I yield to no man in my admiration for Mommy bloggers, who are, after all, Moms.
But accusations that Mommy blogs are engaged in pay-for-playpen product placement are plaguing the parental precincts of the plugosphere.
Start with the New York Times piece two weeks ago that noted this online promotional trend:
Marketing companies are keen to get their products into the hands of so-called influencers who have loyal online followings because the opinions of such consumers help products stand out amid the clutter, particularly in social media.
Mommy bloggers are increasingly plugging free products they receive. And for the most part, they’ve restricted their reviews to positive reactions. Buzzkill Moms need not apply.
That’s led to a bloggy backlash, as the Wall Street Journal reported last week:
Moms who blog about all things baby and family are abuzz after the blog MomDot spearheaded a “PR Blackout challenge” for one week in August. Mommy bloggers should avoid publishing press releases, reviewing products or promoting giveaways, writes MomDot blogger Trisha Haas, because plugging products causes too much stress, deadline anxiety and time away from the family.
The WSJ piece also quoted a soi-disant UnMommy blogger:
Daily Finance blogger Sarah Gilbert (who says that she is not a mommy blogger but is “journaling online about motherhood”), says that a PR blackout is a sign that online marketing via mothers has gone too far.
The Federal Trade Commission certainly thinks so. As Poynter Institute columnist Al Tompkins poynts out:
[The FTC is] now considering revising its guidelines for editorials and testimonials in ads and requiring that bloggers tell readers when they have been paid or otherwise compensated by a company they are writing about [PDF]. If a computer company were to send you a laptop to test and keep, for instance, you would have to disclose this information when blogging.
Some – like Women’s Wear Daily’s Memo Pad in a post about the 2009 BlogHer conference in Chicago this past weekend – have asked why Mommy bloggers are being targeted when technology bloggers are given a pass.
Session leaders encouraged bloggers to follow their own instincts and questioned why the FTC was targeting parenting bloggers when technology bloggers have been receiving free goods, trips and other swag for years.
Beyond that, as Daily Finance blogger Sarah Gilbert noted in the abovementioned post “Mommy blogger brouhaha is the new Mary Kay”:
Mommy blogs are not mommy blogs if they’re marketing vehicles, just as parties are not parties if there’s an expectation that you buy something before you say “goodbye.” The suggestion that moms only write about their kids and their husbands for a week isn’t shocking because it would be gnawing off the hand that feeds you; it’s shocking because it has to be said at all.
The hardworking (but childless) staff at Campaign Outsider thinks that says it all.