The other day I had a meeting about something completely unrelated to my writing or this blog. Over the course of the meeting though, I did mention the blog. Afterwards the person I had been speaking to saw a link to my blog in my email signature, and decided to take a look. Then he called me up to say he’d had a look at the blog, and it was good. Better than he expected, in fact. There is, apparently, a lot of interesting stuff on here.
Of course, I was glad he liked my blog; it was nice that he took the time to tell me he liked it and appreciated the content. But it does beg the question: what was he expecting?
This was not the first time something like this had happened, either.Quite often, people express surprise that there’s anything even remotely readable on this blog.
Blogging seems to have exploded in recent years. More and more people seem to have decided to start a blog, about parenting or otherwise. I’ve written before about how people seem to think blogs exist purely to get free stuff. There do seem to be a lot of bloggers out there for whom this is the case. There are those who set up a blog specifically for reviews; they call it a review blog, it reviews products and services, and everything is peachy. There are others who seem to set up a blog in order to get free stuff, and make the bare minimum of posts outside of that; they’re not presenting themselves as a review blog, but they really want all of that free junk.
On the whole, parent bloggers seem to have a bad name. More than just “ugh, a blog full of photos of your kid; no thanks.” People seem to just expect our blogs to be full of absolute crap. They’re surprised when there’s actually something on there they might like to read.
Don’t get me wrong; unlike the lady I met at Brit Mums this year who exclaimed in disgust, “there are so many new bloggers these days, I can’t keep up” I think it’s great that more people are blogging. For the first time in history, we all have the opportunity to express our views and opinions, and share them with the world. Anyone with an internet connection can voice their opinions (even if they lack a basic grasp of the English language, but that’s another post for another day). It’s also a fantastic way of recording things that go on in our day to day lives. I think that’s great; I deny nobody the right to set up their own blog, and go for it. In fact, I’ve actively encouraged several people to take this up.
Re-read that paragraph, though. I think blogging is great for expressing an opinion or recording our lives. Not for hawking random crap in exchange for a couple of quid. Not for reviewing and giving away more random crap.
This is where I risk being slightly hypocritical. I accept sponsored posts, and I review products too. I try really hard though, to make these the minority posts on my blog. I rarely have a sponsored post as the main content on my blog on any given day – unless I’m in a situation where I’ve hit a deadline, and I don’t have the time or inspiration to write a “proper” post.
I have a real issue with this “filler” content: sponsored posts, reviews, giveaways, crap. Yes, some people make an effort to hide the “sponsored” aspect of a post, or they write a whole post about all the different ways their offspring played with the free plastic tat they were sent. Still though, I consider it to be filler. Because if that company hadn’t offered you money or free crap, the post wouldn’t be there.
A quick look at the top 10 in the Tots100 tells an interesting story. I am a geek who loves statistics, so I had a quick look at the front pages of the most popular blogs in the UK. These are the blogs at the top of their game; the people who arguably are some of the most influential when it comes to family life and parenting. The face of parent blogging in the UK, if you will.
Now, it’s hard to compare one front page with another since, although we are all parent bloggers, we all do our thing slightly differently. Some have twenty posts on their front page; others have as few as three. To sit and look at all of them though, was a bit depressing. At the time of writing, the blog at number one has not a single sponsored post on their front page. The other nine though… wow. Since all have a different number of posts on their front page, it’s pointless giving numbers. Percentages though, can be very revealing. The total percentage of filler posts on front pages is 39%. Some of the most popular, influential parenting blogs in the UK have as much as 86% filler on their front pages.
Am I alone in thinking this is a bit wrong? Am I the only person who thinks our blogs should stand for more than an open declaration that our voices are for sale? I’ve had so many PRs contact me, offering pitiful amounts for sponsored posts – or even just the promise of my post being shared on their social media channels. When I question them on such a paltry budget, I am often greeted with “well, all of the other bloggers I’ve worked with are very satisfied.” Just last week, a representative from a globally well-known company told me I should be happy to write a post advertising them, and to be compensated by having a link to my blog shared on their Facebook. If I normally charge £50 for a sponsored post, then by writing that post I would have effectively been paying that company £50 to share my links. That sounds a little different, doesn’t it.
By accepting £20 for a post, and being grateful that a company should share our “sponsored” content on their social media, we belittle all parent bloggers – not just ourselves. We perpetuate the view that parent bloggers are not worth proper payment, that bloggers are just out for what they can get, and that page clicks and rankings are all that matter.
Far be it from me to tell anyone how to write their blogs; each to his own, and all of that. But seriously, can’t we all just make a bit more effort, than just plonking on sponsored post, after half-arsed review, after more sponsored content, badges and adverts in our side bars and long-term agreements to spout crap about one brand or another?
As I mentioned above, I accept sponsored posts. And I review items. Sometimes, if I’m really impressed with a book or a product, I’ll post a review of it even if (gasp!) I actually paid for it in the first place. Like a lot of bloggers, I am not in a position to turn down an opportunity for paid content if and when it arises. And sometimes, I am a bit slack in keeping up with my blogging, and find that I need to post two or three reviews or sponsored posts in a week. Doing that doesn’t sit well with me though. I love my blog, and I really don’t want it to become something filled with… filler. I really try my best to ensure the filler content fills very small gaps between good quality, well written content. You may well disagree as to the quality of the posts on my blog but I would hope you’re unable to find a time when I’ve had mostly filler content on my front page.