October 23, 2009

Riding The Mommy Blogger Gravy Train Part II

Somewhere around my fifth blogiversary I found myself thinking more seriously about whether it was time to hang up my keyboard. It wasn't as much fun anymore and I felt like my writing reflected that. But since it coincided with my 40th birthday I wondered if outside influences were affecting my feelings so I decided to try and shake things up.

So I set out on a blogging walkabout. At some point I stumbled onto some of the mommy blogs and started flipping around there. I hit a bunch of daddy blogs as well and found it kind of interesting. You know us parents, we love to exchange the war stories.

As I tooled around I noticed that there were a ton of blogs that were holding giveaways and or providing product reviews. I wasn't completely unfamiliar with this, but I hadn't paid any attention to it before. It changed in part because of one blog. I can't remember the name but I was astounded by how bad it was.

It was a combination of video and written posts that were just atrocious. Normally I would have just clicked away but it was clear to me that this blog was being sponsored by a few companies. It peaked my curiosity and I spent time clicking around trying to suss out what was going on.

After years in marketing/advertising I know that brands will follow the eyeballs, but this bothered me. The blog was cluttered with crap. The writing was abysmal and the video wasn't much better. I suppose that you could argue that this made it more authentic, but I didn't like it.

I blogged about it indirectly and wrote a post called Riding the Mommy Blogger Gravy Train. I followed up on that post with When Blogging Became a Business and Getting Paid to Write- The Bloggers Dream.

Since then I have been trying to put my thumb on why I am irritated with people who got into blogging solely for the purpose of trying to garner free trips and gifts from whomever would pay them. Why should I belittle professional shills who will do anything and say anything for a buck.

Is it a case of jealousy? Am I jealous that people saw and opportunity and took advantage of it? No. The answer is that I am not bothered by bloggers who happen to do reviews. I am bothered by shills who happen to blog. That may sound harsh or seem inconsistent, but it works for me.

And in the interest of full disclosure I have reviewed products in the past and will do so again in the future.

Yesterday my pal at Fink or Swim and I spent a few minutes on Twitter tweeting a bit about a related topic. We went back and forth about whether free products and trips provide an undue amount of influence on the reviewer. I have a hard time with it.

If I provide you and your family with a free Playstation are you going to be fair and honest in your review. If your kids are laughing hysterically and your family is having a great time at Disneyland are you going to tell us about the sub par accommodations and how bad the food was.

Are you going to bite the hand that feeds you?

I am torn about this. Fink makes some good points about how all information is filtered and there are always questions about bias. He asked me if I thought that reviewers should pay for the products that they review.

I suppose that one of the reasons I subscribe to Consumer Reports is because it is supposed to be unbiased. They purchase their products and do not accept advertising. In theory the reviewers have no feeling one way or another about a brand.

That doesn't mean that their personal feelings never get involved or that there is never any sort of influence, but it is better.

So what is the bottom line here? Well, I suppose that it is the same as it has always been. Buyer beware. Pay attention and use your own judgement. It is not impossible for someone to give an objective review of a free product/service that they received. But I am still skeptical.

Anyhoo, what do you think?


Kelly @ The Miller Mix said...

I'm with you - very skeptical. I have done a couple reviews, but neither of the companies asked to do the review. One was a prize I won on another blog and the other was a gift that my kids enjoyed, so I shared.

However, I have seen review blogs where everything was sunshine and rainbows. Really, review blogger? Nothing bad to say - at all? Even with my reviews I had some cons along with my pros.

I choose not to frequent the review blogs anymore. I don't trust the review and don't believe the product is lined with gold and gives good orgasms.

Can people be objective, yes. Do I think they push themselves to offer a balanced review when potential dollars are on the line, no. Does this answer the question?

Dana K. said...

I follow about 20 excellent mom blogs on MommyBlogs.com. Every now and then I discover another good one and follow it also. I follow them because they are well-written, funny and/or thought provoking. Sadly, they are the exception thse days, as most of the others out there are garbage -- unoriginal, boring, useless review blogs that lack credibility.

Jack said...

Hi Kelly,

I have done reviews and will do them again. I have a book that I am reading now that I am going to review.

So I can't say that I am completely opposed to the practice. Maybe I am hypocritical about this.

But I really do see a distinction in how it is done.


I suspect that there are still many very good blogs. It just takes some effort to find them.
All a question of whether you want to invest the time I guess.

Kim Tracy Prince said...

When featuring something like that, I am straightforward about what my content is going to be: I will write about my experience with this product/location/service. I also don't just half-ass it, which is why my backlog is so long. I make sure the writing has at least the same tone as the rest of my stuff, if not the same fascinating, unforgettable quality.

I have that Disneyland post in the queue. Just you wait.

E. Fink said...

Hey Jack,

Thanks for the shout out.

I am the kind of person who never trusts any review or TV ad or article or blog post about products. To me, the only way to learn about a product is to hear about it from users of the product or to test it yourself.

I really hear your issue loud and clear. We all want to trust the information we hear

Sorry pal, ya can't. That's all.

(That being said, if there is promotional considerations given YOU MUST disclose.)

Jack said...


Disclosure, transparency and quality make a significant difference. Waiting for the Disney post with baited breath. ;)

I am the kind of person who never trusts any review or TV ad or article or blog post about products. To me, the only way to learn about a product is to hear about it from users of the product or to test it yourself.

I am not so different. One time I heard a bush tell me to take my shoes off because I was standing on holy ground. So I made a point of getting on my hands and knees to verify that there were no speakers disguised as rocks.

On a serious note it is almost always better to be able to have personal experience than to rely upon reviews.