one-guy-PR-shops like danny who still don't get how it works and think the blind wrongly addressed email thing is still kosh.

but you are absolutely living in a fantasy land if you truly believe that:
1. it's *just* business. it's not. you're mostly talking about personal blogs. it's personal first (most times). THEN it's business. i would daresay many of the women to whom you are referring struggled on some level with taking ads or writing advertorials for pay. it may be a choice, but for some it's not an easy one. it's certainly not *just* business. and once you start thinking that, then you have done us the disservice of dimishing the value of the lives and writings the royal blogging us. most blogs are not a billboard on the highway and shouldn't be treated as such.

and

2. "It's an advertising professionals job to get the most value for their buck. They look at the traffic a blog..." clearly you have never worked in an ad agency. it was my personal $X00K/year job to figure out how to exploit not just mom bloggers, but every damm kind of blogger on the interwebs.
and then i quit once i realized the cannibalistic nature of what i was about to undertake.

however, one good trick i learned back then is not to start your email with "dear julie" when you're talking to a "dear liz" generically about how little you know about either of them.

my husband does this for a living too, on some of the world's biggest brands -- and he would never. because he knows better.

choice is one thing. but you are talking about the choices that have to be made my the 98% of female bloggers who don't happen to have a degree or a job in advertising/marketing.

oh, and i have yet to meet a Fortune 9000 company that doesn't have at least a $10M/year marketing and advertising budget. maybe it's time for them all to reconsider how that cash is spent.

but whatever you do, seriously -- as a woman and a blog-reader: don't blame the victim because they didn't know any better. that is probably the biggest gaping hole in your argument, in my mind.

ok, air kisses and big hugs.

liz - sorry to go 455729875489275 words on you again. just can't help getting cised up when people think that ad doods are "just doing their jobs." there's just a *touch* more to it than that.

8/1/07, 10:58 AM  
Blogger PunditMom said...

I'm sorry I didn't get to be in on your panel -- I was over at the political ones! (There's a big surprise). But you have hit the nail on the head, as did Stefania. There is just an overall lack of respect, still, for women in so many arenas -- politics, advertising -- you name it. Has anyone been asking the "daddy" bloggers for discounts? I don't think so.

8/1/07, 11:47 AM  
Blogger shauna said...

Thanks so much for this post. I'm new to all of it and this read is empowering and insightful. And your response to Danny was spot on! (In fact, I stood in front of my laptop and applauded you.)

Thanks again!

8/1/07, 12:26 PM  
Anonymous Dawn :) said...

What a great post! I hope you don't mind when I refer to it a little later in the week. I love it that you stood up for not only yourself but ALL mommy bloggers who are just happy to pay their hosting bill! LOL

Thanks again :)

Dawn, from a little bitty blog that you've never heard about LOL

8/1/07, 1:30 PM  
Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

I got the same form letter and sent him in return the form letter I created for PR people! A form letter for a form letter! I love it!

I did add that since my ads were only $30/week, the rate was already so low that there was no need to further discount it. Gah.

8/1/07, 2:28 PM  
Blogger Petite Mom Blogger said...

Even though I wasnt able to make it to blogher this year, I'm glad I was able to read some of the discussions on what happened through the mom blogs that I frequent.

After reading all of your posts regarding PR people & the comments, I'm definitely rethinking my strategy. Ive become overwhelmed with product reviews and I'm not getting paid. Some of them are worth it because I like the products but some of them are not.

It's time to start charging what I'm worth for product reviews.

However when it comes to adsense, I have to say that it is truly something that has worked for me. I'm not saying that it has worked well on my personal blog but it has worked very well on my other sites and niche blogs as a way to monetize my sites.

As for PPP, I signed up with them when it first started out just to see what it was all about and to do a review on another blog so I took an offer. The offer paid maybe $12 for a paragraph and the payment was timely. That is the only offer I have done EVER. I'm not sure where I stand on PPP however because there is such a difference in bloggers and blogger status. Some bloggers use it to make ends meet and I can't say anything bad about that. That's just the kind of person I am. I may even use PPP as it relates to one of my sites in the near future but probably not on my most valuable sites. I get too much traffic for some company to get a $5 permanent SEO friendly link going to their site. That's not fair for me.

BTW, I was one of the bloggers who accepted a roll of bounty paper towels. LOL. That was before I was bombarded with reviews and thought it was nice that someone recognized me and valued me. Now I know they don't really value me at all and basically I gave them a good review and a permanent link to their billion dollar product for about $1 worth of product. I feel sick. ;)

Thanks for the discussion.

8/1/07, 3:29 PM  
Blogger Miguelina. said...

Liz,

Your line about the magic markers was brilliant!

This is an excellent discussion and validates why I'm completely opposed to Adsense (not knowing how much your blog real estate is selling for makes no sense!).

One thing I would add is that even bloggers with a small audience (like me) have room to negotiate when they're approached by ad companies. Marketers pay a premium for well-segmented and targeted audiences - some companies want that. Maybe not P&G, but some do.

