Nothing in life is free. Except, it seems, a mommyblogger.

Well congratulations mommybloggers:

We are all officially known as  the Best Free Advertising Resource of the Marketing World.


It’s a big title, I know. Maybe too big to fit on a sash, when we walk down the aisle at our next mommyblogger pageant (brought to you by Piggly Wiggly and the makers of Turtle Wax).  But I’m sure with a skillful hand, it can be cross-stitched in teeny lettering on a nice throw pillow and given away in a blog contest. Six extra entries if you Twitter it.

How do I know about this coveted accolade we’ve earned? Because yesterday, the advertising team at Cool Mom Picks (a small and worthy mom-run business if I ever knew one) spent a good deal of time putting together a proposal for a four-month advertising program for a major brand that was rejected because *gasp* we had the audacity to ask for actual money to run their banners.

Not giveaways for our readers.

Not “a link on our microsite” or “access to our event” or “gift cards for your readers” which is in fact what they were hoping to compensate us with.

Money. As in, that stuff we use to pay our writers and designers and tech guys and the US Postal Service and the fine discount hotels of Las Vegas during trade show season.

I think the actual response from the marketer was something like: Oh, we don’t need to pay for this. The mommyblogs are so great, they’re excited to help and do it in exchange for a link!

Here is the specific “help” they are referring to:

-Promotion on your website and all social media outlets (blog, Facebok, Twitter, etc)
-Placement of promotional banner ads on your blog with hyperlink
-Dedicated email blasts and/or inclusion in newsletter highlighting the promotion
-Promotional links on existing promotional material (ie on emails you send to your readers)

Now stop and think about that for a sec:


In exchange for a link.


And it’s not even the first time I’ve heard that moms are lining up for this kind of exchange.

Now let’s be generous (very generous) and assume that their microsite sends you a whole 10 visits a day with that big ol’ promised link. That’s 300 visits a month. That’s 1200 visits over the length of this 4-month campaign.  If you’re normally earning a $10 cpm on your banner ads (again, being generous here) and you’ve agreed to post their banner in your sidebar, you’ve just offered up 4 months of graphical banner advertising on your site (plus twittering, Facebook updates, emails, and so on) to a huge company for a whopping $12.

Why, I do believe their marketing agency is getting a bonus this year!

For a long term I’ve been writing about this stuff. (Hey, I’m in advertising and it’s on my mind. It’s a disease, really.) I’ve written about what you’re worth as a blogger. About why women in particular tend to undervalue ourselves. About self-promoting with class and dignity. About the difference between advertising and editorial, and understanding why we don’t ask PR agencies for money when they pitch us a story, but why we do ask for it when they want us to place their video widgets in our sidebars and stick a BRAND AMBASSADOR badge on our home pages right next to that photo of our children, you know, the cute one at the swimming pool.

I’ve said over and over that yes, what you do with your blog does affect the rest of us. And that just because a six year-old in the Guangdong Province is willing to build injection molded plastic toys for $.10 an hour doesn’t make it okay.

And just a few weeks ago, I got into an interesting discussion on Twitter, about why, if we’re signing a contract with a big marketer for a one year spokesperson gig, something some mommybloggers are angling to do right now, we need to stand up together and say–politely–why, thank you ever so much for the opportunity, Big Marketer, I can’t wait to get to work and do the greatest job ever. Now let’s talk fee…

Of course those marketers will get what they pay for. They always do.

But ack, it’s getting so frustrating to those of us who really care about this kind of stuff.

Let me stop here and assure you, I’m not actually upset at all about losing the proposal. Happens all the time. Let me also say I can’t blame the mommybloggers completely (although I think it’s wildly naive to imagine that we’d somehow get the long end of the stick on this one). I do understand that a major appliance or a Visa gift card or a trip to scenic Cincinatti is a dandy trade for the seemingly small task of promoting something, especially in a tough economy. Even the promise of “publicity”can be pretty darn appealing.

Really, I’m less annoyed about moms who are willing to work for coffee makers than I am about a big brand that is willing to pay a mom in coffee makers.

Or worse–links.

Simply because they can.

Because they know a mom will accept.

But here’s the thing, it won’t stop until we all say no. Until we all say, this isn’t good enough. And we send that marketing consultancy right back to their client, forced to confess that maybe this word of mouth campaign, this asking of the mommybloggers to do all of our advertising for no pay wasn’t such a great idea after all.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, just once, someone was forced to say, we underestimated the moms.

Even if you’re just starting out, even if you have 10 readers and two of them are your toddler twins, your time and effort and endorsement are worth something.

I believe in you. Can’t we all believe in ourselves?

Edited to add: As always, I want to make it realllllly clear that I don’t believe in being paid for product reviews. That is not advertising, although I’ve seen it referred to as such by bloggers. That’s editorial. There’s some good clarification in comments, especially from Susan Getgood.


197 thoughts on “Nothing in life is free. Except, it seems, a mommyblogger.”

  1. I love this post, but I have to say that it's easy to write about once you are “successful”(at least it seems to me that you are)-If I am wrong, I apologize. I am not going to lie. I want to make money, but just how do you get yourself “noticed” if you don't take the crappy smaller deals first? I actually know I am worth more, but convincing a big company of that is difficult….

  2. I consider myself a pretty smart lady, but everything you said was kind of an “a ha” for me. I'm not sure why it never dawned on me before! Of course, I've never been asked to pimp someone's products, but I've seen other Mom blogs do it and have wondered how I could get in on it. And seriously, some freebie would have seemed like a cool trade to me. I can honestly say I would have never thought to ask for actual moolah in return. It bugs me now to think big marketers wouldn't be willing to fork over real dough for advertising.

    That said, I'm also part of the handmade community that is trying to market my own stuff and in the spirit of “sharing the love”, I'm more than willing to promote someone else's craft/artwork for free. I do that hoping someone will return the kindness. Of course, if I flat out approached someone to promote my store, I'd fully expect to be asked to pay for that promotion…and I'm small beans compared to these big companies looking for freebie promotion.

  3. As always, well put, Liz.

    Every now and then a company surprises me and approaches me with a true paid advertising campaign (not advertorial, I don't go there as you know), but for the most part, I find myself responding with my rates. Come to think of it, I do that with a lot of those old “friends” who crawl out of the woodwork via Facebook who want me to help work my design or business consulting magic for them too. Hmm…

    Anyway, my point is this. I keep banging this drum. Because companies need to know the ethical standard and “friends” need to know that I do, in fact, run a business and don't just sit around all day waiting for requests for free consulting. And though a large proportion of companies/people balk or just never respond back, the ones that do have the vision to see that get what they pay for, and usually even a little more. Because when I'm properly compensated for my time, I basically kick ass.

    And yes, all moms deserve to believe in themselves enough to kick some ass too… when appropriately compensated for their work.


  4. I probably have less than 10 readers and I still don't to do any giveaways and reviews. Despite the knowledge that it will bring me readers. It's not why I blog.

    Don't bloggers notice that when they write a post about their two-year old potty training they get maybe 5 comments, but when they do a giveaway they get 205?

    And they're ok with that? It annoys me.

  5. Everyone else can get paid in real money – the advertisers, marketers, brand employees, journalists, etc. – but not the mom bloggers who have worked hard to create their corner of the web with real, live communities of interested, participating followers? Pulease.

  6. @Cathy — I understand this perspective but everyone starts from square one at some point. And I would venture to guess that the people who have found the most success are the ones who have maintained high standards and otherwise remain focused on creating great content that resonates with them. -Christine

  7. Companies who are interested in *gasp* quality over quantity will pay. Every time I get money for anything blog-related, it's from a company who gets it. You can't place all the blame on the second-rate bloggers, the brands need to understand that indeed, you do get what you pay for.

    To the second-rate bloggers I'm referring to: WHORE!! 😉

  8. I had this big thing, but the reality is that I just want to say “Right On!”

    Everyone repeat after me, “We have value. We have value”

  9. You are brave to be the one to point out the elephant i the room. Needs to be acknowledged, debated, sorted out.

  10. I am a new blogger, just started a few months ago. I know that free advertising will hurt the industry that we are building. But like Cathy said, Where do we start? Do we start on those crappy small deals to build a name for ourselves? Then have we made a name that we want to stand by? If we accept crappy deals, is that all we are going to be offered? I have yet to be approached but am trying to prepare for it when the time comes.

  11. @Cathy I agree with Boston Mamas

    One thing you can do is ask for say a fixed CPM for a banner which means the rate an advertiser pays per 1000 page views. A small blog won't earn the same as a blog with more traffic, but you'll be earning at the same rate.

    Not everyone can charge Dooce rates (or Cool Mom Picks rates for that matter) but everyone can charge something, right?

    And to clarify–as always–I don't mean charging for product “review” which I've always thought is a bad idea. But when you're asked to commit to a marketing program, like the one I outlined in this post? That's worth cash.

  12. Fantastic, Liz. It is so important that you are out there saying this.

    I have to say, this is why I do not accept money or gifts or anything from any company on my blog, nor do I do any advertising of any kind. I'm not suggesting other people should do this, but I consider my blog a marketing “expense” for my job as a professional writer. People see my work, hire me, I get paid. It is my platform, not my money maker.

    Because of this, I feel beholden to no one, except my husband who thinks I write about him too much.

    Anyway, thanks for this. You make me proud to be a blogger. Well done.


  13. Hell yes.

    Because you've enlightened me so, over the past year and a bit, I have begun returning those PR emails – asking for me to “share with my readers” – replies with my fees for such a post.

    Not one has accepted.

    And I'm NOT surprised.

    I did do a campaign last summer for Leap Frog through an amazing PR firm in Toronto. They provided me with toys, toys for my friends' children, toys to donate to our daycare and a cheque for compensation. They were a blast to work with… but the thing that stuck with me most? The fact that they actually realized that I have better things to do with my time than just peddle their stuff for nothing. They made an attractive offer that we both benefitted from and it was a win-win for everyone!

    So, all-in-all (sorry for the long-windedness) Amen! And thank you!!

  14. The thing that I find most frustrating about this whole dynamic is that it has established a culture wherein so many marketers/companies/whomever seem to really and truly believe that they're doing bloggers a favor by offering 'the opportunity' to promote their products, wherein many of them are *aghast* when one responds with a fee structure or advertising proposal.

    Too many companies don't see mom bloggers/parent bloggers as professionals of any sort – we're just people milling about in a public square, happy to have something to talk about (oh, hey, did you know that Victoria Beckham was spotted wearing a THIS AWESOME COMPANY tee? FASCINATING, isn't it? Want some free yogurt?), and NOT actual 'writers' or 'publishers'. And they seem uninterested in hearing about it.

  15. @Cathy — If you have a prominent blog the ability to get noticed is that much greater, that can't be denied…but it doesn't make you any more successful.

    Taking the free stuff is not going to get you “up the ladder” any faster. Taking that extra time to pitch yourself to the PR companies and ad agencies will leave a better impression that being one of the million mommy bloggers who are doing the PR companies work for free!

    Just my two cents. 😀

  16. Blogger ate my comment (I think)-

    this makes me nauseated! I have had a great experience with advertisers willing to pay my rate. I don't know why, but I still find it shocking that companies (and I assume a reputable one if you sent them a proposal) would even admit to that. SAD SAD

    SAD FACE 🙁


  17. Great post, Liz. My opinion is probably not in line with that of the majority here but I think that sometimes (and certainly not all the time) there can be value in working for free. How many of us had internships in college? You gain valuable experience, make important connections and can maybe leverage those opportunities into something that for you, is worth the investment of your time.

    I do, however, agree wholeheartedly with the points you've made here because no matter what the value in working for “free” there is such a thing as exploitation and many companies are toeing the line (or have crossed the line) of taking advantage of us (us = bloggers; I'm not a mom and my inbox sees plenty of “we'll-link -back-to-you-it's-great-exposure!” emails).Don't get me wrong here – I agree with everything you said and as a marketer/PR pro always recommend compensating spokespeople (because blogger or not, a spokesperson/ambassador is the same thing. No one would ask a celebrity to rep a brand for free).

