Suburban Turmoil: Selling out is Nobody's business

Wednesday, August 5, 2009 at 11:00pm

It will probably surprise exactly none of you that I don’t live a very glamorous life.

I spend most of my time changing diapers, cleaning up spills, mediating disputes over whether the TV should be tuned to Playhouse Disney or Nick Jr, and coating graham crackers with peanut butter and sprinkles. And when I get a spare second or two, I write.

But a couple of weekends ago, I was treated like a superstar — celebrated at endless rounds of parties where celebrities performed in my honor, gifted with swag bags containing electronics, toys, jewelry, clothing, makeup and hair products, and interviewed by NPR and the London Times.

All this occurred simply because I’m one of tens of thousands of moms who started a blog. And right now, mommybloggers are hot property.

In the last two years, advertisers and manufacturers have discovered that mom blogs offer a cheap and highly effective way to advertise products to the highly coveted mom demographic. Most mom blogs of note are laden with sidebar ads hawking everything from new movie releases to Pepto Bismol. (Disclosure: my blog contains ads, too. Lots of ‘em.)

Still more marketers hope to convince moms to write about their products or events for free; I receive anywhere between 100 and 200 e-mails a day from PR companies and entrepreneurs pitching products, story ideas, press releases, and occasionally, free trips to learn more about a brand. I delete almost all of them.

Nowhere was the love affair between advertisers and mom bloggers more evident than at BlogHer, the Chicago blogging conference where my rock star weekend took place. Although the conference featured panels on blogging topics of interest, those discussions were almost entirely drowned out this year by the vendors, who rented booths, suites and lobby space in the hotel, paid for the parties, and brought in everyone from Project Runway’s Tim Gunn to Food Network star Paula Dean to get the mom bloggers’ attention.

It was a far cry from BlogHer conferences I attended in years past, when women passionately debated social issues and our measly swag bags contained potholders and a few ballpoint pens. Back then, the primary social connections to be made were enduring friendships, and most of the parties were impromptu affairs hastily thrown together in hotel rooms.

My, how times have changed.

I’ll admit that it’s nice to finally be recognized by the advertising world as more than a bored housewife cluttering up the Internet with tales of my children’s misadventures. But if I’m honest, I sort of miss the old days. Because all of this attention has come at a cost.

Thousands of mothers now are starting blogs not for the traditional reasons of finding a supportive community and honing their writing skills, but instead, simply to make money and get free stuff. They’re sending out media kits. They’re demanding that sponsors pay for them to attend blogging events. They’re swaggering around the Internet, boasting of their big league deals with automakers and cable networks.

They showed up en masse at BlogHer this year, interrupting personal conversations in order to pirouette for strangers in sponsored fashion ensembles. They shoved other women out of their way as they headed for the swag tables and snatched up as many bags as they could carry.

And they’re beginning to crowd out the “real” voices online, voices from women who aren’t interested in winning the attentions of Johnson & Johnson executives or being named an Internet “Power Mom” by Neilsen, but want only to tell their stories and connect with other moms. Those voices are still out there, but they’re getting harder and harder to find amid the clamor over snack bars and diaper wipes.

It all makes me worry that the mom blogosphere, once revered as a place where women could admit their failures and get real, now is being tidied up with Clorox wipes and Lysol disinfectant to resemble the pages of parenting magazines.

After all, why would advertisers court the black, single mom blogger who used to be a stripper and happens to have an amazing talent for writing, when they could have the perky, 90-pound suburbanite mom with the bright smile, cozy nuclear family, and blog that’s chock full of hearts, flowers and typos?

Some of us who were around before the age of blog advertising spent a lot of time during the conference weekend whispering fervently to each other that ultimately, good writing would matter most. But let’s be honest. The big money has arrived.

It’s time for the ex-stripper to pack it up.

The upside of all this, for me anyway, is that the blog drama ends when I close my laptop. Online, I may sometimes feel a little like a rock star. One weekend out of the year, I even get to live out the fantasy.

But in real life, there are school meetings to attend, butts to wipe and a monstrously large load of laundry calling my name. In real life, I’m a nobody, chauffering my children around town and flipping through my coupon saver in the aisles of Kroger.

And that’s just the way I like it.

Read more of Lindsay’s columns at www.suburbanturmoil.com

13 Comments on this post:

By: slzy on 8/6/09 at 9:48

why don't you stay out of krogers until they certify they don't hire illegal aliens?

By: mandiegirl on 8/6/09 at 11:22

Well said, Lindsay. I'm not a mom, so there goes the mommy-blogger thing out the window, but I do know that I write for myself, and it can be a little frustrating when there are people out there giving all sorts of crap away on their over-done, noisy blogs just to gain a readership. I've done a giveaway or two, but just to show my appreciation, not to grab loyalty. When it's all said and done, though, it really is for me- for remembering my life when I'm too old to remember what my husband's name is. ;)

http://mandiesmumblings.blogspot.com

By: LegallyBlonde on 8/6/09 at 11:30

good for you for not selling out! I'm not a mom but I keep a blog to keep a record of the kids in my life and to share photos or stories and keep me in practice for when I do have my own kids to blog about!

bspeight.blogspot.com

By: jennatjugglinglife on 8/6/09 at 11:36

I wasn't there for two reasons. My son was playing water polo in the Junior Olympics and there's no way I would miss that and I also had a feeling (though I've never been) that it might go down as you described.