Don't let yourself be bullied - they need you more than you need their five cents.

8/1/07, 4:17 PM  
Blogger mamaDB said...

YOU. GO. GIRL.

It was so nice to read your post.

Best,
Danielle

8/1/07, 6:20 PM  
Blogger Lori- Fairytales & Margaritas said...

Thanks for the info. I'm fairly new to blogging, but a bunch of friends have started payperpost. I really had no idea about all this stuff!

8/1/07, 6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anne-Marie at The Write Spot said...

Gosh, I hate to add more to this discussion, but what about the people who are paying writers to blog for them. I'm not necessarily talking about blog networks like b5media, who do a base monthly fee and ad revenue share. Instead I'm talking about companies who want to hire you to blog 5 times per week, 250 word minimum, original content, SEO, etc. and only want to pay $200 per month.

I've had such jobs, which I only took because of the "prestige" of working for the site. I figured the hourly rate was o.k. since it was basically rewriting press releases they emailed me. Then the project changed. I had to blog anonymously. They wanted research and interviews done. The pay ended up being less than $10/hr, so I quit.

The freelance copywriting community has been hit with sites like elance.com where you low bid other writers for jobs. It demeans our work and brings down wages. I believe bloggers are facing the same situation and we need to stop taking jobs where we are paid $5 per post.

Like Liz said, it's time that all writers (bloggers and otherwise) get paid what they are worth!

8/1/07, 10:38 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Anne-Marie, you make excellent points! Women should be aware of their value in all venues, not just blogging. That elance deal sounds frightening. The one solace is that you get what you pay for. Hire a $5/day freelancer and the work will reflect it. (Jerkwads.)

But I want to be clear that value isn't solely monetary. As Mayberry mentioned in an earlier comment, what you get in return for advertorial or a writing assignment can be traffic, community belonging, prestige as you mention, or even just great writing fodder.

Hell, I blogged KY spray mist. Had a great time doing it too.

8/1/07, 10:59 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

bitemycookie - I am, in fact, surrounded by this profession. My husband owns a PR business and my sister is a media buyer in NYC. You misunderstood my comment. I was saying that it's just business *to the PR person* and that they don't sit around trying to rip off *only* mommy bloggers. As you pointed out - and I was trying to say - they try to rip off everyone. ;-) Liz and other commenters were offended that the PR people ask for discounts and my point is that they are not targeting mommy bloggers *only* in this respect. It happens EVERYWHERE, all the time.

Oh, and Liz? You need to move this blog to Wordpress so we can subscribe to your comment feed! It's tough following the brilliant comment conversations in bloggers ancient system. :-)

8/2/07, 7:37 AM  
Blogger gingajoy said...

ok. I never knew that I actually really cared about this issue, and you are making me see how SO relevant it is to any female blogger--even if she does not run ads.

god i love you.

8/2/07, 10:20 AM  
Blogger Ruth Dynamite said...

I think I've experienced every range of emotion by reading your post and all these comments. Thank you for saying it out loud and educating the masses with grace and chutzpah.

8/2/07, 12:13 PM  
Blogger Petite Mom Blogger said...

After thinking about some things last night I felt like I should come back here to comment on a few more things seeing as this is "the happening place" :)

Anyway, when you get paid for product reviews do you feel that you have to be positive? Doesn't it change your writing style? I think most bloggers would tend to be a little less negative when getting paid for a review for fear that they wouldn't get their next gig. What do you think?

Furthermore, I don't feel devauled when another mom blogger takes reviews or PPP or adsense or whatever that I don't. I say whatever works for them. The internet is a HUGE place and there is room for all of us and our niches!

To me it then seems like(maybe it's all in my head and simply isn't true and I'm being too emotional about it) those moms who are saying overall that we are being devauled are already above in terms of blog/job status or better off than the ones who are taking these offers. Or maybe they just don't get excited about free stuff like I do sometimes(well depending on the product)! ;)

8/2/07, 12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anne-Marie at The Write Spot said...

Petite Mom Blogger nails it. What you do (or don't do) to make money off your blogging is up to you.

I've done everything from paid posting, to reviews for free stuff, to getting paid (well and poorly) to write. I trust my gut in what I will and won't write about, and what I want to make on a hourly basis for writing/editing.

That being said, I work with some terrific PR people who have promoted my blogs, who are cool when I turn down things, and those who say up front "we'd like to send you X, but please don't feel obliged to write about it or write positively."

Like all facets of life, there are great people in PR and real a-holes as well.

8/2/07, 1:18 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Anne Marie - as I just emailed Petite Mom, I am all for free will. I just want people to be educated enough to know what choices are theirs to make.

I also think that someone had to stand up at some point and say, "Ya know, I was thinking...a woman making 50 cents on the dollar just doesn't seem fair" before things could change.

I also think that calling PPP "review posts" is misleading. They're not reviews, they're advertorial, or endorsements. Of course cash makes you want to to write nice things. We all like cash!

8/2/07, 1:42 PM  
Blogger Mama Luxe said...

