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Friday, May 9, 2014

Have Bloggers Sold Their Souls?

Once upon a time (about 1999), someone decided to write an online diary and the blog was born.  A blogger was (and still mostly is) someone who has organic ideas that are being broadcast to the Web.  Mommy blogs are especially revolutionary - women who speak to other women about common issues in childrearing, family life, household management and hobbies.  The sharing of ideas in an open marketplace in which everyone has a platform and voice was, and continues to be, an amazing phenomenon.  Soon, advertisers and the corporate world took notice that women were much more likely to listen to the opinions and enjoy reading about the lives of women just like them.  Enter the money.

When the advertisers and corporations noticed the impact of mommy bloggers, they realized that the blogosphere was an ideal place for the kind of grass roots, word-of-mouth advertising that is so powerful, so organic, so real.  So Bloggers started receiving free "stuff" to try and the product reviews and endorsements started.  All along, the point was for women to spread the word - in their own words - about goods and services they liked or tried.

Here's my problem.  As mommy bloggers we may be receiving free items or outright compensation for providing our opinions, they are still our opinions.  But are they really our opinions and thoughts?  I'm afraid we might be unwittingly losing our voice.

More and more, I'm seeing the advertising executives pushing to control the opinion, pushing to control the copy, dictating the message.  In some cases they are imitating us.  I recently saw a "petition" in support of using non-advertising search engines for use in our schools.  Guess what search engine was promoted in the "petition"?  Bing.  Sorry, that's no longer a group of concerned mommies, that's a marketing campaign.

Advertisers are learning how to sound just like us.  They are using our blogs as platforms for commercials and using us as poorly paid junior advertising executives.  I won't be surprised to discover that one or more blogs aren't really written by a mommy blogger, but are a front for an advertising firm.  The final insult?  We're doing it for free.  There is no amount of free stuff that can compensate us for opening a market with limitless potential AND for teaching them how to tap it.

Am I suggesting that bloggers shouldn't be paid for their time and effort in offering their opinions?  Should we reject brand placement or endorsements on our blogs for fear of losing our objectivity?  No.  I won't go that far.  However, I do think we need to be vigilant.  Don't sell yourself short.  Don't let a suit write the organic message.  Don't lose your voice.  It is unique and cannot be replicated as a cheap marketing method.