    My advice to any blogger would be to think carefully about the opportunity- it might be worth it to you if you'll enjoy the experience, it's a campaign that somehow benefits a good cause, is a good networking op, whatever…but those are few and far between.

  18. Word. I've crafted a few integrated campaigns for companies and bloggers in the last year, and consulted on others. I've helped companies select bloggers, and I've pitched others to companies. I firmly believe that you climb DOWN the ladder when you do cheesy, cheap or free PR, and believing otherwise is believing a myth or being tricked. Hold out for quality clients, campaigns and fair exchanges. When the marketers who do pay well 9or at least fairly) for good campaign work or ad spots — because they want to be seen in the context of quality — they will scan your site and see how cheap you've worked in the past. If you've done a bunch of free PR or cheesy work, they will pass on you, or use you cheap and contract with someone else who will get bank. They don't want to compete with the “noise” of PR-laden sites, and they understandably don't want to pay for the exact level of promotion you gave away for a giftcard the week before. Would you? They want to know that you respect your site, your words and the creative potential of online publishing. THAT's the ladder up.

  19. I'd rewrite the title to say “except, it seems, bloggers.” PR people expect all but the top, top tier bloggers to promote them for free, or maybe a link. Y'all have certainly acquired a reputation for being easier to influence and work with since so many of you have been willing to do PR, etc, for nothing or maybe for something for your readers. But it's really an all-blogger problem.

    The Washington Post was recently shocked to discover that area bloggers would NOT provide them free news and politics posts. Personal Finance bloggers like me get asked a lot to pitch a lot of products with no compensation.

    I've always been of the opinion that since it's my website, I should either write what I want (which might be about a product if I like it) or be well-compensated.

  20. Great post. As an attorney, I don't expect someone to pay me in “the chance to win a $25 gift card” for writing a Will. So why would I expect less in my online life? But, that said, if someone chooses to write a product review, I like knowing it is because they liked it themselves and wanted to share. Not just because they got free coupons to share with their readers. Therein-is the difference re: integrity/high standards that @bostonmamas mentioned.

  21. It's not just big companies who do it – the truth is moms do it to each other too.

    From my understanding, most mom companies + consultants take the same approach as agencies – meaning, they only ask for enough money to cover their own services and the bloggers doing the actual promotional work are expected to work for products or experiences.

    The truth is most brands don't want to buy advertising space directly on a blog. It's a lot of work to go out and strike deals with individual sites and rates vary dramatically from person to person. Instead, if they're working with bloggers they want to have an integrated campaign that involves links, Twitter, Facebook, posts, and traditional ad space. And I can't blame them since I rarely click on banner ads myself, but regularly click on links in blog posts or links in tweets.

    The challenge is for mom bloggers to know what that is all worth.

    It amazes me that with the dozens of conferences aimed at mom bloggers that none seem to take the practical approach of actually helping women build a rate sheet and create a proposal.

  22. Well said! I am so tired of those promotional emails asking to “pass this great info to my readers!” I must get at least 4 a day. It gets on my nerves. My “delete” key is getting worn out…

  23. I have been blogging for two years which pretty much makes me a successful Hollywood marriage and I never heard of this kind of link exchange nonsense.

    I'm hoping that bloggers realize that there are much more pleasant ways to get hosed.

    And I totally agree with you– what others do affects us all. For whom the bell tolls and all that.

  24. As a marketing consultant with a background in advertising, I am so right there with you. Herein lies the difference between people who regard themselves as writers and business owners versus “mommy bloggers;” I want to get paid in real money, not freebies. Big brands can keep their canned goods and soap pumps. The value I offer is more than a giveaway. The companies are missing the mark on building long term brand affinity and are too short sighted. And you are so right about how the ripple effect hurts us all. I've been battling this as a blogger, writer, and marketer.

  25. Happens in real life, too. I've been working my ass off for “the man” running “his business” for the last 6 months, only to learn that he is closing his doors and had no intention of remaining open passed the end of this month?

    Aaaand, allowed me to hire 2 more people in the interim?

    How many ways can you spell, “I am SUCH an asshole,” anyway?

    Lesson learned. It's time we “moms” quit undervaluing ourselves – online AND irl, too!

    [Ignore emailed comment – stupid Blogger!]

  26. @Maris

    I agree completely. I've written before (in one of those links up there) that we often put out our creative product for free–articles, gigs at open mic nights, stand up routines, a post on HuffPo, an op ed–because we're proving our creative merits early in our careers.

    It's not the same thing as running a sponsor's ads for free.

  27. Okay, trying again to leave another comment. Blogger has been giving me some funky errors. Thank you so much for the comments responding to mine. I love this type of conversation when I can learn and grow!!

  28. *standing ovation*

    Now will everyone please pass this post on to others?!

  29. I have such mixed opinions on this. It used to feel like a great perk to get stuff all the time but once you start learning more about the business of marketing, it does feel like whoring yourself out.

    I love being able to offer giveaways and incentives to my readers but I have to weigh it against my own criteria which is admittedly very arbitrary: do I have enough time to write about this? do I want to write about this? is this something I would use/wear/watch/eat?

    If you're in the central flyover region, you're not necessarily a hot sell for marketers. I know bloggers in major metro areas are flooded with offers but, uh, not so much in Kansas. Local businesses are not as social media friendly and when big companies take an interest, it's flattering.

    I'm curious to see how the field changes as bloggers become more educated. And empowered.

  30. Thank you for this. If one more “agent” writes me “expecting” me to go out and buy detergent and then write about it – and send them the mink when it's up – I don't know what I'll do.

    Sorry that happened to Cool Mom Pick. I know first hand what Cool Mom Picks can do for a company. Your link on their site!? A total insult.

  31. Of course, I meant “link”, not “mink” (this is exactly why I don't usually leave comments via blackberry – but couldn't resist after reading this post)

  32. *claps wildly*
    I was a freelance writer for a decade before I started blogging, so I was accustomed to getting paid for my writing- and didn't change that concept when I started blogging. Some days I feel like I need a “Will Work for Money!” badge on my blog.
    What we need here is a Union to ensure bloggers are getting fair deals- are you accepting nominations for Prez?!
    excellent piece- thank you!

  33. Great post Liz.

    There's so much I'd like to add but I am editing the chapter in my book that advises bloggers NOT to sell themselves too cheaply 🙂

    For now I'll leave it at: the value has to be balanced for both company and blogger. When it's not, someone is getting screwed and it's probably not the big brand.

    The other thing that seems to have gotten mixed up in the muddle is the difference between PR and Promotion. Just because they have some of the same letters doesn't mean they are the same thing.

    Public relations SHOULD BE enticing stories that are relevant to what the blogger writes about and add value to the blog.

    Promotion is about selling. Usually, the advertiser wants some control over the message. When the advertiser wants to exert control, it's advertising, NOT PR, and bloggers should be compensated fairly.

    Back to editing.

  34. Okay, the eloquence of my original (error-rejected) post is gone, so I'll just say: Preach it, sister. Why oh why is this so hard for folks to get? Love having you fighting the good fight.

  35. So here's my question…some of you know me as a blogger and some know me as a marketing pest (Liz…you know me!) for a small clothing company. So I wear both hats. But my blog reaches a small niche of people and what I promote on my site I do as a resource to other moms. I want it to be genuine and I don't want my readers to think I've been paid to write. Which I haven't.

    But now that I'm on the “other side” I see how the investment is hard to make. We are happy to pay for posts. Do you know why? Because posts get people to your site. Banner ads, people? Don't! We are so happy to pay for writers to write about how they love our product and you can throw in the buttons and banners, but I will tell you, yes, it gets us MAYBE 10 clicks a month IF we are super lucky. So to pay 100 a month for 10 clicks just doesn't cut it. IF you roll it into a fabulous package with all kinds of Tweets and FB posts, we will surely pay. It's amazing what word of mouth will get you. But then are you compromising your own integrity? This is where it all gets so confusing.

    Would love to hear more on this from people.

  36. I can't even begin to comment on this, because I am bombarded with this exact situation daily in my line of work.

    I listen to how mom bloggers are being auctioned off to the fastest bidders by “clever” marketing men in suits. We're being peddled behind podiums in conferences and we're being traded behind closed doors. It's horrifying to me, mostly because it is a situation we've created for ourselves.

    And it's not going to do anything but get worse. These marketers have found a very well-stocked street corner, and they're shopping on it. And we keep lining up to stand there.

    I saw your tweet yesterday about this and I yelled at the ceiling for over an hour about it. I really don't know who else will listen.

  37. Linda, totally understand. For very small businesses, banners may not be the best way to go if you're counting on conversions – although for the right thing, I've seen banners on blogs perform wildly. Banners are often better for branding or promoting news for big brands.

    Sponsored posts are definitely a way to go, and respected reviewers giving a shout-out to your product is great too. Still, an integrated campaign, like the one we were pitched here, is advertising, not PR.

    Really it comes down to building relationships so that bloggers can authentically and enthusiastically cover you, right? And I think that starts with brands showing respect for the blogs they work with. (Which I know you do!)

  38. I launched a very small style site last fall and we have a team of writers that work for free (god bless them) and we're slowly trying to get sponsors and advertisers that fit with our audience and we do loads of giveaways with no monetary perks to the writers because we think they're valuable to our readers, which make them valuable to us, but even we know, as a small (but growing) site, that free sidebar advertising or link exchanges are a slippery slope. And that we have to outline now what we're worth.

    It's crucial to know our worth and believe in our ability to be compensated well for the work we do even if right now our compensation is just starting out. (We do good work, I'm not embarrassed to say that, and I really do think businesses would benefit from working with us.)

    Really, I just appreciate the reminder in this post to value ourselves as writers, bloggers and (most of us) as mothers.

    Thank you.

  39. This is a major problem in the mom blogger world–as always Liz you shine a nice, strong light and get us all buzzing- hopefully as a group we can begin to demand better for ourselves

  40. I like the comment made about how various seminars and conferences don't tackle the issue of what to charge and rate sheets. If there was a standard created and people knew about it, that would be great. I've let a few ad opps fly by over the years because I had NO CLUE what to charge people. (Now I've got one tho.) But then again, I don't do this “Free link” or “I'll send you a .50 coupon if you write about my product” stuff either. But it would be good to know what the general thoughts are on product reviews. (What if you really like the product. Or should it be something that's valued at a certain amount?) Also, what about giveaways? (What if you are able to put together some really nice prize packs for viewers and get product for yourself through a giveaway? Or should giveaways and reviews be completely scrapped?)

    My “newest site” up for a year now is a niche blog. And although we've pitched to a few companies for ads, we're not seeing many takers. ANd I feel like I have to give my partners something when they're writing. So products have helped fill that. (Def not as good as money but as we build readership and keep trying to find advertisers willing to buy space, its something for their efforts…)

    THoughts? Please?

  41. I don't know, I think that every business is plagued by people asking for things for free. Big deal. Just say no. I had a potential advertiser express that he usually got things for a few free shirts and was worried about a return on his “investment.” I told him, look, this is a tiny ad, and you make t-shirts with airplanes on them. Life is a gamble. I don't do giveaways because my readers don't like them.

    He bought the ad.

    If you make a product that is good, find a product that fits your brand, and convince the advertiser that the placement will work, they will buy a spot. That doesn't mean they won't try to get it for free first.

  42. You always outdo your self.

    Just because the opportunity it presented doe not mean anyone has to take it.

  43. If you keep writing these posts, Liz, surely the cheesy mom bloggers who are ruining it for the rest of us will eventually listen.

    It boggles my mind that someone is willing to sell out their blog–their BRAND, if you will–for free product samples. I think nothing would lose me readers faster than pimping products all day long. But then again, Imy audience is small but SMART.

  44. Ok, I'm not even a mommyblogger and this makes me angry. Ever since the whole 'getting shit for free' thing started, I've developed a tick for every time I think of or hear of someone just giving their content away for a fucking Keurig or something.

    (see? angry)

    In real life you wouldn't just give something away for free or without an equal trade. So why do it online for content? I don't get it. People need to realize that they're worth more. So much more.

