Mommybloggings Part Deux: The marketers are here to stay. Are we?
Of course this was all back in the day that you were a sell-out if you joined the BlogHer ad network, and it was rare to be asked to review much more than a book or the occasional ill-conceived personal lubricant. It was certainly before Nielsen started quantifying blogger "power" and moms accepted free trips to Disney and holy cow, is this the blog world I joined where people wrote funny stories about their kids? Or some wacky free-for-all where air fresheners and other assorted package goods fall from the sky and the goal is to grab as many as you can, quick! Quick, before someone else gets them!
Now people are fighting. Turf wars! Mommy gangland! The lines are drawn, the shivs have been whittled out of Fisher Price toddler spoons, the FTC is on the case, and it hasn't been pretty.
One one side you've got the earlier "mommybloggers" (who I still choose to call parenting bloggers), people like Erin and Lindsay who have been outspoken about their distaste for the blurred distinction between editorial and compensated posts, among other things.
On the other side, you've got the moms who are very excited to share their opinions on the new Turtle Wax Miracle Towel or whatnot (provided they get one for free and an identical one for their readers which they'll give away in a twitter contest) who say What do you care what I write about? You're not the boss of me. And by the way, I totally love Turtle Wax Miracle Towel and always have and my readers want nothing more than to read about the Turtle Wax Miracle Towel and my personal experiences with it and by the way, did I mention you're not the boss of me?
And they'd be right.
I've been saying for ages that there is a semantic issue here: We need to ditch the term mommyblog because it defines the blogger and not the blog.
There are review blogers and there are parenting bloggers. The fact that we are all parents is incidental. Jessica Smith would be the first person to agree to that. (The second would be Stephanie Smirnov who wrote a great post on bloggers and brands from the PR perspective.)
We're different people here for different reasons, despite finding ourselves on the same pitch lists and Evites, attending the same conferences and sharing plenty of Twitter followers. We have different goals and different measurements of success.
But of course it's not quite so black and white as those two categories, same as how it wasn't with my original Mommybloggings post (as many kind readers pointed out back then).
There are bloggers like Kimberly of Mom in the City who posts reviews and while she might not fit into an old school definition of mommyblogging, is one of the kindest, coolest, most authentic, honest writers I've had the privilege of meeting. I've sat on panels with her and she brings a thoughtfulness to the conversation that most of us could learn from. Any time anyone disses a product blogger I think, well - look at Kimberly. I love what she brings to blog comments anytime I catch her name beneath a post.
Then there are also classic essay sort of bloggers - say, me? - who, while we write about our lives as parents, are happy to accept certain opportunities like phone calls with Gloria Steinem and sitcom set visits because they are experiential. They fit into our lives, they provide content for our blogs, and they give us the ability to make jokes about celebrity urine that then the Wall Street Journal can go and attribute to someone else.
Which means guess what? Pretty much everyone is in bed with a marketer to some degree. Whores, all of us!
Except Blog Antagonist, bless her.
So I've been reading all these posts over the past few weeks, asking myself why should I care?
Why should I care what anyone else does with her blog? Why shouldn't I simply avoid the blogs I find distasteful and stick with the writers who continue to thrill me and delight me and entertain me enough to make up for the fact that there are other things I could be doing with my time besides reading their posts?
The truth of the matter is, I do care.
I care because how we behave in this space impacts one another. It affects the community as it is currently defined - that one with all of us in it together.
It's the same way you would care if you suddenly found your neighbor in your overpriced subdivision painted his house purple and gold and flew pirate flags out all the windows and bred chickens on the front lawn.
I care because I hate seeing moms demean themselves and accept less than they're worth - and I hate seeing them make demands that make us all worth a little less.
I care because I love this space. And I value the fact that that we can discuss--out in the open and with our real names attached--the issues that affect us. And because I think it's worthwhile to put other perspectives out there than the one out there that suggests bloggers should spend their days writing to PR folks in search of free stuff "for review." Because those PR people are horrified. And they are freaked out. And they are trying to figure out how to handle it, all the while floating phrases like shameless and unprofessional about our community--the community I love--behind closed doors.
Now of course I think that people have the right to write whatever the heck they want on their own personal blogs. There's certainly enough bandwidth to go around. I also have no problems with bloggers aligning themselves with marketers and causes they believe in as long as they're not misleading me about it.
But then, I am also sad that the marketing is no longer a small part of the blog world but what seems to be the biggest part.
I am sad that it's making some of the most authentic, talented writers on the web question their relevance.
I am sad that when a mom decides to blog, she is not told that rule number one is write well (with the merciful exception of advice from Citymama and Lindsay) but that rule number one is to make sure your contact info can be easily found by people who want to pitch you.
I am most sad that marketing is pulling us apart.
Did we all used to get along and hug and love every single mom who launched a free Blogspot account? God, no. Hell to the no. But we never questioned each other's authenticity. A blogger wrote what was in her heart and either we agreed or we didn't. Now no one can mention a trip to the zoo or a great movie without someone questioning whether it's been sponsored.
Gosh, that's more than sad, it's tragic. What do we have if not our integrity?
In the end, I wonder where it all this corporate interaction leave blogging. Where will it leave all these beautiful personal little virtual homes for self-expression and story trading and photo sharing?
I fear they'll be deserted and left to litter the internet, like the endless strip malls in Florida abandoned when the newer, shinier strip mall across the street opens for business.
It's flattering to be recognized by marketers, of course. But as I keep reminding myself, that's not why I'm here.