Saturday, 11 September 2010

Say grit's day sent you

Maybe it was the uncritical glee with which the mummy blogging world received this list. Maybe it was the response, can't wait to get there!

Or maybe it was the feeling that I was patted on the head, told my fears were groundless, that my reservations were nothing. Because isn't it what every mummy
secretly wants to do? Make money from their blog? Then I'm no different, and I'll make a few dollars in the end. Pat, pat. There, there.

Yes. That turned my thinking. And Grit has a deep seam of bolshy Brit about her, wherever you put her in this wide world.

So here are some of Grit's predictions for the UK mummy blogging world over the next five years. I bet they come true. I keep a crystal ball in the closet, next to the skeletal bones, and the bitter herbs.

1. Rise of the deceitful blogger

Corporates are driven by a need to make money. They are driven to exploit all media outlets to promote their products. They will move on from seeking genuine mummy blogs. Mummy bloggers are second hand. The writers are difficult to control. A blogger will be possessive over their tone of voice. Some bloggers will deliberately write negative reviews to maintain their reputation for authenticity. A corporate cannot stop a genuinely negative reaction or a poor recommendation of product.

Corporates will move increasingly to front end advertising blogs. These blogs will appear genuine. They will be sitcom blogs fronted by 'ordinary families'. These ordinary madcap families will provide the stock ingredients: long suffering husband, opinionated wife, loud mouthed, edgy children who are a reflection of consuming, cultural times, sharp script. Whatever their great adventures, all will pause for the knockabout interaction over Chrispy! Cheery! breakfast cereal.

Bloggers need to match this development with critical thinking and discriminating reading.

2. Rise of the family blogger as family business
Some mummy bloggers are ambitious to put their blog on a business footing. A blog for them will not be a part-time, earn-a-few-pennies way of sharing information. The writers of these blogs will require all the family to engage appropriately with the business. Corporates will be hand-in-hand with this creation. Together, they will define the family norm. Other mummy bloggers will be encouraged to organise themselves against this norm.

Increasingly, mummy bloggers will be led to believe they must find one simple angle, a niche, a way of representing themselves, and stick to it. They will be told this makes it easier to find their blog in a multi-blog world. In reality, it is easier for market segmentation, brand identity, blog positioning if the blog and the family it represents becomes less complex, less wide ranging, more focused on definable market areas.

Bloggers may need to carefully select their recommendations, award cultures, references, blog rolls, links. By such reference to other blogs, they will define their complicity or rejection to the norm.

3. Mummy bloggers will enter global hierarchies
Multinationals make money regardless of national boundaries, national loyalties. They are responsible to shareholders first and foremost. The largest brands will focus on flagship family blogs.

There will be thousands of mummy blogs seeking to compete for attention from these large corporates. Bloggers will be in heavy competition with each other. The corporates will realise they have the upper hand and start to wield that power ruthlessly, dividing and segmenting the mummy blog market for their convenience.

As part of this trend, global stats rankings will develop. UK mummy bloggers will feel the pressure to compete wherever they travel in blogland. They will see rankings everywhere. There will be pressure to display your rank, stats, position, cash worth, value to others, discussion rating, transferability across formats, borders and time zones.

Large-scale bloggers will come under pressure to display their worth both in their country of writing and elsewhere. How much was this post worth per hour UK time? 22 cents? Did it do better than yesterday's post? Will your post be picked up on west coast USA by close of business? Can your blog provide bilingual coverage? How far can each post travel in a global marketplace?

Much time will be wasted by mummy bloggers chasing large corporates. That investment in time will not be returned as a financial reward. Mummy bloggers who wish to disengage from the multinational culture of competition will find it increasingly hard to do so. Web rings will be established linking anti-commercial family blogs. They will travel under various names, such as ethical blogs, blogs for integrity, honesty blogs, free blogs, ad-free blogs, no pay blogs, and so on.

4. Mummy bloggers will develop blogs as a local business
A large corporate cannot predict which mummy blogs will be taken up on a multinational scale. This is out of their control. So it is in a corporate's interest to encourage a range of low-level, local-based blogs. This allows them also to take advantage of difference within the family market.

Some bloggers will seek to make a business from a discriminating feature of their identity, a social role, or a characteristic. For example, expect local or national business platforms to be occupied by a parent blogger defining themselves as a single parent, gay, homeless, black, Spanish, and so on. With this, bloggers will seek defined advertising, specific market tie-ins, and local marketing opportunities.

Mummy bloggers will be under pressure to decide how global or local they are positioning their blog. Some mummy bloggers will feel alienated from a blog world which exploits a characteristic they hold dear as part of their identity. Alternative, radical, non mainstream family blogs will appear which set out to deliberately provide alternatives or simply to provoke.

