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Monday, March 02, 2009

Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website, PlantingDandelions.com

Souled: The Ethics of Product Reviews

I'm so happy to be home. Home, back in Little Rock, and home, back on Notes. Don't get me wrong. I love to travel. I enjoyed every minute of Houston, New York, Quebec and New Orleans. To the hilt, and then some.

And I've enjoyed posting on my new review blog, Noteworthy. I think it will be a fun place for me to play show-and-tell with owls, books, and accent pillows, without interrupting the narrative here. It's a nice place to visit, as the saying goes. But on the internet, I live here.

The panel I sat on at the Mom 2.0 marketing summit in Houston was described as "Building Communities: The future of success building relationships and engaging communities as you grow your business, image and reputation online." I was joined by Susan Getgood of Marketing Roadmaps and Nelly Yusupova of WebGrrls, and I'm grateful to both of them for letting me coast in the wake of their considerable knowledge and expertise. They were the actual experts. I was the Kumbaya chorus, offering up vague and earnest statements about the "sacred trust" between a blog writer and her readers.

I don't know if my presence added anything or not, but I passionately believe in that trust, in that relationship. I spent my entire Sunday morning yesterday, reading and responding to reader email because I believe in, and value it.

So I'm very interested in the conversation that's taking place on Mom101 and Suburban Turmoil about where the line is between the business side of blogging (we are, after all, in publishing) and selling out. I'd love to hear what you think about it.

I've turned down many an offer to use this space to mention someone's product. Our trip to Quebec was the first time I said yes. Obviously, it was a great gig, that fairly compensated me for having to stay up past midnight every night blogging. Nobody (but Patrick) heard me complain. But there were other factors that made it easy to accept. For one, when I get to do it, travel is something I blog about anyway. This blog was germinated from a family vacation travelogue. As a writing prompt, it fit. Secondly, I have a lot of respect and trust in the integrity of my ad network, Blogher, who set it up. Nobody was asking me to bury the details of the sponsorship. In fact, it was mandated that I set up a separate blog to publish the review. Transparency, I wrote in Mom101's comments section, is key.

So is authenticity. There's a clear difference between sharing my latest etsy obsession, and writing sponsored testimonials for disinfectant wipes. I'm a woman, and a mom, and I love pretty things, helpful gadgets and interesting places. But if I wouldn't drop it into a face-to-face conversation, I'm not going to drop it into this one.

The distinction is less clear when the product is suggested by a marketer, but is something I'm genuinely interested in. That's where the third criteria, relevance, comes in. For example, I have an offer in my inbox for a household gadget I've heard about and was already curious about. If I reviewed it on Noteworthy, I'd naturally disclose its provenance. So transparency and authenticity are covered. But I don't think it's relevant to anything I normally write about, nor is it an especially interesting writing prompt, so I'll probably pass.

I've got a book to write, after all. I don't see posting anything to Noteworthy more than once a week, and I won't ordinarily link to it, except as a sidebar item. If accent pillows, good books and owls are your cuppa, that's where they'll be. Above all, I want you to know that I respect your attention, the time and energy you bring here.

Kumbaya.

Labels:

7 Comments:

Blogger Jennifer H said...

Over the past several weeks, I've been working on setting up my own review site, and I agree with your thoughts here. I hope that I pull it off with the kind of respect you speak of.

I've never wanted to choose just one thing to be or do, so in that regard, I think there's room for bloggers to use their voices in all kinds of ways, if the right balance is found.

In any case, I think it will be fun to let another side of myself out to play. Showing up on a whole other playground was the only way I could reconcile doing that.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Nicely done, Mama. I think what's important is that people have clearly defined limits, even if it's just in their own minds. It helps resist when the flattery of being pitched to outweight the benefit to you and your readers.

I also love that you post when you have something good to say. I should try that more often. Or wait, then I'd kind of never post.

10:13 PM  
Blogger Smiling Mama said...

Thanks for this thoughtful post. I think it is very helpful, especially for a newish blogger like me.

9:40 AM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

You added a great deal to that discussion, embodying those unquantifiable qualities that many marketers don't yet get.

That trust you speak of, it's not only what I believe makes blogging meaningful, but it's also what makes it worthwhile for a marketer to pursue a relationship with a blogger.

7:40 PM  
Blogger carrie said...

Yes, I love these thoughts and I completely agree.

I've grown more interested in the conversation every time I get these crazy offers filling my inbox and no place to really address them if I chose to. Key word: chose.

My blog is not a place for that, but I'm toying with the idea of a review space - one where I could do this very same thing, if I wanted and people could read if they wanted.

I must say, the trip I was sent on for Seattle Mom Blogs, although tiny in comparison to this one and more localized (STILL! Free hotel and fun for my whole family) was a cool experience. And if we can control what we do and what we don't - I see nothing wrong with having a little fun on the side of "le blog."

:)

12:32 PM  
Blogger katherine said...

You were great on that panel at Mom 2.0--articulate and very clear-headed. And in the Wild West of the online world, this question about authenticity and sponsorship and selling out is a very important one. My sister, a journalist, and I talk about it often. It's such a pleasure to read your thoughts here! Just like on your panel: sensible and super-smart.

5:07 PM  
Blogger jenB said...

yes, and agreed.

8:19 PM  

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