I have also have received letters addressed to others. Although mistakes do happen--and I've certainly made my fair share--that immediately sets the spam alert off for me.

At any rate--that you for sticking up for those of us who don't have that sort of "pull" yet.

I do occasionally offer discounts if I truly believe in the person or their product...

8/3/07, 12:16 AM  
Blogger Johnathan said...

I already knew I had some misgivings about this post, when something Shannon(phatmommy.com) wrote helped me identify just what my discomfort was about.

You're essentially calling for a voluntary rate-level agreement. And whether you invoke gender solidarity, or blogger solidarity, or whatever to help foster an "us" vs. "them" mindset, you obscure the relevant differences in the "us" you claim to stand up for. The "us" who are marginal bloggers, not well established, or for whatever reason are not as attractive as promotional vectors (yes, I'm a real charmer) will lose their chance to even earn the discounted rates. Meanwhile, the "us" who are incumbents, proven revenue generators, etc., will benefit further as the opportunities that could have been spread to folks who used to be willing to accept the discounted rates will now flow to the blogging "mainstream". This is the same pattern and effect as minimum wage, union wage floors, the NYC taxi medallion system, beautician license requirements for hair-braiders, and a million other examples: the establishment benefits, the marginal suffer.

In this light, your statement that "I don't want to see his client's ads on any of your blogs, knowing that you took 10% off the price for him" sounds less like an expression of solidarity, and more like a racketeer's veiled threat.

I KNOW this is not what you had in mind. You are always very conscientious about not impugning the motives of your peers with whom you disagree, and I'd hate for you or anyone else to think that I'd be ascribing such base motives to you. However, I do find your position on this subject rather, umm, maternalistic?, and for anyone else out there who might share the same unease at the way you chose to express your position, I wanted to take a crack at possibly explaining just what might make them feel uneasy about it.

8/3/07, 11:19 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Fair enough points Jonathan. (Although the idea of me as a threatening racketeer - I think I like that! Even if it's a bit off from where I'm coming from.)

I'm not calling for a rate agreement at all and I appreciate you pointing out that it might sound that way. Also, it's the "marginal" or as I'd like to think, "yet undiscovered but still totally worthwhile" bloggers who I have in mind here; the people who will happily cut their rates for a chance at a long-term advertiser...that will never come to fruition. Or at least the way this particular pitch came across to me.

When the pitch is made under the guise of "Well, let's see how well your site performs for me and then I just miiiiight have a long-term relationship with you" it feels like a false promise. Like a lothario conning you into [euphemism here] for one night, while you hope there's a diamond ring somewhere in your future.

It's a false promise in that I know how often advertisers renew (or don't renew) on personal blogs, and false in that I know how well blogads on individual sites perform on click metrics (eek, did I just say click metrics?) which are not high.

If this guy really wants to see how well his ads do, he needs to buy an entire hive of blogs then look at the collective results (there are discounts through blogads when that is done, by the way, and he should know that). Not approach individuals, ask for discounts, and evaluate them one at a time. It's not even a good media tactic.

There's a cumulative effect that multiple brand impressions have in a campaign. In people terms: each ad on each blog is important to that campaign, whether or not the readers click.

SO...

That's why I don't want people to take less on this one. As far as anything else - hell, go for it! If you have a relationship with the company or believe in them or just find their ads pretty, cut the price as much as you want. I offer them free sometimes myself.

Also, thanks for calling me maternalistic. I don't hear that a lot.

(And great comment Jonathan. Seriously.)

8/3/07, 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Katy said...

Thank you for posting this. While I don't yet get contacted by PR folks, I do regularly have to deal with my own community members asking for discounts to advertise. While I get that they're a small business just trying to make it in the world, but um...so am I.

Great stuff here. Thanks

8/23/07, 5:18 PM  
Blogger Rhea said...

this is one of the best articles that I've read to date concerning this issue.

I just got an email from a pr company and wants me to "review" their product on my blog (http://www.thecocktailcafe.com) for free. What should I do?

They said that in return they would "post a link back to my blog" but thankfully, after reading this article, I know now that I must value the real estate that is my blog and not sell myself short.

thanks... Cheers!

1/20/09, 10:44 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Rhea, I think product reviews are a little different. If it's of value to your readers (because your website doesn't seem to be a personal blog, but a broader resource) you should consider it. But only if you like it. I run an entire website called Cool Mom Picks that does reviews for free. In fact, accepting money for a review is a little uncomfortable because it colors your objectivity. Feel free to email me if you want to discuss.

1/21/09, 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Cindi ~ Moomettesgram said...

Wow am I happy to find your blog!

I had been contemplating taking my adsense down since I couldn't find the right combination to produce any income. Checking my stats was disheartening, and as you mentioned, just giving the advertisers free ad space without ever reaching payout.

After reading that paragraph, I just went and took my adsense out, and now I'm back again to finish reading all the comments & more on your blog!

Thanks for the heads-up!

3/6/09, 1:06 AM  

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