  45. I think expecting to get paid to blog affects one's credibility. It used to be that people blogged when they had something interesting to say. Now, a vast number of bloggers post only M – F, go for shock value and controversy, and post lots of filler because they don't necessarily have anything witty, but have to post something. For most mommybloggers, your content just isn't worth a company's money. You can tell yourself it's because the company's don't want to pay, but in reality, you're not worth it. I understand product reviews – a company provides a blogger a free item, then the blogger posts an honest review. Win – win. But when mediocre writers/bloggers demand to be paid for talking about their boring WAHM lives, I can't help but chuckle. You can't (and WON'T) all be dooce. Get over yourselves and accept the damned toaster! -Cheryl

  46. BRAVO! I'm absolutely astounded that anyone would *consider* posting someone's advertising for free. And coffeemakers and links are just that.

    Just a question – are all of those MilkBone mommybloggers getting paid? MilkBone's bought the internet lately, with all of the adorable doggy postings, brought to you by blah blah blah…

  47. Cheryl, I don't think anyone deserves to be paid to blog. Agree with you there.

    I think being paid for “reviews” (which frankly, are rarely actual reviews) is the downfall of a blog. If people want to create a respected review blog, figure out your niche and write about the products therein, because they're newsworthy and relevant, whether you received one or just saw it in the store. No one takes a blog seriously that's “reviewing” a bag of chips one day and some copy paper the next, and the only thing they have in common is you got them for free.

    I do think however that you deserve to be paid for creating or participating in a contractually-bound advertising program in which the marketer controls the content.

  48. THANK YOU! Officially bookmarked for when I start dipping my toe in the pay for placement world (which is right around the corner). Thanks for putting it out there. And yes, WE'RE WORTH IT.

  49. @Mosprott the Milkbone campaign is a paid campaign for the Federated Media bloggers, and has been clearly disclosed on every post about it that I've seen.

    Is there something else I'm missing? (It wouldn't be the first time!)

  50. Hello! Just here via Suburban Oblivion. I'm not a big enough blogger that I was ever actually able to attract advertisers (or even get something simple like Google or Amazon ads to generate anything), but I still dream of ways to make this happen.

    Now I'm sure it probably won't, since as you pointed out, there are so many who are willing to do their advertising for free. I am guilty of this to some degree, though in my case I usually rave about a product I love or rant about a product I hate. But those were bought with my own money, and done in the form of a blog post & not dedicated advertising, so I'm not sure if that really counts.

    Maybe those who advertise in exchange for a link or shout-out do it at first to generate some traffic they might not have? Could be something smaller bloggers or bloggers who are just starting out see as a way to “get started”. As for bigger blogs doing this? Not sure what they're thinking.

  51. Yep! We have a computer business and don't give services away for free. I am to the realization that my blog is just as important to me as our computer business. So why would I give those services away for free(or close to it)? I'm not! Thanks so much for this opportunity for us newbies to learn from you all!

  52. Here is the specific “help” they are referring to:
    -Promotion on your website and all social media outlets (blog, Facebok, Twitter, etc)
    -Placement of promotional banner ads on your blog with hyperlink
    -Dedicated email blasts and/or inclusion in newsletter highlighting the promotion
    -Promotional links on existing promotional material (ie on emails you send to your readers)

    I see all that and automatically start asking questions about demographics.

    If I can offer access to the advertiser's target audience than I have something to offer.

    If I can demonstrate that there is a community that discusses issues/concerns that the advertiser's product/services can help with than I have something to offer.

    And by demonstrate I mean offer some sort of proof that I am not making it up.

    I never offer myself as a single blogger to brands. I refer to myself as a parenting resource and outline the value that is offered by appearing there.

    But in six years of blogging I have done that about three times because I have realistic expectations.

    Part of the problem is that rank amateurs jump into this because they think that it is an easy way to make extra cash.

    It is not. Very few bloggers make enough to write home about.

    I never understand why some bloggers don't view their blogs as a business that in many ways is not much different than a brick-and-mortar.

    You rarely have overnight success. It takes time to build it. That's ok.

    It is not hard to learn the terminology either so that when you are talking to a brand you can discuss things on a professional level. Demographics, unique users, pageviews, purchasing power- not hard stuff.

    It helps to distinguish you from the rest. Not a guarantee of success, but it goes a long way.

  53. I agree with everything you have said, Liz, but I'm wary of starting yet another mom blog bashing session between this of us who “Blog With Integrity” and those of us who, well, don't. It's flattering when as a novice blogger you begin to receive some silly pitches. I don't do reviews so it's easy for me to simply say no thank you. But I think for bloggers who are unsure of where they are drawing their line, the flattery becomes confusing. Then, all of a sudden they are doing give aways and getting traffic and feeling valuable. Which breeds more free press. I can see how scary it would then become to suddenly decide,”hey, I'm worth more than this,” and watch their readership drop. I'm empathetic to anyone who'd be willing to stop providing free publicity cold turkey. Maybe if we provided bloggers with support around ways of transforming their blogs into paying small businesses as opposed to calling them whores (directly or indirectly) and making them feel defensive, we'd get somewhere. Just my 2 cents.

  54. Not all mommy blogs are created equal and not all are “worth” the investment for marketers. Not all mommy bloggers have well-read, well-written, well-branded, sites.

    The marketers that see an ROI for investing in a blog marketing campaign will do so. The marketers that do not will look to capture exposure from the group of bloggers that don't charge.

    There is similar examples of this in many industries – you get what you pay for.

    It's great that you are suggesting bloggers determine their real value and propose to charge accordingly. But those bloggers need to know that it is not just about CPM – the editorial environment also influences rate and not all mommy blogs “deserve” the same rate. Just like not all parenting magazines can charge the same rate – their fees are built around circulation numbers, publication brand reputation etc, etc.

    Some bloggers may only be able to secure a partnership in exchange for a link – and they might be very happy to receive the free products and the experience working with a brand as they grow their blog. Those bloggers should not be judged for creating the “market conditions” that enables the big brand companies to pursue those arrangements.

    And as Cathy aptly points out – it's much easier for you and some of your commenters to write about this and take this stand once you are successful.
    ~ Jane

  55. I do not blog as a way to earn money. I blog because I have something to say.

    That said, if some company wants me to promote the heck out of them, they better give me a reason to do so…a reason to take time away from my family to plug their product.

    If, as the anonymous poster says, mommybloggers are not “worth it,” then why are companies knocking on our door? Because we are worth it, and they know it, but hope that we don't know it…we have an audience, they want a piece of it, and they want it for free because we're “just moms.”

    I'm not depreciating my blog content,it's worth, or mine by accepting a compensated ad. I am so fed up with people acting as though I should be happy to give away my work and my time (plugging someone's product) for free. I am tired of people acting like I'm a sell-out or cruel because I'm not happy to give away my writing for free. We're not a socialist country yet…as Tiffany from The Secret is In The Sauce said at the Baltimore Bloggy Boot Camp, “It's capitalism, plain and simple.”

    When did capitalism suddenly equal greed?

    No, I'm not a Dooce or one of the big bloggers, and, quite frankly, I don't want to be, nor do I strive to be, one of them. I don't have the time nor the same goals. I want to create good writing, which I do on my own time for my own enjoyment. However, if some company wants me to work for them, then I want to be compensated. I'm not a charity–I'm a hard-working woman.

    Thank you for writing this reminder that women MUST respect themselves…for, really, this is a matter of respect more than anything else.

  56. well put Jack!

    Kami – This isn't a battle. (Eek, I hope it's not!) And I don't think anyone is a whore. This is me, as a marketer and a blogger, telling the collective you as bloggers, that if you run banner ads for big brands for free, you hurt yourself and you hurt other bloggers.

    And if bloggers don't know enough to distinguish PR from advertising promotion, and this is all confusing, by all means read up on it. Plenty of great info all over the place.

    In what other industry would we jump right in without researching it first? It's a little weird…

  57. Jane, you make a lot of excellent points. Thank you.

    But I've felt the same way about this “free advertising” thing from day one. You don't have to be successful to know that running four months of ads on your blog in exchange for nothing (or about $12 as I explained) is not a fair deal for anyone. It's certainly not a partnership.

    And I wanted to put it out there (learn from my own failings, folks!) that truly, you will be lucky if you get 10 hits a day from a branded microsite. So the promise of traffic/linkage is misleading at best, deceptive at worst.

  58. Liz, thanks to you and a few others, we are LEARNING. The review blogs are dying out, and I think the free work is next to go as we each support and encourage each other.

    Appreciate your boldness and clarity in articulating this important message to all of us! I know I've learned to say no through reading your articles, and I'm slowly letting go of the guilt in doing so…

    Ah. Freedom.

  59. I am so with you.

    This stuff? Is why Ii don't do a single, solitary thing. Granted, I'm a nobody who has only been offered the bottom of the barrel things, but I still don't participate. I won't do reviews. I don't even read the emails about linking to someone 'because your readers will really enjoy this'. None of it. I am even considering taking down BlogHer ads. Just because.

    I love BlogHer, but I'm not sure it's worthwhile for me. Maybe it never was. I blog, because I love it. I love the community, I love the friends I've made. For me? It really, truly is a hobby.

    That being said, I love knowing that you, Kristen and Julie pay attention to all of this. It's helped me over the years to know what I didn't want to do.

  60. You make such in inspirational point in reminding us to believe in ourselves. I think even if bloggers are making what are ultimately mistakes or steps in the wrong direction, those steps are valid ones if they're taken with thought and conviction.

    I'm so, so discouraged by seeing big brands and businesses set the pace here. And I don't think excuses can or should be made for them simply because they're trying to run businesses.

    Some of the best blogger/brand relationships have been established by SMALL BUSINESSES and I'm grateful to those few for setting good examples.

  61. umm… wow. I guess I'm late to this party.

    To help solve this problem one of the things I think we can all work on is metrics. You have every right to ask for money, and I have a right to know what I'm going to get for that money.

    I want to know how influential you really are in the marketplace of ideas among this critical demographic. I want to know as much as I can about your readership – the size, the composition, etc. I want to know who links to you. I want to know if, by working with you on this blog, I'm going to see benefits beyond the blog.

    Getting this information is difficult. The tools we use aren't always reliable. But if I'm going to convince my client that their money is put to good use by investing in you, I need to be able to tell them that there's more value here than somewhere else.

    Right now, most people either don't have or don't understand the available information on influence – and most people tend to discount things they don't understand.

    You do a great job explaining value on the Cool Mom Picks site, but how many other blogs do what you do? I'd be more than willing to talk with any blogger about this – what we're looking for, what you need from us, etc.

  62. As someone who works as a liaison between brands and bloggers, this is really disappointing to hear. But sadly, it's not altogether surprising.

    While I believe there are a few cases in which blogs can be compensated for ad placement with something other than money, you're right that the rewards should be pretty compelling. (ie, if Starbucks offered to drive traffic to my blog from its Facebook page, I might be a bit more amenable than with, say, Tom's Mufflers.)

    But I've stood firm on the fact that bloggers should be paid with real earthling dollars for their ad space and their active promotional involvement. (Caveat: I've never supported the idea of paid reviews either, but there are obviously lots of other ways for a brand to partner with a blogger — involvement in real-life events, etc.)

    Great post, and please remember that not all of us on the marketing side are evil….just most of us. 😉

  63. I am always a fan of your positive and encouraging take on this topic, particularly when it comes to bloggers feeling more confident about their worth and influence.

    I wonder, though, how is this industry any different than, say, getting paid for freelance writing? If you check Freelance Switch or Craigslist writing gigs, there are all sorts of companies wanting to pay a whopping .05 per word, or get content for free for “exposure”. Some people take them up on that. Doesn't mean there aren't still opportunities for real paychecks from companies willing to pay for professional services.

    Isn't there room for everyone? I'm thinking the companies who want to get lower-quality free marketing aren't the companies you want to partner with anyway.

  64. I've been teaching moms to write, blogs, essays, books, for three years now and what I appreciate most about this post is that it stresses the importance of valuing ourselves as writers.

    As a published writer, journalist and blogger, what I have noticed over the last few years…beyond the plethora of companies wanting free promotion from mom bloggers…is the number of online publications wanting stories for free.

