Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Compensating Mommy Bloggers--The Virtue of Transparency

This post was originally published in the ReachingWomenDaily blog.

As I recounted in the first post in this series, I originally became fascinated with mommy blogs by watching my daughter, a new mother at the time. I gradually became aware of their potential as marketing media, although in those early days, I was thinking mostly about their value for targeted online advertising.

I was also intrigued by the number of blogs that were busily distributing coupons.I should have realized sooner that there was more to the coupon activity than meets the eye. It began to dawn on me when I saw this press release and visited the Jessica Knows blog. Her right nav bar has clear indications that she is affiliated with various brands. She also has a clear disclosure statement.

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. This blog does accept forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, or paid topic insertions. We will and do accept and keep free products, services, travel, event tickets, and other forms of compensation from companies and organizations. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. The owner(s) of this blog is sometimes compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though the owner(s) of this blog receives compensation for some of our posts or advertisements, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers’ own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question. This blog may contain content which might present a conflict of interest. This content may not always be identified. To get your own policy, go to

For several months there has been a lot of buzz about compensating bloggers (WSJ, subscription required) but most of it hasn’t focused specifically on the mommy blogosphere. Here’s a good example; this post explains the controversy surrounding Chris Brogan’s Kmart posts and links to Chris’s reply. The controversy raged for awhile even though Chris’ posts were clearly labeled as being sponsored. The mommy blogosphere is so active there are now various lists of top ten mom blogs. This one focuses on the coupon blogs. I took a look at all 10 and found the following:

• Only one had a disclosure statement and it seems word-for-word the same as the one above. It probably came from the same place. Good for these 2 bloggers!
• Most of the others give clear evidence of monetization. I’m basing that on the blogs being hosted and design and navigation suggesting the use of a professional programmer.

My sample size of 11 blogs wouldn’t pass the “representative” test, but I think the results are compelling. Mommy bloggers are being compensated in various ways and they aren’t bothering to disclose it.What should marketers do? I think it’s obvious that they should require a reasonable level of disclosure. The disclosure statement in use seems to cover the waterfront and it would make sense to require it of affiliates. Perhaps what the business is supplying to bloggers makes a difference, so I’d further suggest:

• Coupons. The mere distribution of coupons through blogs doesn’t seem to create a huge issue. Do users care where coupons come from? I don’t think so! Is there sometimes paid travel or other compensation for the couponing affiliates? It appears so, and disclosure of that would be desirable.
Product descriptions and ratings. Full disclosure is required when products are being discussed. Consumers have come to rely heavily on peer ratings, and they want to know if the recommenders are truly peers or whether they are compensated endorsers.
Content. Be sure to brand any content that is made available for use in the blogosphere. That protects both sides.

Wal-Mart seems to have gotten it right with their Elevenmoms blog. It’s linked to the Wal-Mart site and the bloggers and nature of their activities are disclosed. From there, it’s a matter of how well done and useful the blog is. If consumers find value, they will use it. And Wal-Mart, apparently having learned its lesson a couple of years ago, isn’t letting itself in for brand-damaging disclosures.

Transparency Rules!

Author Notes: The second post in this series can be found on RWD. Soon after this post was written the FTC began an investigation of compensated blogging.

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