5. The rise of the Dad blogger (and they'll be more successful than you, mum)
The Dad blogger market is in an infancy but this will become an expected part of a complete family view.

Dad bloggers will be highly competitive. Yet they must show a predominantly female buying readership a soft and intimate side of their personality. They will write on traditional mummy lines involving babies, toilet seats (up or down), the loss of breasts.

Dad bloggers who look the part will be able to command good terms for photographic opportunities. The feel-good dad blogging movies and books, marketed to women, are round the corner. Howabout single parent dad blogger pretends to be mommy in order to express internal fears on family; falls in love with mommy blogger. Cue miscommunication, missed opportunities, hilarious capers. Resolution to family norm. My money's on Brad Pitt.

6. There will be a loss of transparency about how the market works
Mummy blogging will see the loss of clear relationships between bloggers, public relations teams, and corporates.

For example, some mummy business bloggers will expand to work across several areas; they will simultaneously create deals, negotiate on readership lists, offer behind the scenes personal data, provide contact information, and develop multiple blogs and identities for marketing and promotional channels. Some of this will not be made clear to the end reader.

Readers should be aware that they may be trafficked for business without their knowledge or consent. Bloggers who wish to resist this trend will need to use their voices collectively to demand clarity, openness, freedom and access to information.

7. The rise of the online marketing expert
The speaker, the workshop leader, the trainer, the person who positions themselves as an expert in all these areas: these people, who blog themselves, provide links between the worlds of the corporate, the public relations teams, the motivational researchers, the marketing worlds and the front end bloggers.

Increasingly, these experts will sell their skills and knowledge to everyone, from corporates to start up bloggers. Experts will offer a range of packages at a variety of consultancy rates from the top to the bottom of the market. Packaged themes and topics will be on subjects such as: legal and copyright, how to present a product favourably; manipulation of public opinion; traffic creation; how to create favourable publicity; how to build relationships with branded corporates. A few family specialists will offer workshops on maintaining family life within the blogging environment.

Bloggers should be aware that everything they say and do online is a commodity and can be used ultimately as a paid for transaction. Parent bloggers will have no control over how the information they provide is used, no profit from good ideas, no recognition from endeavours, no financial reward for ground breaking work. Grit sighs and strews her aconite.

8. Blogging will go to court
Contracts will become an expected part of the mummy blogging world. Advertisers will want access to markets on their terms. The blog contract will be one means of securing it. There will be bloggers who break their contracts, consciously or not. One mummy blogger with a brand identity and financial investment to protect will be in court proceedings with other mummy bloggers over issues such as defamation and passing off. Cases will be taken through to court proceedings to test the law on grey or developing areas of family blogging.

Bloggers would be wise to choose contracts carefully, research contract law, share experiences, watch for clauses, be alert to requests for professional indemnity, and be cautious of throwaway lines in contracts that appear innocent but which essentially remove all blogging rights to independent voice.

9. Bloggers will charge for access to their blogs
Some bloggers will give their own research and reaction for free. Some bloggers will seek to make money by controlling access to particular parts of their blogs. They will seek to enter into defined commercial activities on their terms. They may set aside areas for their blogs where there is a charge made for information, or for original market research. Some family blogs will be pay to view or require subscription.

10. Bloggers will have less control over the look of their blogs
Bloggers have been able to customise, tailor and design their own blogs using their own learning and blog tools provided. Many women have seen this as an empowering and creative way of building an interaction online.

However, increasingly, the means to tailor the blog at an individual level will disappear. There will be fewer templates and more plug-ins which cannot be customised; new bloggers will be asked to use 'skins'. It will appear as if the choice has widened, but in reality, a blogger's ability to build a blog from their own skills and their own creative resources has narrowed.

A parallel can be drawn with the vehicle. Once, drivers were encouraged to service their vehicle themselves: change oil; carry out basic fault assessment; make emergency on the road repairs. Even Grit removed her stockings in a layby to mend a fan wheel. But now, drivers are under pressure to buy off-the-shelf service agreements, or are told to buy complete units even for minor repair, which can only be installed by specialists. Insurance and terms of purchase may be tied into these service packages, so it will be to the customer's disadvantage if they do not agree. The same type of complete arrangement will be offered for blogs.

11. There will be a growing internal market for bloggers
Internally, the mummy blog market will diversify. People will sell services to each other, positioning themselves as parents who know the business.

In the range of competing providers, designers are a first wave. Professional copywriting will merge with visual design services to offer complete front-end blog positioning.

Some bloggers will then look to providers offering newsfeeds, public relations packages, and researchers who promise to supply 'premium quality content'. Competitive bloggers will hope that the investment will in turn drive up readership, traffic, and position their blog as a key advertising resource. Some bloggers will pay more for premium services.