    I hear about how creative people, writers included, are going to be a hot commodity in the new online world order. But I don't see it happening. I see the opposite.

    Editors and publishers want our stories and they either want them for free, or for $30.

    I love this post because it encourages all of us to demand what we are worth – compensation for our words, our thoughts, our audiences. And we are only going to get that if we all get on the same page.

    Viva la revolution!

    Check out our post on mommy blogging:

  65. Back in the old days, when safeguarding the virginity of their precious daughters was a BFD, parents had this saying:

    He won't buy the cow if he can get the milk for free.

    Now, before everyone jumps down my throat, I am NOT calling bloggers cows. Or anything else. Okay?

    However, there is something to be learned from the phrase. If you start out giving “it” away — in this case advertising space on your blog or your editorial content — why would anyone want to pay for it later? You've set a price on your work, and it is going to be damn hard to raise it later. No matter how many readers you have.

  66. When I came back to blogging last year the climate had changed. It was a whole new world. I got all kinds of offers to do product reviews and giveaways. I did a few. And I realized that it did nothing really for me or for my blog. I am not sure it did anything for my readers either. Now that my site has moved to its own domain I asked my designer to be a review section on my blog – just in case but I don't think I will be utilizing it. At least not for those who wish to solicit a review on their product.
    Excellent post.

  67. i'm not sorry to see things shift away from reviews and giveaways, only because those were never what i was in blogging for…not my style. and i don't disagree that the collective “we” would be better off if we were well-aware of our value and treated ourselves and each other as such, both in business transactions and otherwise.

    but…but. if this stand is going to be taken in the name of community, we need to act as one first. b/c we'd also all be better off if powerful parentblog conglomerates didn't send emails asking for free pitching of their stories, like babble did this morning…or ask to profile people but then insist on big bling links in return, like YummyMummyClub does. and yet i understand what they're trying to do…spread word & protect their own brands, respectively. but i think there are ways to do these things without treating bloggers like cogs in a promotions machine. and if we don't treat bloggers with respect WITHin the community, we'll never get concerted action towards demanding it outside.

    i'm also a little wary of seeing all the free stuff go away. not because i play that game myself, but because for awhile, for all i didn't like the flavour of it, it felt like the internet might have a bit of a gift economy possibility about it. and with that trend passing, if everyone instead tries to act like a Fortune 500 player, will there really be any room out there for everyone to think of themselves as a business? and what gets lost if people come to expect that from bloggers?

    been thinking a lot about this recently…am starting a dissertation in social media. bookmarking this post. 🙂

  68. One more thing:

    “Paid review” is an oxymoron.

    A review is editorial.

    A “paid review” becomes an ad. It's not a review anymore.

    Think twice before selling your editorial space.

  69. I am a small manufacturer. Times are tough and I don't have tons of free cash floating around. What I DO have is merchandise. What if it's something you, as a blogger, actually want? What if you are happy to barter ad space for product that you would otherwise pay cash for?

    Can't we figure out a way to make it ok to offer and accept product for ad space without feeling like we're taking advantage/being taken advantage of? I'm sure many small business are in my same situation.

    I wish there was some sort of “barter for ad space” site where I could post my offering and bloggers could decide what it's worth to them. Seems like a fair deal to me! Just a thought….

    BTW, we've paid actual cash for ads, sponsored giveaways, traded product for ad space… done it all to varying degrees of success. I'm just trying to think of a cash alternative for the struggling small businesses who are trying to get creative with their marketing.

  70. Yes! So now what? Union? Code of ethics + a standard rate sheet we can all rally behind? It's a serious question.

  71. One more thing I forgot to ad for new bloggers talking about doing reviews as a means of getting attention from marketers: there is a misconception that this is how you get ahead. That is not how you do it. The way you get advertising prospects is by generating them yourself. By hunting them down yourself. By finding small businesses that might want to advertise on your site and pitching your site to them, by making your own media kit, by selling your site to them. Do not wait for the offers that will come to you, because they will suck. They will not be paid. They will be for like a couple of free pairs of crocs or something. Or maybe not even that.

    Even the established bloggers have to go out and make the really good deals happen for themselves, despite what they would have you believe. It is never too early to start. Start now. And don't take no for an answer.

  72. There's an old saying about this that I'll probably botch, so suffice it to say that if you're giving it away for free, why would anyone want to pay for it?

    Of course, hookers can make a great living – so maybe I'm really far off.

  73. Bon and Sundry – good points both!

    Sundry – I think I stated above somewhere that sometimes creative folks write for free the way comedians perform open mic for free, or actors do community theater – it's a way of getting a foot in the door and proving merit. I have no problem with that as long as you know when you're ready to move on and go pro.

    I think what's so complicated is that we're functioning as both writers (editorial) and as publishers (advertising) when we blog.

    Bon – I think what those sites are doing is what they do with the mainstream journalists. They're pitching stories to see if you're interested in covering them. They're not asking for advertising; they're offering you content if it works for you. As ABDPBT says, that's where you can just say no if it doesn't work for you, or ask to be unsubscribed.

    On one hand it's great that they're treating bloggers like magazines. On the other, all blogs are different and so one blogger's content lead is another blogger's insult.

    Mary Peyton – I LOVE YOU GUYS and will always work with small mom and pop (or mom and daughter) businesses that I respect, in any way I can. (See? Here's a link to your wonderful baby bedding shop! Free! Heh.) I hope I made a clear enough distinction in my post that I'm talking about major marketers who are paying huge PR agencies but not the publishers they want to work with.

  74. I am a small business owner and believe me, I do not consider working with mommybloggers free advertising – if anything, it actually gets very expensive for me. In order to get a product review (which customers really value – honest reviews), I have to send them a product and then I usually give away at least one to oe of their readers. I am not a manufacturer, so this actually does cost me a significant amount of money. Then they write a review – sometimes the review isn't very well written – but I've sent the free product and agreed to give another one away – so now I've just spent a lot of money on a review that isn't going to help my brand very much. And then I have to rely on them to promote it and get the word out. This is why I do the give-away – because everyone promotes a give-away, but most bloggers don't do a lot of promotion of something that is just a thorough review of a product.

    I have worked with a lot of different bloggers – and some have given more or less thorough reviews. I really like it when a blogger actually uses the product and write both what they like and don't like – it makes it real. I want the meat of the write up to be about the product, not the give-away. The give-away is just there to drive traffic so that people read about how great the product is. Because in the long run – the people signing up for the give-away aren't the ones who are going to come shopping at my site. I do the reviews because then moms who are shopping for items can find real, unbiased reviews about products that they think they are interested in buying.

    But believe me, it definitely isn't free – and I would NEVER expect someone to promote my company for just a link exchange – that is CRAZY – I don't care how big the company is that is offering it!

  75. Judy, that's really a shame.

    With all due respect, are you researching the blogs you're working with? I've never found it to hard to see which ones are discerning about reviews, write well, and seem to have influence with their readership, and which ones are in it for the stuff.

    It doesn't matter how honest the review seems to be if it's poorly written, right? No marketer wants to be like, We are the number one most recommended widget by moms who don't use apostrophes correctly! Yay!

  76. I blog about food, but with a focus on family food. I'm a mom and (though not by as much of a margin as I'd expect) a majority of my readers are also moms. I guess that makes me a mom blogger. But, even if not, I think that this conversation is relevant–timely even–for food bloggers.

    The funny thing about food blog advertising is that most (not all!) food bloggers write because they love making food from scratch, and a big portion of food advertising is for packaged foods that help people who don't want or have time to cook from scratch. The relevance or at least the authenticity of the relationship is often pretty weak. (Maybe it's just the food blogs I visit?)

    Of course there is a middle ground where cooking (even from scratch) and convenience products meet, and there are also brands that make high quality ingredients with which any cook would appreciate working. A brilliant (I think) example of food advertising done well is Gluten Free Girl's relationship with Bob's Red Mill (she talks about it here. I wonder if there is something for any mommy blogger to learn from her approach, which seems to be a rarity.

    Also with food, there is (for some, like me) the issue of politics (I use the word broadly; not sure if other types of mommy bloggers run into this). I was recently asked to participate in and blog about an event for a convenience product that I rarely use, but can see the benefits of having on hand for those crazy nights when you have 10 minutes to make dinner. I asked to try their all natural options while considering the proposal. Out of 6 original options, I was sent 1. Hm. A company I want to work with? An opportunity to highlight which of their very popular products is (the only) all-natural options? I was confused–these things are complicated.

    How that one ended is a long story, but the example (and many more, like how I got radio silence after asking one ingredient trade association about their support of the organic cultivation of their ingredient): what do these brands mean to us, in our real life, in relation to the things we talk about on our blogs?

    I guess I'm veering off topic a bit–maybe because I've never gotten to the point of being able to ask for money (me and my damn principals about what I feed my kids)–but, I think Liz touched on this, too… Before you even consider asking for money (or not), I hope that you–we all–consider the authenticity of our relationship with a brand, big or small. I have no problem reading your promotion of brands and products that you truly love and live by or have had a good experience with. That's good to know. Helpful, even. But, if you're partnering with a brand in hopes of becoming the next Heather Armstrong, well, that's a lot like laying back on the casting couch. (Or something.)

  77. Thanks so much for this post and all of the valuable comments that followed. Isis Parenting is a start-up that is just beginning to work with bloggers and it is our sincere desire to “get it right”. As a company that is all about parenting, we value the opinions, feedback and exposure we get from “mommy bloggers” and realize what an incredible value they are to our company. As we grow and enter new markets, connecting with local bloggers will be a critical part of our marketing plan, and we will budget for that. With dollars.

  78. @ABDPBT Thank you so much for your comment about making it happen for yourself. I realize it is a LOT of hard work, but there was also a part of me that believed those who are more successful probably have inboxes overflowing with offers. I am very forward and have no problem approaching a company if I truly feel we are a match….they HAVE to be a brand whose products I already use or would use in my home….I won't sell out for any amount of ad space. I can't say enough how much I am loving this conversation!!

  79. People like to feel important and powerful. People like to be noticed. People also like free trips. Marketers, if they're good at their jobs, know how to tap into this. I know someone who is a “brand ambassador” because she says it drives traffic to her site she wouldn't have gotten otherwise. For her, that's the conversion. Eyeballs.

    A lot of people get into blogging because they want to make a business of it. A lot of people blog because they have stories to tell. Some people don't have a clear goal, and those are the people who are easy targets for the marketers.

    Recognize your worth and develop a clear understanding of what you want to get out of this relationship. If all you want are free trips or a few extra eyeballs, well, there you go.

    You can't blame the marketers for trying.

  80. I was randomly approached by a new blogger at BlogHer last year who wanted to know if I had ads, if I did reviews, how much I got paid, how long I had been blogging, how much I think Dooce got paid, and on and on and on, all of it finally leading up to her saying, “I'm a mom. I have a blog. Why shouldn't it be able to support my family too?” To which I responded in the way that I respond to people who ask me for book publishing advice in their quest to hit it big as an author: “If you're looking to get rich, blogging/writing is NOT the way to do it.” People tend to look at the big authors/bloggers/actors/athletes and say, “I can do that! Why not me?” but what they don't remember is that those who are successful in those careers are a teeeeeeny tiny fraction of the whole, and it doesn't always come down to who is the most talented. If you want to blog, do it for the blogging, not on the chance that it will make you rich and famous (because you'll likely be disappointed).

    That said, I think part of the tangle that is this PR/promotion business is that not all bloggers ARE trying to become brands/businesses. And not all bloggers are writers. And for those who aren't–who are truly just posting online as a way to share their thoughts with family and friends–the opportunity to get a free box of snack crackers and host a giveaway for the ten family members who read their site? That's a fun perk, not a stepping stone to future greatness. It's those bloggers who will always be accepting freebies.

    I absolutely think people who blog professionally, or those who hope to, should seek monetary compensation for their work (because it IS work!), and I also think that big advertisers have the responsibility to treat their freelance advertisers (because that's what we are) with respect, but…I just don't think we'll ever be able to get all bloggers on board with this because some of them aren't in it as a business, aren't in it as writers, and aren't part of the larger blogging community. Yes, they're also probably less likely to be approached by advertisers (especially the bigger ones), and perhaps that's the point at which we just have to learn to be okay with that.

