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.