Mummy bloggers have nothing to fear
The first mummy blogger I ever read was a woman called Ree Drummond. A city girl from California who went to live on a cattle ranch in Ohio, when she met and married the man of her dreams, who also happened to be a cowboy.
Her photographs and willingness to share ALL the details of life on a ranch sucked me right in. That was four years ago and since then Drummond has gone on to have her own television show and a cookbook that made the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Now there are women like Drummond everywhere, including the approximately 200 or so currently blogging in Australia.
While that seems like a relatively small number, Aussie mummy bloggers have an impressive span of influence. Some people have described them as a “new social demographic” and they’ve even caught the eye of Julia Gillard, who invited a select few to have tea at Kirribilli House last month.
The phrase “mummy blogger” is a collective term for blogs written by women about life and motherhood, but you don’t necessarily have to be a woman or a mother to read or enjoy them. Although, it probably helps. People who consider themselves to be more “serious” bloggers often use the word in a derogatory manner.
The secret of the mummy blogger success story is simple: they know their audience back to front. And that’s mostly because they are their market: mothers busy raising families and living in the real world.
Conversation on these blogs spans everything from their own marriage, to washing, eating, cooking, shopping, friendship, babies and everything else in between. The worst are like sharing a cup of coffee with a needy neighbour, while the best are intimate, with the added voyeuristic pleasure of taking a peek into someone else’s life, warts and all.
Little wonder mummy bloggers have become an increasing target of Australian marketing companies, keen to take advantage of their influence and appeal by plying them with freebies in exchange for a plug on their website.
It’s a method that’s gone completely gangbusters in America where some of the biggest brands spend up to three quarters of a billion dollars spruiking to the approximately four million women contributing to the mummy-blogosphere.
Here in Australia, mummy bloggers intercept anything from beauty products, car leases and baby food to interstate and sometimes overseas flights. Lucky them. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to fly to New York, spend a weekend in the country side or feast on various types of chocolate biscuits in exchange for telling your friends about it online? Not me, that’s for sure. But not everyone agrees.
A growing group of Australian mummy bloggers have started to feel stigmatised by the reaction of some people to their foray into to the advertising world.
Veronica Foale is one of them. She has run her blog somedaywewillsleep.com for the last five years. She wrote a recent post expressing frustration at the accusations made by certain people that mummy bloggers are unethical in their approach to writing posts sponsored by advertising companies and were “selling out”.
Particular points of contention included the a piece written by Julian Lee that included a quote from an Addisons lawyer about the legal “grey area” mummy bloggers were crossing in receiving what she described as substantial non-monetary benefits.
And a blog she believes was allegedly started by Helen Razer called The Sponsored Lady that satirises the relationship between PR companies and mummy bloggers.
Foale admits that the criticism and satire are an expected part of having an online personality. But she resents the insinuation that mummy bloggers are unethical in their treatment of sponsored posts and can’t be taken seriously.
“The truth is mummy bloggers are agenda-free. Marketing companies are attracted to us because our readers trust that we only recommend something that we really like. That’s what they expect. As long as we work with integrity we have the right to be heard and be an accepted part of the media landscape,” she told The Punch.
Foale says she has good working relationship with around five or six PR companies, and gets a package in the mail at least once a month. She is under no obligation to write about anything receives and the income she does receives from any posts she does write is just “pocket money”.
She also said that mummy bloggers deserve to be treated in the same way technology and food bloggers who are free to endorse products without scrutiny. Good point.
It’s hard to find any overwhelming evidence to suggest a huge backlash against sponsored mummy bloggers posts outside of Twitter and the responses to the Lee article. Mostly because these blogs, by definition, cater to a pretty niche, albeit increasingly influential market.
That growth is the most interesting part of this chapter in the Australian mummy blogger story. As the popularity of their online communities continue to grow, so will the opportunities for commodification - and our army of mummy bloggers should snap them right up.
Eventually the haters will just fall to the wayside. Otherwise, do as your mother told you, and just ignore them.
Follow me on Twitter: @lucyjk
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