    As for everyone who really IS a member of the community, though, and who has an audience that extends beyond immediate family and friends? I agree that we DO have a responsibility to our fellow bloggers and should support each other and respect ourselves and our value as writers accordingly.

  81. I was randomly approached by a new blogger at BlogHer last year who wanted to know if I had ads, if I did reviews, how much I got paid, how long I had been blogging, how much I think Dooce got paid, and on and on and on, all of it finally leading up to her saying, “I'm a mom. I have a blog. Why shouldn't it be able to support my family too?” To which I responded in the way that I respond to people who ask me for book publishing advice in their quest to hit it big as an author: “If you're looking to get rich, blogging/writing is NOT the way to do it.” People tend to look at the big authors/bloggers/actors/athletes and say, “I can do that! Why not me?” but what they don't remember is that those who are successful in those careers are a teeeeeeny tiny fraction of the whole, and it doesn't always come down to who is the most talented. If you want to blog, do it for the blogging, not on the chance that it will make you rich and famous (because you'll likely be disappointed).

    That said, I think part of the tangle that is this PR/promotion business is that not all bloggers ARE trying to become brands/businesses. And not all bloggers are writers. And for those who aren't–who are truly just posting online as a way to share their thoughts with family and friends–the opportunity to get a free box of snack crackers and host a giveaway for the ten family members who read their site? That's a fun perk, not a stepping stone to future greatness. It's those bloggers who will always be accepting freebies.

    I absolutely think people who blog professionally, or those who hope to, should seek monetary compensation for their work (because it IS work!), and I also think that big advertisers have the responsibility to treat their freelance advertisers (because that's what we are) with respect, but…I just don't think we'll ever be able to get all bloggers on board with this because some of them aren't in it as a business, aren't in it as writers, and aren't part of the larger blogging community. Yes, they're also probably less likely to be approached by advertisers (especially the bigger ones), and perhaps that's the point at which we just have to learn to be okay with that.

    As for everyone who really IS a member of the community, though, and who has an audience that extends beyond immediate family and friends? I agree that we DO have a responsibility to our fellow bloggers and should support each other and respect ourselves and our value as writers accordingly.

  82. David makes a great point — that companies need to understand what they are getting for their money if they advertise. Bloggers that want advertising contracts with big brands need to be willing to share that information. And if you don't have the stats, don't expect the deals.

    The other side of the coin is that when you pay nothing, that's often exactly what you get. I'm guessing the big brand that walked away from the CMP deal doesn't understand that.

  83. Well I did it. I stopped being a 'blog slut' giving it away for free and it was liberating.

    I created an “association approved' page. To host logos of all my favorite brands. Read: brands who PAY TO BE THERE.

    Everyone else? ah…buh bye.

    And it is working beautifully. My brands respect me more, my readers are not feeling sold every post and my content is not drowning in pitch posts. Heck even my side bar looks purty too.

    2010 is my year of “No more blogslut”. Won't you all join me?


  84. Also, Liz, are you aware of anywhere bloggers can go to get a sense of what we should be charging based on our traffic? I was approached for an ad campaign recently, and I had no idea what to charge and felt really awkward asking my friends what they charged for their ads. (But I did it anyway.) It's awkward for a lot of us to talk specifics about money and traffic without feeling gross about it, but I can't help but think that having some sort of standard is a good step in making sure bloggers are compensated fairly. Ideas?

  85. I've only been blogging about going green since late December (#45 on Liz's Top 50 Mommy bloggers who didn't make the babble list but are probably more fun anyway) and I am surprised by what comes my way. Companies sending me emails saying junk such as, “We have great products and we give such and such amount to a green cause, so won't you promote our business?” Forget about offering me money, they haven't even offered me their 'great' product to try out! I have turned down reviews for some higher end products because I would never actually use them on any regular basis. I haven't signed up for any adsense or google ads or whatever it is out there that can net you a buck a month because I'm saving my space for the ads from companies I really want to promote. (Kinda like saving myself for my wedding night…? Ummm, right.) I'm not a product whore and in it just for freebies. I have something to say about being a mom, trying to be green and the struggles that come along with that. Value THAT, PR & marketing.

  86. I get so tired of this and I know REALLY do, too. Especially when it's big name, high profile (insert business here) that claims “Oh, we don't have much of a budget for (insert big campaign here).”

    It's the same with freelance writing, as well. My work has totally dried up because there are so many women online who are willing to give away their work for free and we've gotten to a point where many online and hard paper publications don't care about the quality of content, only that they have content. 🙁

  87. I haven't finished reading all the comments, but Esther's made me stand up and say “exactly!!!” I know what I should be doing. I've heard this message loud and clear (it's important and needs to be said, repeatedly).

    I've turned down a lot of stuff lately, things I really would have liked to take advantage of, but declined because I know what's best for the community.

    But. My stumbling block is just what Esther said. No one has come forward and responded to my requests for help with creating a rate sheet, sponsorship proposal and ad packages. It seems that what to charge is a closely guarded secret in our community.

    I'm not asking for someone to turn over all their materials for me to copy and paste, but it's been near impossible to find anyone willing to spend time helping me evaluate my site and come up with some starting numbers.

  88. Like everyone else is saying (well, most of them) kudos! When I started blogging I Refused to be called a Mommy Blogger – because that, to me, has become synonymous with the blogs that review crap, giveaway crap, and just muddy the waters in general (that and maybe one too many posts about their baby's poo)
    But I also agree with the comments (like agirlandaboy said, among others) that we need a resource. We need a place where we can find the etiquette for all things blog. I'm still building my readership, but boy would I like to know what to do about advertising in the meantime as well as when my numbers are higher (please god, get higher). I think it's a catch 22 – I've included some ads from linkshare because they make my blog “appear” more official, but I don't expect revenue because my readership is still small.

    It also begs the question: Why is this blogger blogging? Money? Fame? Community? Sharing? What? Unfortunately, I think we all partially wish a blog was a lottery ticket.

  89. I think that many of the comments have already made the salient points that I would make.

    The blogging community – and especially the part that revolves around parenting – is a large and varied conglomerate.

    The inherent abilities and talent of bloggers differs vastly from blog to blog, and the audience and reach varies just as significantly between a 2 reader blog like mine, and an “influencer's blog” like Dooce.

    I wouldn't expect an advertiser to look at my blog and Dooce's blog and think that they represent the same marketing value to a company. (I don't do ads anyway!).

    And it seems odd that many people start a blog thinking that they are at the bottom of the marketing ladder. I think moving into marketing is a side step, not a step up.

  90. Thanks for the love, Liz ; )

    As someone who buys ad space, I'd like to ask that you clearly state your rates! None of this “email me for more info”. And if you don't know what to charge, you can get an idea by going on sites like Federated Media and seeing what other people are charging based on their traffic. You can do CPM or weekly flat rate (which I LOVE!). You can tell me that if I advertise on your blog for a month, you'll throw in a free week – or some other perk! There are a million ways to work it. Just make it easy for the potential advertiser to understand your policies and pricing – then there won't be any room for confusion!

    I used to spend $1200 a month on a small ad in the back of Cookie Magazine, I would much rather give that money to people I “know” through my favorite blogs!

  91. First: Commie.

    Second: My standard reply to e-mails asking for links or ads or “shout outs” or whatever is to let the other person know that I charge $0.25/word and how long would they like the piece to be.

    Third: I would actually write that piece.

  92. Liz,

    What a great post! As a mom with a blog (which, dare I say it, is I hope different from being a “mom blogger”) as well as a product I actively market online, I'd like to weigh in. I've considered this debate from both sides.

    Admittedly, from the blogging side, way back when when the giveaways/reviews/free advertising started, it seemed a decent enough idea. The reason all the bloggers knew about the practice was because great bloggers were the ones who started it! Fast forward a few months and the ick factor was hard to ignore (and, if anyone noticed, those great, well-known (for a reason) bloggers who started with the reviews and giveaways had quit, undoubtedly because they, too, sensed the practice was going in an icky direction).

    The reality is that the internet is SO saturated at this point with mom bloggers interested in reviewing/giving away products that companies who use mom bloggers to promote their product in this way have to think twice. Engaging in this practice in the wrong way (meaning that they're trying to get as much as they can for as little as they can) truly weakens one's brand.

    Anyone hate me yet?

    In all seriousness, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of women out there engaging in this review/advertise/giveaway practice with little-to-no integrity. What's in it for them? Free product. I know this because when our product launched, I provided a few samples here and there to a few bloggers to review. At least half of them never reviewed it.

    Sure, if you can get Dooce, or The Meanest Mom, or Cool Mom Picks (of course) to review or blog about a product, it's great exposure. But more important, it's a strong endorsement for a brand, and one that a company can be proud of. The number of bloggers WITH the integrity (and the readership) to do this properly is low.

    Businesses have to remember that they are judged by the company they keep. If their product shows up on cheap blogs where the owner has little to say other than, “This is a great product. Go get one,” it says a lot more about the brand that business owners likely want it to.

    When I find a great product, I have no problem mentioning it on my blog – no formal review, no giveaway, just a quick “love this.” And those who've used my product and felt the same way have done the same (most times, without my knowledge, which is further proof of their good intentions).

    You have to know where your audience is. My own ad budget is as small as anyone's, but I would FAR prefer to pay to advertise on a site that's not only heavily trafficked by my target audience but that is also written or managed by someone with integrity and a similar business and life-style to mine than saturate hundreds of blogs whose missions and intent are way out of line with mine.

    I shall step down off my soapbox now and read Essay 3 from Erma Bombeck's “Forever, Erma.” Which is absolutely hilarious. And, no, she didn't pay me to say that.

    You're great, Liz – keep doing what you do!

  93. I think if someone wants to place a free ad on their blog so be it. I don't see why them selling themselves short should affect me at all.

    I'll just wait and work with a company that will pay me and “those other bloggers” can work with the companies that don't.

    What's the big deal?

  94. Not only is this article spot on, but some of these comments are too.

    It seems that so many mommybloggers are driven by three things: fame, freebies and traffic. They are willing to do all this crappy stuff in hopes of hitting it big.

    They don't have a blogging goal, they use fifty fonts in various shades of hot pink and their writing is atrocious. I mean, in all honestly, some bloggers really shouldn't be trying so hard to make it big… they should be working on getting their site up to par first.

    But instead, it's full-on, tunnel vision to fame, freebies and traffic. And these marketers eat it up.

    I've been in marketing communications for 10 years. My blog is small… but it's growing slowly. Sure I'd love more traffic, but I'm not sacrificing my blog goals to get it. Reviews aren't the devil (I know you aren't saying that). In fact, I am going to be doing select product reviews… but they are relevant to MY blog theme, which in turn is relevant to my readers.

    All that to say, I think it'd be helpful for mommybloggers to have more resources to learn how to communicate, how to market their blog and how to set realistic, specific goals for their blog.

  95. I really enjoy this post. I love the idea that just because some of us are small time doesn't mean we should give away things we could be getting money for. I mean, I don't give away products to people wanting to buy, why would I do that with my writing and my blog?

    I guess I don't have much to say on this topic since I have yet to be contacted for any type of advertising, but I sure would love the opportunity some day!

  96. I'm back to answer Ester and others requests…

    Ad rates can be easily determined. Simply request a 'media kit' from your bigger bloggers (as if to buy ad space with them) and see what they charge. Now use t determine an estimate of their page views and divide. It is roughly $5 per 1000. Sorta. Depends on placement, if it includes review etc.

    There is no ONE rate to charge. Many many variables. But you can do this. I have done it.

    I am happy to help those with media kits and proposal advice.
    Cuz that is how I roll.

    visit my site to see my brand page (giant floating head on side bar button)

  97. Oh and in response to Julie….

    They are most definitely only brands I endorse. Only products or brands I use regularly and would recommend to a friend.

    Which is how it should be. It makes it so much easier in the long run.

    I turn down all kinds of brands that I have never heard of OR I think are offering a poor product. Even dropping a brand for bad personal customer service once. I actually gave them their ad money BACK and took it down.

