Monday, January 9, 2012

When "mommy" equals "money"

I heard a rather interesting radio documentary recently on "mommy blogging" and how it's turned into big business. I felt compelled to write about it since some ethical quandaries popped up about blogging in general.

Back in the day, new moms began blogging as a means to share ideas and experiences, building a supportive community of women going through a similar phase in their lives. Doing so, they radically redefined motherhood by sharing their personal stories about what it was like to raise children, which isn't always rosy.

Women in particular have embraced social media (blogging, Facebook, Twitter) as a means of communication, and increasingly, as a career path. You see, some of these mommy bloggers became quite influential when writing about products they liked which, of course, caught the attention of big business. Popular brands, such as Fisher Price, realized that by partnering with bloggers to sell their products, they had access to a whole new market.

So, companies send sample products to influential bloggers. Then, said bloggers write a review about said product (usually favorable) and presto! instant advertising to hundreds, even thousands of women. Moreover, some of these companies offer toys, trips and cash to blog about their products. Reviews are also often accompanied by contests and giveaways. And who doesn't like free stuff?

This is all well and good, however, there is an ethical question that arises when someone is paid by a company to write a review. Is the blogger being authentic or has she simply become a corporate mouthpiece? Women now yield immense power in the marketing of baby products with their active presence in social media. There are even women who start blogging solely for the purpose of career building, i.e. making money.

I don't know about you but I find the greatest feature of blogging is its sense of community and personal expression. Once corporate interests seep in, blogging becomes a dog and pony show and loses much of its power as a means of communication. I personally get very turned off by blogs that used to be about content, then got really popular, and are now, basically, about selling products. That's when I stop reading them.

I don't mind ads on a blog but when the content itself veers toward product reviews, contests and giveaways, it merely becomes a vehicle for selling stuff. I wouldn't trust a review knowing the writer was paid to write it. Even if they fully disclose they were paid, it's still a conflict of interest.

Corporations are rapacious and will do anything to get their greedy hands on new consumers. Do we really want them taking over the blogosphere?

I must credit the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) - a full audio version of the documentary can be found here. I was not paid to write this.


Random Girl said...

I kind of feel the same way. If the review is authentic and the blogger posts it because he/she has personal experience with the product or is a long time user or something, I get that and think it's ok. But when the post becomes a big, generic infomercial, I'm clicking out.

Brahm (alfred lives here) said...

Well said, I heard that piece on CBC radio and thought WTF, isnt there a line here that some (not all) of these people are crossing? Then I thought, hey, why arent these companies sending me crap???


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