So, that underbelly I was talking about… (updated)


A few months back, I wrote a post on my PR and journalism blog, Getting Ink, mentioning the commercialisation of the UK Mummy blogging scene, and how I felt it was beginning to create some divisions and tensions.

I got a lot of comments – universally saying I was wrong. The Mummy blogging community is so supportive and friendly, people said, nothing resembling a seedy underbelly here.

So, erm, did you all see this in the Indie yesterday? Nice article on Mummy blogging, quite bland. But check out the comments – ouch! 

Have to say, I’m not surprised in the slightest. If you add money to any community, those who get it (in terms of advertising, freebies or publishing deals) will always be a source of irritation to some of those who don’t. Isn’t it inevitable?

I’ve had some first-hand experience of handling this frustration, because I put together an index of  the top 100 UK parent blogs. “I was once blog of the week in the Daily Mail!” fumed one blogger. “I regularly pay WordPress for additional bandwidth, and I know for a fact that X and Y blog have less than half of my traffic!”

Another blogger said she belongs to a “private forum for established, PUBLISHED bloggers” and claimed that BMB (a social network for parent bloggers) is basically just a circle of mates sending each other pretty badges.

Being honest, I can see both sides. It must be frustrating seeing people who don’t write as well as you getting plaudits or freebies. Perhaps even more so to see someone getting a book deal when you know your audience is far bigger.

But from a journalist’s perspective: I don’t think the PR community is being misled. I think most PR agencies view blogger outreach (as it’s called) as being incredibly inexpensive, and they don’t worry too much if some of their attempts don’t generate a return – providing they get enough return overall. Also, for a PR agency, a Mummy blog with 500 incredibly relevant readers might be worth more than a generic website with 10,000 readers.

 That's not to say PRs don't need to be smart or selective when pitching blogs. They should absolutely be asking questions like: is this a good blog, is it read outside a small circle of virtual friends, is it well linked to, does it generate conversations? Does it have values and content that align with the client’s messages? Is the blog itself selective, or does it promote anything that comes along?  Part of me suspects in the early days that many PR agencies are just adopting a scattergun approach and hoping something hits the target – which doesn’t surprise me, it’s what many agencies do when pitching mainstream journalists.

Which brings me to another point: the UK Mummy blogging scene is very new. I don’t think, as yet, any real leaders have emerged. I think over the next year or so, we’ll start to see some blogs remaining non-commercial. Those that do accept advertising, or freebies for review, will have to learn to balance commercial and non-commercial content – or lose their audiences.

Blogs that are better written and more engaging will find it easier to build and retain an audience than those that are less well-written. If you genuinely feel overlooked, then work harder to promote your blog, to increase engagement, to build links – you can't expect the world to come looking for you.

Ultimately, those who’ve invested time in building relationships and not undermining their blogging friends are the real winners – because the real point of blogging, for most of us, isn’t making money or getting freebies. It’s about having fun, sharing our writing, making connections and exchanging experiences and ideas about parenting, creating a record of our children’s early years. A free box of soap here or there doesn’t change that, surely?

 [Note: I updated this because I don't want to be overly ra-ra* about
ALL blogs. I do definitely think that good writing and being selective
about what you cover on a blog is important.] 

*technical term

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