    So yes. I am honest when I say “Association Approved” brand page

  98. Marcy I agree with your advice mooooostly –

    Please don't ask for a media kit under false pretenses. You're better reaching out and just plain asking for one to help you out.

    You can also look at published rates on sites like FM or BlogAds.

    Also wondering where are you getting $5 per 1000 exactly? It entirely depends on size, placement, factors like animation, discounts for extended usage, conversion averages, added value like giveaways, and how niche the site is. Agree with you that traffic numbers aren't everything.

  99. Well I actually place ads on other blogs so it is not under false pretenses. Besides people do it to me All.the.time. I know they just want to see what I charge. And guess what? I don't even CARE. Hell I put my stats and numbers out there for anyone to see.

    Actually Design Mom did an interview where she came up with about $10 per 1000, and based on my own experience and research I have found that only the top blogs can get that reliably. $5 a 1000 is more close to reality for mid-level blogs.

  100. Great discussion. As a PR guy at one of those big agencies that pitches bloggers regularly, I've seen a lot of posts recently that state that reviews should be paid for.

    Obviously, that's counter to Susan Getgood's advice here.

    Is the prevailing wind blowing in the direction of bloggers wanting to get paid to write reviews?

    I don't think anyone should be asked to or accept banner ads, widgets or anything of that sort for free. That's advertising. You pay for that.

    But PR has become a bit of a jump ball. I'd dare say opinions are split among the comments here. Does a positive review help the brand? Absolutely. Does an honest review help the brand even more? Absolutely more.

    As soon as PR people start paying bloggers for reviews then nobody wins. Who do you trust when editorial is being exchanged for cash? It's called payola in the radio industry.

    By coincidence I wrote a post about this today from the PR agency perspective that might be of interest. I'd love to hear the blogger's perspective.

  101. I can't think of much to say beyond this, except to salute you for putting it all so clearly and eloquently. One thing that disturbs me is that companies and firms hide behind this concept that bloggers should only be targeted for earned media. And honestly, that would be fine if all they sought was earned media: reviews (that IS earned and not paid in my opinion… I don't see how you can do a “review” and be unbiased and get a check for it) and content when we find it of value to our readers.

    But they do not. They basically want advertising (prettied up with terms like “badges”) and consulting and spokesblogging all hidden behind the earned media cloak, when that is all truly paid media in every other medium in existence. I'd like to see them actually pay for their paid media.

    I have found one bright spot. The fastest way to quit getting hounded with pitches for “partnerships” and to “help” companies is to respond with ad rates, consulting rates and information about sponsoring my conference. Nothing chases someone pitching away faster.

    And why on earth should moms, many of whom can barely pay their mortgage or diaper their children, “help” major corporations? Shouldn't it be the other way around? For shame!

    But still, I do it every time I have a moment to reply with it because I want to send the message that they are asking for things that should be paid. In cash. Not product.

    I am still waiting for the first agency or firm rep who can truly admit their pay comes in the form of product from clients. When they start accepting it, just maybe I'll rethink my position. I don't see that happening any time soon.

  102. Nice post. And yes, I got the same memo from the company in question. I know because they used the same language. For me, it's a matter of figuring out early on who has money and who doesn't so you don't waste your time. I always ask about their budget right away and if I don't hear back, I assume they were fishing for free stuff and move on.

  103. Someone needs to write a Blogger constitution or something. Obviously the “free” ads are bad. Can someone tell me if product reviews are “bad” too? (If it is something you'd buy anyway and readers would be interested in.) And giveaways – if it is something readers would really like or could use and it helps you drive more traffic to your site. (So you grow and look better to prospective advertisers.) Are they “bad” too? Am hearing alot of differing opinions and am confused. I definitely don't want to be one of the bloggers that ruins it for everybody else.

    I'm in an area where the only businesses that seem to pay for blog ads are alternative coffee shops. I'd love to hear how to compile my stat info, pitch to businesses and get more ads.

    And I always thought Federated Media (and some of the other ad networks) were for big blogs only. Any for smaller sites. (Not Blogher. Not Google ads. Been there, done that.)

  104. I always learn a lot, both from you and your commenters, when you post on this topic. Thank you!

    This is timely for me, because I was recently thinking about whether my little blog has grown big enough to make it worth my time to try to ad advertising. In the end, I decided it hasn't. The information I read implied that you need a lot more hits/day than I get and a “laser-like focus” on a niche to have any hope of attracting quality ads.

    The problem is, I don't want to have a laser-like focus on anything. My blog meanders around all sorts of topics that I find interesting, and I like it that way. If I have a niche at all it is “scientist moms”, and I sort of doubt that there are many companies who are chomping at the bit to reach that target audience!

  105. I was having a similar conversation recently with my husband. It amazes me that at this point in the blogger world there are no professional organizations, at least none that I'm aware of, that provide bloggers the information & training they need to learn how to deal with advertisers. Practically every profession has an organization to promote professional standards and guidelines, & until bloggers have such an organization to help those who wish to be more than a hobby blogger, abuses from advertisers should be expected. I agree with Esther who commented above, why aren't the blogger conventions covering this. Instead all we get are great big love fests. And although lovefests are fine, they don't pay the bills.

  106. Yes. Yes yes yes. I want to thank you for being a consistent voice, and for speaking out for bloggers. And informing bloggers, too. Unlike you, my background is in engineering, and that just does not equip me when it comes to advertising and marketing and all that jazz. You have been a big help to me.

    My platform is worth something. I'm worth something, and my readers are worth something. And that something isn't an 'exclusive' chance to blog about shoes in exchange for a link. If you want to advertise your shoes, by all means we can talk about sidebar space, but I'm not giving away the keys for some free stuff or the promise of traffic.

  107. @Lisa there's no one right way to blog. It's one of the first tenets in the Blog With Integrity pledge. So don't let anyone tell you what content is good or “bad.”

    I will say however, I think the blogs that connect with their audience best are authentically about the blogger's passions – their children, their lives, their photography hobby, their Lucky Charms habit, their love for shopping, their 70's music collection.

    If you do have a “review blog” maybe consider finding your niche and limiting it, so you really can become an expert at it and your readers know just why they're coming.

    I've always said if you love cleaning, by all means, have the most comprehensive cleaning product review blog around. It would be huge! Sponsor opportunities would be flooding your inbox.Do you know there's a guy called Freezer Burns who only reviews frozen foods? That's it! How great is that?

    But when the only thing similar among all the things a blogger “reviews” is that they came free in the mail–I really do think that's not a sustainable business model. Sponsors are looking for more than traffic. They're looking for influence, and they're looking for a target that matches up with their own audience; something tighter than just “moms.”

  108. @Esther… I just wanted to mention that you are definitely right that moms are doing the same thing as firms. I do connect my Type-A Mom editors who are interested with products to review if they are interested, but again I don't think reviews should be paid since that is clearly content and should be unmarred by a paycheck.

    Beyond that, I only handle campaigns that allow for real money for the bloggers. That is part of the reason I haven't done too many campaigns, but I still think it's important.

    As far as conferences, well Type-A Mom has and will continue to cover these important topics.

    @Kellyology I wouldn't agree all conferences are love fests. Type-A Mom was not last year, and everything in this post was discussed in-depth at the Town Hall Meeting last year. That is part of the conference that is an open forum for any attendee to get up and talk about issues in the blogosphere.

    I also have sessions on professionalism for bloggers, legal issues, finances, setting up as a business and monetization planned this year, as well as a session for companies on ethical ways to pay bloggers and a session for both companies and bloggers on ways to work together to both sides' benefits.

    Anyway, I apologize if that sounded a bit self-promotional, but I noticed a couple people saying conferences are not stepping up in this area. I just wanted to note that this is not true.

    I also wanted to add that I am forming an advisory board for a professional organization for bloggers, and you reminded me to get off my butt once and for all and do it. I'm going to get the ball rolling this week.

  109. So OK, thank you for the nudge. I've contacted the advisory board for the professional bloggers' group so we can start putting this together. If you are interested in being notified when the site is live, you can fill out the form at

    And Liz, forgive me if this is too self-promotional (and feel free to delete if it is), but I can assure you this is not going to be a profit venture. I just think this is dreadfully needed for the community.

  110. Another one of those evil marketers now venturing into the fray. My point of view: My clients are not going to pay for a review, because they shouldn’t. As Susan Getgood mentioned earlier, in traditional media, there is a difference between “editorial” and “advertising.” When it comes to blogger reviews, that's editorial. If we start paying for that, it's advertising, and no one is going to believe a thing you say. Credibility — what makes you appealing in the first place, to us and to your readers — is then shot to hell. So we're not going there. BUT: If we want you to be an ongoing spokesperson; or provide us with a strategic plan for reaching out to moms in social media; or develop content for a client Web site or blog; or do just about anything beyond a review itself — THAT we pay for — and should. But you know what? First, you have to build the skills and the audience and a relationship with us – and that all goes back to your posts.
    Liz – amazing that some company actually asked you to do all that for a @#$$%^^ link. I’m still laughing. But you know, it’s a process – everyone is still educating everyone else. Wonderful writing, as usual.

  111. Okay. I just read through everything. The post — the comments.

    I'm a mommy blogger. If you want a post on that blog, you pay for it.

    However, I also have a review blog (not niched either. Just products I've tried out). On that blog, I do take freebie products so I can review them. I guess that makes me a whore. So be it. I do giveaways on that blog because my readers like it. SO if that works for me and that blog, why do the rest of you care? (and it isn't quite for free since I have an ad in my sidebar that pays per impression). Guess what — people do read review blogs because half of the traffic I get on it comes from search engine traffic. And I've gotten products like a *gasp* Kuerig and *gasp* an air purifier. The value of those products were well worth my time.

    I also work as a social media expert for a PR firm. I've been telling companies for 3 yrs to pay for it. Guess what — they aren't. Blogs are still too new, too untested, and old school media is the way to go with a lot of companies. There is always going to be somebody out there who will do it for less or free. Heck, you have that in the real world too.

    So I went completely off topic. But because I have a review blog — does this post apply to me since I have separated the mommy blog and the reviews?

  112. For the record Lisa, I'm very uncomfortable with the “whore” thing. I think it was meant to be funny but…it's not.

    I just want to point out that if your traffic to your review blog is all from search, that weighs against influence, and if you're looking for actual sponsorship money (which is where the real money is at – not in banner ads) then you have to demonstrate influence over the long term.

    Influence comes with consistency, integrity, discernment, and traction.

    Also, just for your reference for your job as a social media expert, you should be aware that there are many, many compensated social media programs and sponsorships – FM has been doing it for years, BlogHer is doing it well now, Glam Media is doing it, and consultancies like Clever Girls Collective, One2One Network, and even the Motherhood are involved. So to dismiss this as “too new for marketers” really is out of step with the reality of the market right now.

  113. I cannot thank you enough for this.

    We need to band together as a group. We are absolutely worth the money. I have been treated at times like a total piece of garbage by some of these brands b/c they really have very little respect for what we do. They act as if this is so easy, takes no time and somehow we should be grateful they even contacted us.

    The only giveaway I did was for Sesame Street and I would not do it again. Sorry, I can't pay my bills with 6 page views or even 6000.

    this is my first time here and I can promise you it won't be my last. Very well put. Thanks again

  114. @Lisa… blogging is not new or untested. People have been socializing online since the 1970s. I've personally been blogging for eight years now. It sort of cracks me up how people will describe something as new just because it's new to them. It's not the same.

    In fact, blogging is well established and it is far easier to measure ROI with a blog than with traditional media. Also, the idea that old school media is a better bet is absurd. People are consuming their media online. People of all demographics and all age groups. Why does it continually get argued that old school media is better? Beyond all of that, you can't measure who sees an ad, you are very limited in measuring who actually takes action regarding an ad (sharing, talking about it, buying, joining, visiting site, etc.).

    As far as reviews… well, you say you read all the comments, but if that is the case your comment makes no sense. I think several people here have noted that reviews are editorial.

    I also just don't get where people think having a separate site for reviews changes a thing. If anything, I think it says “I would rather not pester my real readers/community with this.” In some instances, a review only site makes sense, of course. But anything that would apply when reviews are on the same blog would apply on separate blogs. I'm not sure how that helps or changes things.