I'm a "Power Mom" who had no idea until someone pointed it out to me. What I am finding is that weeding through the advertising offers takes time away from the writing and community and I'm not sure I want that.

Jenn @ Juggling Life

By: mariahs86 on 8/6/09 at 12:14

I totally agree with you! I started a blog not too long ago becuase I am pregnant and I wanted a way to keep a sort of diary to document my journey through pregnancy. But I have been reading mommy blogs, including yours, for a long time. One of the things I enjoy is that it is real. No one reads my blog, but you know what? I'm going to keep writing it anyway because I only started it for myself and my unborn child to begin with. And like you mentioned, I just wanted to have a way to relate to other moms out there.
http://peanutchronicles-mariahbuck.blogspot.com/

By: thebloggingmum on 8/6/09 at 12:24

I started my blog because I wanted my son to someday have a written glimpse into his mom's life. I started a blog because I want to remember these moments after they've gone. I started a blog because I can type faster than I write- and with the capability of having my blog published into a book (anyone can do it), it'll be around just as long as a hand-written journal.

I do think that I will go to Blogher next year- because the mommy blogging community is exciting, troubling, concerning, and empowering, all at the same time. It's also in NYC and I don't pass up reasons to go there.

I would also like to connect with other bloggers, women like me who are more comfortable behind a computer screen, writing out our thoughts in (sometimes) coherent fashion simply because we love to write and share our human experience.

We could start an underground BlogHer movement! :)
-Melanie
http://thebloggingmum.blogspot.com

By: mandyhornbuckle on 8/6/09 at 1:21

It's an interesting phenomenon, this blogging thing. Advertisers love us if we advertise, readers hate us if we advertise. It's a tightrope. The more I read about this year's BlogHer, though, the more I think I don't want to be on that tightrope at all. I may not have many more than a measly 100 readers or so, but at least those 100 readers can trust me.

Sadly, I think this year's BlogHer reviews have really turned me off to EVER attending a BlogHer conference. It feels too much like you have to be 1) super-popular in the blog world (and advertising world) or 2) a SWAG whore to get any kind of enjoyment out of this conference, and each group pisses off the other. Seems like a lot of drama. I don't know if it's worth it.

http://jackandmandy.blogspot.com

By: WiseMama on 8/6/09 at 1:54

You rock.

Keep on rockin' the blog with honesty and the readers will remain.

If I want to see something all dolled up and perfect, I can turn on any sitcom, at any time.

http://mamawise.wordpress.com

By: rubberbacon on 8/6/09 at 2:16

I'd rather have attended Comic Con, it was the same weekend. BlogHer sounds like too much drama.

I remember you were doing all those BlogHer videos, I assume they were connected to the same organization. Those ended abruptly and I made me wonder what is BlogHer's overall strategy? I originally thought it was just to match advertisers with bloggers but the videos made me think there was more to it - then they ended. Any idea?

http://sprocketswife.blogspot.com

By: Carenann on 8/6/09 at 2:34

Interesting article Lindsay. I really don't know much about BlogHer but did think about looking into it more when I heard that it will be in NYC next year, now I'm not so sure.

I guess I consider myself a "mommy blogger" because I'm a mommy and I blog but I write about all different topics, not just "mommy" topics. I have simple AdSense ads on my blogs but they're rarely clicked on and I certainly never have anyone contacting ME to give me free stuff... I imagine a little of that wouldn't be so bad. ;)

I have stopped reading various blogs because they've suddenly become WAY too commercial. You seem to have a great system down for handling your professional writing jobs as well as your personal blog. I like the way you do it and you've definitely become a blog I look forward to reading. Thanks for that!

Caren
citymommacountrymomma.blogspot.com

By: justeatit on 8/8/09 at 11:59

Yeah, it sort of cheapens the whole thing. I guess that it what happens to any "phenomenon" and you early bloggers were lucky to have enjoyed the good ole days. After reading all the blog posts about that past convention, I'm more inclined to save my money for a vacation instead of attending one of those.

All this makes me wonder though, are the only readers of blogs other bloggers?

http://www.moldonthewonderbread.blogspot.com

By: chainsofyesterday on 8/10/09 at 4:35

Wow, I'm really behind in my reader, aren't I?
I think, in the end, it's pretty easy to separate the writers, the bloggers, from the ones in it only for the money. And for now, PR may be throwing their product at the mega-moms with press kits... but it's the ex stripper's blog that keeps people coming back, that has consistent and long term traffic.
Reading through a blog, most can tell when it's not sincere, and don't stick around that long, which means readership drops, and the PR people are looking at pretty sad stat counts.
Those blogs will hopefully fade away quietly - (okay, I'm being all pollyanna, aren't I?).
I'll just keep reading the blogs of the REAL moms, and hope the PR people pick up on the fact that that's what most of us actually read.
Kay @ chainsofyesterday.com

By: elisha on 11/11/10 at 10:21

Well, that's just sad. It's kind of what I was afraid of when I started getting multiple emails daily asking me to mention products, events, services, etc. on my blog. I've never done the ad/hawking product thing...not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not what I'm about. I don't want to say I'll NEVER do it, but when I'm reading other blogs (which I do daily), when they start off with a contest or a commercial I click away. I think the beauty of blogging is when it's an open forum for sharing thoughts and experiences. But that's just me. Do people really make a lot of money from the ads?

Lindsey, I love your blog...it's honest and funny and real.

Elisha @esablog.com