Bloggers who at present feel they can invest little and make a great deal from blogging may find this is not true. The market is actually one where many parent bloggers will be asked for a great deal of investment in money, time, and information, while the company they invest with makes a great deal at their expense.

12. The language of the blog will change
Some bloggers will use particular selling words deliberately, consciously, manipulatively. They will be offering a complete range, with greater satisfaction, all new, improved. Other bloggers will pick up those words, unconsciously, and reproduce them.

Some bloggers will apply those promotional words to describe their daily experience. Letter by letter, the language of advertising will creep into daily life experience as narrated by blogs. Blogging language will steadily merge with the language of advertisement. Experiences will be defined, described, and positioned as marketable. Other bloggers will compare their own experiences via the advertised experiences. And parent bloggers can all expect more posts playing on traditional advertisement drivers: sex, insecurity, love, fear, power, wealth, investment.

13. The new market will alienate a writer from their writing.
I pass through mummy blogs which are truly appalling in terms of their writing. The posts are stream of consciousness, grammatically suspect, poorly spelled, missing punctuation.

I suspect the writer does not choose that style for effect. I think they use that style when formal training of writing passed them by. It doesn't matter to me. This person has stories to tell, emotions to communicate, a voice that comes out loud and strong, a life that is rich and long lived.

But those writers are going to be left behind in the new world. No one can make money out of those graveyards of text. Personally, I don't want those writers to look at their writing, their all-over-the-place writing, and think, I've failed. You do not fail. You never did fail. You never will fail. But enter the new, narrow, controlled world of corporate blogging, and the market might ask you to think that you have. Then sell you a product to guarantee success.

Don't buy it. Let's be British about this. Carry on blogging.


sharon said...

My first reaction was 'Why, you old cynic'! But then I digested your words and now think you are probably right. I notice advertising material, and accompanying justifications, creeping into several blogs already. So far content has generally held up and I skip over the more overt sponsored pieces. But . . . who knows how long the balancing act will last.

And, before I get my head bitten off, I accept the right of anyone to take the payments offered by the various corporations sniffing around the skirts or pants of the blog world just as I reserve my right to cease reading that which does not interest me.

So, moving right along, when are you going to start up the underground network for radical, sponsor-free, unrestrained and un-financed mummy bloggers Grit?

GoodWife said...

Oh yes......

Actually I went on a marketing and Social Media course just last week....and no I'm not joking

Sugarplum Kawaii said...

I'm making Sausage stew and at the same time reading your very entertaing cynical stance on corporate hijacking. I now have gravy smeared on the keyboard.

Perhaps with the keen up take of Carlsberg (Re. your post to my Cider...which by the way if you happen to get a mo. go back as someone has left you a reply... what you can do with those empties!) you might get sponsored?...'Probably the best blog in the world...'

MadameSmokinGun said...

Blimey Mrs. You are scarily so spot on. (Get that for grammar.)

I actually toyed with the idea of starting up another blog on a Mummy Blog system to advertise my husband's business, but reality kicked in very quickly. Thank god. Even if I tried really really really hard not to be offensive like in my 'real' blog, I would still surely damage his reputation by being utterly false and boring.

I berate myself for being boring all the time. Couldn't give a shit about being offensive.

Either way it all seemed like way too much work and potentially brain-melting so I decided to stay being uncool and unread while exorcising my angst and saving money on therapy.

In the end this is way more 'productive'.

Angela said...

This is really scary. You have given it a lot of thought, and well done!
I will surely carry on blogging the way I want and not get in touch with anybody who wants to advertise with me! Bleah!!

Deb said...

Blech. Suddenly I detest the term Mommy Blogger.

I am probably safe, here in my obscure little blogosphere with 3 readers. It is unlikely that Starbucks is going to be sniffing around, wanting to pay me in Grande Mochas for anything.

Is it really celibacy if no one wants it?

Retiredandcrazy said...

Some of the people in the office went to a Marketing and Social Media semina last week too GoodWife. Wonder if it was the same one?

Potty Mummy said...

Fabulous post Grit. Let's make #carryonblogging a battle cry...

Expat mum said...

Yours and the other list makes me a bit depressed. I have no interest in making money directly from my blog (selling books, yes) and can't be bothered with PR people. Does this mean I'm on the way out? Sob.

Emily O said...

I'm sure some of this will happen but it will all rely on people visting these blogs. Overt commercialism will turn a lot of people off and these trends could be self-defeating. The amateur, honest and personal blogs will always appeal so I think we don't need to worry too much.

TheMadHouse said...

What a great post about all the different facets of mummy blogging.