  115. Would I be off base to suggest the following formulation?

    ad agencies : mommybloggers :: chickens : checkups

    Cuz my local bank doesn't cash chickens for the valuable “content” I write.

  116. As one of the 'corporate marketers' who has wrestled with this since launching my first question is always what Liz stated: **you have to demonstrate influence over the long term – and Ester, who I've worked with and understands this space well makes a similar point. You can count on one hand the # of people in big companies who understand this space – one piece of advice – what differentiates you, why you vs. the thousands of others, what am I getting in return, show me (quantify that prior parterships were succesful I'd be happy to help.. tweet me @jf1216

  117. I get what you are saying here. I don't work with marketers, I don't run ads, I don't “monetize”. I like to write and post those cute pictures you mentioned. That is what my blog is about.

    I remember when I first starting getting those cold calls, or I guess they would be cold emails. Dear Mommy…at first I was like “I HAVE ARRIVED! We're headed to Douceville baby!”

    Of course reality shook soon after.

    I worry sometimes about the community – I like to promote companies (local ones for the most part) that I think do a great job and deserve a shout out, most of the time I have some connection to the company, a friend or something. They don't solicit me to do this, I do it because I believe in them and I want them to succeed and I think my four (maybe six on a good day) readers would benefit from knowing about them. I wonder if I'm blurring the lines?

    Because before all this getting paid business sprung up, it was easy to do this and not think too much. I don't want to hurt other bloggers of course and underprice myself and them indirectly, but I know the moment I turned my blog into a money maker (very little money mind you) I wouldn't like to do it any more. I barely want the job I already have but a girl's gotta (over)eat, doncha know.

    I hope that my readers know that when I say I like something it is because I truly do and I think they might as well.

    I'm glad I never got into the monetization of blogging, I don't think I could maneuver through the rough waters.

  118. and it is far easier to measure ROI with a blog than with traditional media.

    In theory yes. It doesn't always take into account the value of branding. There are some places that offer value from association, even if you cannot place an immediate attribution for sales generated by a placement.

    Certainly I have never understood how a brand can spend a million sponsoring the U.S. Open and then suggest that spending $10k is questionable. Especially if they can take that $10k to reach their target demographic.

    But that is part of the rub for bloggers. It is not alway easy to get demographics. There aren't really audits that you can use to verify readership.

    And that doesn't take into account the discrepancies that exist between the various services and what the publishers claim to reach.

  119. The more I think about the more I think we need to standardize on a new vocabulary.

    Personally I think “paid reviews” are a non-starter. But if we have to have them, let's call them something else.

    Because they are NOT reviews. Testimonials? Endorsements? Advertorial?

  120. I completely agree about branding Jack. There are many successful online campaigns that aren't judged solely on clicks.

    And yes Susan! So…what will it be? I know some people call these paid review blogs “ad blogs” (and other more sordid terms) but that doesn't seem quite right either.

  121. this reminds me of what my mom used to say when I was dating WILDLY inappropriate boys in high school: Deb, she'd say, you don't have to go out with them just because they like you.
    Ditto marketers and moms: just b/c they like us, we don't have to date them. They have to pay us first.
    Wait. That metaphor just spun wildly out of control.
    But you take my point. I hope. Which is that no one can advertise on my site for free, just b/c they ask nicely (other than my mom and maybe that cute soccer coach…) Unless “free” means, we'll give your family a month at a villa in Minorca so you can do product reviews on Spanish wines.

  122. This is such a timely read for me. One of the coupon blogs I subscribed to (don't anymore!) just ran an ad for surrogate mothers suggesting this is a good way for moms to make money to stay home with their kids. On a coupon blog. Really? And she emailed me because she didn't understand why I thought this was low.

  123. Nodding my head, enthusiastically, in agreement. Excellent post, Liz. Totally agreeing across the board, of course.

    And here's one to add to the mix: a local paper hosts a tumbler account on their site. They actively recruit bloggers who are expected to write 3 posts each week, minimum. The bloggers are unpaid *and* they lose all rights to their work because it belongs to the paper. All ads on these blogs are the work of the paper, as well. So any income received by ads– Guess who gets the money? Not the blogger.


    And the crazy thing? They have about 20 people blogging for them as we speak.

    You're so right. It is NOT going to stop until we all stand together as a united front. Unfortunately, we need to respect ourselves. And we need to expect respect from those around us.


  124. Wow. Can't read all the comments. Marinka's made me laugh!!

    As a side point to this excellent discussion: Anonymous Cheryl, who apparently gets a big ol chuckle when “mediocre writers/bloggers demand to be paid for talking about their boring WAHM lives” has forgotten something really important. The readers are what the Big Company is after. True, quality is pretty much all over the map with mommy bloggers, and there are some really popular ones that make me think, “Huh? Really?” But if that blog has an audience, that is what matters. The companies aren't interested in whether you are a brilliant blogger/writer, only whether you are influencing a cohort group they are trying to reach. (I'm not saying this is a good thing.)

    So that mommy with the (possibly) crappy blog who is asking for money — she has readers and she's done something to get them. And if the advertiser wants to make use of the platform the blogger has created, they need to pony up.

  125. I have to say it does make me sad (and a little pissy) to see so many bloggers accepting so many things for nothing.

    A couple of months ago I applied for a position as a 'long-term' blogger. Emails went back and forth, they told me I was the most qualified for this particular opportunity, the posts were to be done on their site, not mine, I submitted my rates and then nothing … nada … zero. Never to be heard from again. About a month later I saw the same company advertising again for the same position wanting 'interns' or those willing to blog for their company for very little to no pay. Umm, no thank you. I wonder who in the end accepted this non-paying position.

  126. I'm a blogger in my off time–it's definitely a hobby not a business for me.
    My day job though? Marketer. It's my job to go out and try and connect my product with the end consumer. It's hard work (and getting harder with the way marketing and advertising is changing).BUT, and this is a big but, what some of these marketers are asking for and expecting from the mommyblog community is ASININE! I don't know if it's just because I straddle both worlds, but I would never, in a million years, ask for the things that you're being asked for.
    A link in a product review? Absolutely. A banner, for free? Email blasts? Promo links on promo materials? That's all stuff you pay for kids. Or you do if you have any integrity as a business at all. Those are things that bloggers SHOULD be charging for. It's advertising, not PR and it's worth money. Maybe not a ton of money (you have to be realistic in what you're charging based on your traffic, etc.) but it's worth real money. Not gifts, not product, not links.

  127. This is exactly why I say no to advertising on my blog. First of all, you get peanuts b/c the rates are so low (and so many willing to do it for free). Second, it never seems to benefit MY BLOG as much as it benefits the company. It's a win-lose and I'm on the losing side.

    I do product reviews. Love 'em, in fact. But I also say no to a lot of crazy pitches that just don't fit me, my family, or my blog. And I stipulate for all my reviews that I get an extra product to giveaway to a reader for free. Not for advertising for the company, but as a Thank You to my readers for reading the product review.

  128. @Mom101, yes I do research the blogs that I work with and I am very picky now about who I will and won't work with – however, sometimes even the with the best research, I can end up with a poorly written review.

    but, yes, I have definitely learned from my mistakes! — Judy

  129. I'm so glad I read this. You know, I've read a lot of discussion on this topic and yours is the FIRST to talk about the review/giveaway posts being non-paid.

    Or maybe I just missed it in all the other posts I read. heh.

    I will say that when Masimo approached me with an offer of $4,000 dollars worth of batteries, etc., for his pulse ox monitor that we simply couldn't come up with out of pocket…..I caved.

    What can I say? Keeping Parker alive trumps any and everything else. And if Masimo hadn't come up with that offer we would be $4,000 MORE in medical debt right now.

    My other buttons are compensated though.

    I walked away from compensation for several opportunities…the products of which I would never use, period.

    But regardless, I wouldn't accept a banner for a product I didn't think was great. I have too many families of medically fragile kids/kids with special needs that read my blog and trust me when I promote a product.

    Tammy and Parker
    @ParkerMama on Twitter

  130. @Parker's Mom

    I'd imagine you have the blessings and support of every person here for the choices you've made. Whatever we disagree about, we're all moms first and hell yes, our kids come above all.

    I actually think really highly of Masimo for supporting you. What a fabulous thing they're doing for you and Parker, and how fortunate you are to have found each other. Isn't that the best of what the brand/blog relationship can be?

  131. I've been working in research for years. I have a degree in Human Factors Psychology. I've worked with market research, product/prototype development, usability, you name it. Most, if not all of the companies who send bloggers products to review paid in-house or consulting companies to test and review products. These companies don't promote the product, but present it for production. Why shouldn't you get paid? As long as you don't sell your opinion, what's the issue?

  132. Outstanding post, great discussion. As a magazine editor and blogger, I've seen life from both sides. One thing I've noticed is that some pr people treat bloggers the same way they do mag editors—they extend freebies and hope for coverage, not realizing that bloggers are a whole other ballgame. I'm not excusing them, I'm just sayin'. They just don't get it.

    Liz, I have an ax to grind about the measly $$ bloggers get for writing posts and articles for sites, and stay with me because this is relevant. The major women's magazines still pay writers well, typically $1.50 a word and up. If bloggers got better pay (or, at times, ANY pay) for contributing to websites that earn advertising revenue, perhaps they wouldn't need to be dependent on companies on their own blogs. They'd also feel like more valued writers. As that old L'Oreal campaign goes, because we're worth it.

  133. Liz, THANK YOU for this post! I am a writer who blogs and I want to be paid for my work, just like I want and expect to be paid for my freelance proofreading, editing, and social media consulting.

    I have always run my blog, Dagmar's momsense, like a business, even when I only had 10 readers. I am very serious about it, putting in 30+ hours a week, and treat it professionally.
    I just wrote about a lot of what you mentioned in this blog post:

    Like you, I wonder about the mommy bloggers who will do anything for a free product. I hope PR companies will get more selective in who they are working with. I do only 1 out of 10 reviews I get approached with and am thinking of dropping reviews altogether.

    Dagmar's momsense

  134. Sara, I completely agree. The so-called big websites really pay very very little for posts.

    Although I'd venture to guess that the bloggers who see their blogs as stepping stones to well-paid, established writing jobs are not the same as the ones who see their blogs as stepping stones to free appliances.

    @Sarah, I think I'm understanding you correctly: But I think there's a big difference between being a paid tester who is paid to report objective findings to the manufacturer so they can improve the products, and a paid blog reviewer who believes the path to more money and more rewards is to write a positive testimonial about it on her blog. In the first case, the tester is actually supposed to be looking for flaws, right?

  135. I have to reiterate the earlier comments about writing for free as well as hawking product for free. It's a messed up system. And while I've called for unionization myself, I don't see that as a likely scenario.

  136. Thank YOU! I am still learning the ins and outs of blogging and I love coming here to learn the right way of doing it.

  137. I've been sending back my media kit to this PR companies requesting to “share with my readers” their “fantastic” information.

    Usually I never hear back from them except for them to say “we don't have a budget.”

    No budget? Well I don't have bandwith then for you. I have to pay for my bandwith.

    Not to mention that my time to set up their information, proofread, etc., is valuable.

  138. Preach! You have made excellent points in this article. I do get sick of big companies taking advantage of bloggers and it will only stop when more of us say no.

  139. Okay, I am sick to my stomach. I just today posted my first official giveaway…and now I totally regret it. I did not get compensated in anyway…however, I like that I am giving my readers something fun. I did the minimum in the post that I had to do. I didn't spend much time and I even mentioned that I think we should get compensated in the post. Should I decline the giveaway…or just commit to not doing them anymore. I need guidance! I have just started getting approached by little things…and I have declined some and have accepted twice…things that my readers would enjoy. I don't really see a difference in comments or hits when I have done my giveaways…ugh. I don't want to add to the problem.


  140. Oh gosh Sarah don't feel bad! I'm not talking about giveaways at all – I'm talking about comprehensive marketing programs in which the blogger gets nothing in return.

    We do giveaways at Cool Mom Picks all the time – and we're happy to do it for our readers.

    If it's something you enjoy and your readers enjoy, by all means, host those contests! When it stops being fun for you, then stop. That's the great thing about your blog – it's yours.

  141. Ok, now I'm confused. We are talking about paid ads and programs and NOT reviews and giveaways here, right? Because I *love* getting products that relate to my readers to review. And yes, I was joking with the whore comment. Certainly didn't mean to offend…

  142. So I used to be sort of against having ads on my blog. Only because I thought it took away from the clean look of my blog. But recently… I said 'what the heck', and started placing a select few ads on my blog in exchange for money. Yes, money! Because I need more money! And… I consider blogging my 'other' job. The one I'm passionate about more than the 9 to 5 office job in Communications I have. And I do product reviews, because, well, why would I turn down an awesome tent for my boys to play in? Of course, like most of you, I turn down tons of reviews, but the ones I like, I will review. And I will accept payment for certain posts and reviews, too. I see NOTHING wrong with this, as long as I support and like the company I'm writing about! I started a seperate review blog recently, because I wanted to keep my 'real' blog just me writing, and not about crayons, you know?

  143. Jill – personally I'm not talking about giveaways or reviews. But some other commenters might be. That's why this stuff is so confusing! When I mention “ads” I think some people think that includes product giveaways.

    Those are promotions. Susan Getgood clarifies it well up there (somewhere! up there!)

  144. This is, to me, where even the bigger problem lies….

    From Esther's comment:

    “It amazes me that with the dozens of conferences aimed at mom bloggers that none seem to take the practical approach of actually helping women build a rate sheet and create a proposal.”

    Companies wanting bloggers to work for free? I get it. Don't agree but I get it. But the conferences making money off of mommy bloggers to “teach” them what's up? I don't get that at all. Why is the down and dirty about getting paid/making money/how to do it often omitted at conferences?

  145. @Lee (and Esther)

    I think that Esther is mistaken. There are plenty of workshops on the business of blogging at the conferences I'm familiar with, at least.

    This year, there's a workshop/lab at BlogHer called “Professional Blogging: Your stats as a business asset” which seems to be about figuring out your stats and experience and worth, so you can price your services, and ad space, accordingly.

  146. Awesomem post! I completely agree.
    Although at Bright Hub, on our website, we do pay our writers for product reviews. But we are not affiliated with the products being reviewed, so honest reviews are important.

    Just wanted to throw out one use-case where being paid for product reviews (not driven by the manufacturer) is acceptable.

  147. Yea Mom 101–I got fired up on this topic from your classic post here’s the link– The blog post was called “What are you worth?” . The comment section is even better than the post. Mom 101– for me you confirmed something that had been bugging me all along!

    I recently got a pitch from a very large company (seemingly reputable…okay) and at first I said–yes that I would do the pitch, however, I never wrote it…because their approach seemed creepy. They wanted me to do a Pre-post, where I embedded there links to drive traffic to a specific area. In return, I would receive a Gift card. Not for my review–but for the pre-post. When I offered to do a giveaway/review–here was the guy’s exact response:

    ” All I need from you is a post prior to your review or a post announcing the giveaway, depending on which you would prefer to do first. When you are ready to do the initial post, please link the term“????” to http://www.?????.html as the first link in your post. I would just ask that you have it flow as naturally as possible within the context of the post. I am currently responsible for improving traffic to that site, so it would be greatly appreciated if you could do that. Below is an example of a giveaway and a post prior to a review I recently helped set up that you can use as a point of reference.” (edited to remove company identifiers).

    Unbelievable right? I don't mind getting paid for a post, but I want my readers to know. Not be secretly embedding links! So I developed this little Mini Media Kit that I email when I get ridiculous requests or outright blatant ones or PR people who want to capitalize on an initial informational post that I chose to do. HERE’s my “Still Blonde after all these YEARS–MINI PR Kit”, Feel free to copy and use if it feels right to you:

    Here’s my abbreviated PR kit.

    –We do not charge for reviews of products or giveaways that We host EVER.
    –We do not charge for posting of PR related to subject areas and causes that We wish to highlight.
    –The staff here consists of educated professionals with Graduate level degrees in Marketing. We can help your company plan a great marketing campaign to the blogging community!
    –The Staff here fits the target market for this blog and is uniquely qualified as such to make comments about the target market.
    –We OCCASIONALLY do accept paid placements and advertorials. When we do accept them, they will be clearly labeled as such.
    –We require payment for consulting, acting as a spokesperson or hosting/providing content for corporate sites.
    –Our hourly consulting fees are on a project by project basis starting at $xx/hour.
    –Our hosting fees for paid articles and links are $xx and up based on a case/case basis.

    Bloggers and Mommy Bloggers–Stop giving it away for Free!

  148. @StillBlonde, thank you so much for sharing this with my readers. I'm sure it will be helpful for a lot of people.

    It's smart that you're all marketing-trained so you can identify the difference between a pitch from a PR person or marketer, and a pitch from an SEO consultant. Oy.

  149. Could not agree with you more! I'm still a rookie in the mommy blogosphere but I've already realized that quite frankly, we're a force to be reckoned with. As such, there are times when good old-fashioned compensation just makes sense. Thank you for writing this!

  150. Barb from Elementary Spirits sent me over. I'm SO glad I stopped by. Thanks for making it crystal clear!

  151. Sorry I'm late to the party. Just catching up on emails–you know all those pitches with great stories that I can just past onto Momtrends. Oh wait, I actually research and hunt down trends. Which means I need support to do my work. Which means I need partners that believe in my vision. We drew a line in the sand this year and are not giving away anything for free.

    Thanks for speaking out loud and proud. Now back to those emails…

  152. The way I see it, the blogosphere is shaking out into several levels of blog, just as the print industry catered to different levels of readers/writers/advertisers.

    Some blogs don't need other advertising because they serve as advertisement for the writer's work. They may provide links to each other, and to products incidently, but they don't exists for that purpose. Personal Blogs, which are really equivalent to an open family letter or publicly posted diary are slightly related to this group.

    Next, I beleive there will always be a niche of bloggers working on the 'in exchange for' system. Some of them might grow into something more mature, others will always stay the equivalent of the local paper you get for cheap because it's mostly ads. Some of the open letters/diary types might take part in this sort of thing, possibly because the blogger thinks any payment is big time and doesn't have the knowledge or skill to move up to paid blogging. I can't quite think of the paper equivalent but I'm sure it exists(-ed).

    But, sooner or later, the powers that buy advertising will all come to understand that blogs are taking the place of the print media. That, in order to put their advertising in front of a certain sort of reader, they will have to put their advertising dollars in front of a certain sort of blogger.

    It's a maturing industry. The blogs associated with the writer's of Cool Mom Picks are a good example of what is going to be: the collection of blogs has more than a month's worth of the mid-week 'HOME' or 'LIFESTYLE' or whatever your local paper used to call the section with Erma Bombeck and Dear Abby and Heloise and articles on food, decorating, child care and women's interests in general.

    Many of those newspapers don't even exist any more, or they are on the downhill run to non-existence. Of those that continue, the mid-week section catering to women is a sad few articles and syndicated writers. Ditto the newspaper FOOD section. Heck, even the COMICS sections are disappearing. And specialty magazine: I recall more than a dozen different parenting magazines 25 years ago. Some big names in the Food magazine world recently closed down. Probably the same is true with other subjects, but those are the two I know about.

    Their readers are all online. 10 minutes on the internet can give you more content than the newpaper could give you in a week. Half an hour can give you more content than the entirety of a monthly general interest magazine like Better Homes & Gardens, Ladies Home Journal et al. I kick myself everytime I buy one of those any more. I have a few 1960's era from my mom's collection & some 80's from my early adulthood. The content was already shrinking in those decades and is ridiculously low in today's editions.

    I guess the equivalent of print editors and publishing houses hardly exists yet. The advertiser's think small because instead of going to the main offices in NY, they email individuals/small group representatives. As the publisher (BlogHer? and such?) and syndicates (Cool Mom Picks and the like) develop, the advertisers will begin to deal on a more 'professional' level. Standards on services to be rendered for fee by scale will develop.

    I expect there will be more blogs filled with articles by free-lancers, a reversion to the old model of magazine/newspaper submissions. I daresay, an associated industry representing bloggers to advertisers and vice versa will soon spring into existence. Something like agents writers need to get books published? Not all writers are prolific enough to fill their own blog, or personable enough to flog their own work around.

    Hang in there. Re-inventing the 'free' (as in paid for by advertising) press isn't easy!

  153. Thanks so much for the excellent insight Nil Zed – good stuff in there.

    In fact all these comments – wow. Once more you all make for a better read than my original post.

  154. A-Friggin-Men! It's something I was just discussing with a highly visible and fabulous colleague of mine. I'm not a mommy blogger but I am a blogger and an expert who has spent a dang lot of time building my business and my brand.

    These companies want anyone who has successfully built any kind of audience to shill for them in exchange for a $20 Starbucks card and free product. Good luck paying the mortgage with that…

    It's time to take a cue from Nancy and Just Say No to big companies who have money but don't want to pay for PR.

  155. thanks for the post, I have been blogging for over a year. In the beginning, I was excited that PR folks found my site and was happy to post content because, I need stuff, now I am indunated and can be more picky. That said, I am at the stage where I want to be paid and am trying to figure out how.

  156. I write for a blog in an industry where there are professionals and amateurs. It seems to me that there's room for both the professional website with paid advertising and the amateur “Hey, this is fun, maybe I can get some product out of it” website. It's not really the fault of the amateur if a big company doesn't see the difference between your blog and theirs.
    I get all sorts of pitches, and put together advertising proposals for outside companies. I can't imagine spending a lot of time on a proposal for a four month campaign without having at least a little inkling of what the co. was willing to pay. Did you approach them only to find out they weren't interested in what you had to offer, or did they approach you but you failed to ask them what their advertising budget was?
    If they feel they can get the same value out of an amateur site that they can out of yours, how is that the fault of the bloggers who are willing to do it for free/product?

  157. Thanks for the input anon.

    I don't think it's the “fault” of bloggers who want to give it away – as I said here, I'm more upset with the professional PR people who are being predatory, and should know better. But I do think posts like this one and others I've seen can help start to educate those just starting out so that they understand even they have worth.

    Together we all lift each other up.

  158. Amen to that. Have written a post about it myself and am hoping to get it posted on a big blog with lots of readers. Trouble is they're all owned by men….

    We definitely need to band together. Thanks for raising this.

  159. Truer words were never spoken. Except from you probably, since all your posts seem to resonate with me, especially on this topic. Though if Marc Jacobs offered to give me a back as payment for advertising I'd totally take it 😉

  160. THANK YOU!
    I was approached with a very similar offer recently. I assume it was the same PR firm because I was asked to do very similar things and in exchange they would give me a “link on their microsite” and a bag to give a way to readers-that I would have to pay to ship to them!
    I turned them down and got a very snotty “sigh – other Mom bloggers are doing it for free you know”.
    I responded with “that's their choice and this is mine. And, other people who want me to do so much work pay me”
    I really hope it was the view of the PR company and not the huge chain store they were representing when they were so snotty about me not wanting to do it for free.
    They'll learn.
    And, thank you for making me feel so good about the decision. I really knew it would take quite a few hours to do everything they asked and if I'm going to do something I'm not getting paid for I'd rather spend time with my family!
    Great work!

  161. I responded to this pitch like you did and they quoted me, ready? $50 plus a gift card. Oh! and if I wanted to, they'd offer me TWO giveaways instead of one. Oh! I'm SO lucky, right? TWO giveaways?!

    here's just a tiny part of the response: “I’d be interested in newsletter integration for your other website, but is that all cost associated?”

    Give me a break.

  162. Posts like this are so important for us new bloggers to read. So helpful. In Philly, there are a group of women (Philly Social Media Moms) who help each other out, and thanks to the veterans in the group, who are so transparent and so honest with newbies, I have learned of the potential my blog has to actually DO something, and make a real impact.

  163. Great article, all the commenters have valid points. I agree also that we must start somewhere, but we do tend to underestimate our value. Love the article.

  164. Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it, you may be a great author.
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