Brands Obsess over Female Bloggers (Examining the Economics)


(Above Picture: 22 brands provide schwag (real and useful products) to the Blogher pre party…imagine the marketing at the actual conference)

I just got back from the pre Blogher party at Guy Kawasaki’s house, even today, as I gave a social computing workshop, I heard from yet another brand that they are desperately trying to reach women bloggers. Why? Well first of all, many of them control the financial spending at the household (ahem, that’s true at my house) and they are also ‘creators’ with blogs, pictures, video and podcasts –they’re influencers. With so many brands understanding the new “Google” world, where influence can happen from digital creators, they do what they can to reach them.

I spoke to a few of the bloggers trying to find out what works and what doesn’t. One indicated that when brands pitch them, they should really read their blog to understand their editorial agenda. I talk to brands, and they think it’s a mob rush to reach these women, and therefore very difficult to get in front of them.

I was talking to many female bloggers and learned that one of the party organizers from Kirtsy that about 50 brands submitted schwag for this pre party (although as you see above, only about half made the bag). I took a picture of the good stuff that I brought home (for once, says my wife). Also, Blogher received $5 million in funding this week (update: read interview, link via Chris Bishops) to build an advertising newtork, and the Blogher conference will have about 1,000 attendees in SF, many having traveled all over the country.

Now despite the attention being given to this hot market, I see two major problems. First of all, this market is already getting statured by marketers pitching these influential women, secondly, some of them (as I’ve heard) are not fully disclosing how they recieve these products, whether or not they keep or give them away.

So my questions to you is this:

When this organic and natural market gets saturated from the many vendors pitching at them (would make Scoble blush) what impacts does this have to: 1) credibility of the women bloggers, 2) Effectiveness of brands trying to reach this inundated market? 3) If credibility and demand is reduced to this market, will it decrease their influence? How will they be able to maintain these levels? I think something has to give.

I certainly home someone reads my above questions at blogher to the female congress, it’s a real issue that I hope they address.

Key Update 12 hours later (a moment of clarity):
First, to be very clear, it’s not the character of the bloggers I’m challenging, it’s the economics of great demand for a limited supply, please don’t misconstrue this.

After a good night’s sleep (something I rarely get) I can see what’s going to happen now:
1) The opportunities for brands to get in front of bloggers to review products has become saturated, pitching to them has become less than effective.
2) Therefore, the advertising network that blogher, sugar, glam, or others puts forth where be where the excess demand goes, brands will simply pay to advertise their products on the major nodes of the network, based on other blog network models, there will be little trickle down for b-a list bloggers in this space.
3) The credibility of “blogger review” will be reserved for a few products, but the supply of excess product marketing demand will be alleviated through a blog advertising network.

History shows that marketers are great at figuring out avenues where there is less friction.

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Edit: thanks to anna for noticing my typo

  • Very interesting post. I’m a mom, and I blog – making me a mommy blogger, I suppose. I run a group parenting blog at and we are often approached by companies about reviewing their products.

    You address the issue of swag and tons of free product, but how is this really any different than what has been happening with magazines for years? We all know that magazine beauty editors don’t go out and purchase all of the items they review in their magazines, but it isn’t specifically spelled out – why are mom bloggers different?

    When we do reviews on our site, it’s with the understanding that the company has sent us something to review. We don’t get paid to write our reviews, but for a brand to approach US and request essentially free advertising, a sample of the product is mandatory, otherwise we’d simply be an ad blog. We only do reviews once per week as to not dilute our main content, but I think these posts are really beneficial to our readers as we a) don’t publish negative reviews – if we don’t like a product, we don’t write a review – so the moms are getting great tips on good products and b) we almost always do a giveaway with the review. This brings in more readers to our site benefiting us AND the company. Again, this is much the same as magazines do.

    What’s the cost to the company? The cost of the product. What’s the benefit to the company? Well, that’s all determined by the traffic to the site and the perceived credibility of the writers.

    Lots to think about with this, but I don’t think the market is inundated or saturated – there are many women bloggers who have NEVER been approached. Perhaps you were swayed by the “A” list at BlogHer because they ALL received swag there, but this is only a portion of the female blogging population.

    Thanks again for writing about this!

  • Thanks Kate, a good response. You’ve answered most of my questions, but how about this: How do brands best reach women bloggers who are indeed saturated as only reviewing once a week could be a real bottleneck, esp if there are many demos coming in as you suggest.

    BTW: I advise brands to pitch bloggers quite frequently, I see this as unique as the velocity here is much greater than I’ve seen –perhaps even over Scoble.

    So, how can brand effectively stand out from the rest?

  • Hi Jeremiah,

    One, I am so jealous that I didn’t make it up there today! 🙁

    But to answer the questions you’ve posed to us:

    1. The credible women bloggers will continue to be credible. Those hawking goods, even for a SAHM income, will be so-noted by the communities that keep them honest. At least I hope so…

    2. Soaps are called “Soaps” for a reason — for those of you not as old as some of us — to sell Soap. Brands have been reaching moms through their medium since Procter & Gamble created daytime television. The one thing that brands like P&G are going to continue to struggle with are the standard 1% conversion rates are not going to work here. I’m looking to see what the likes of P&G will do with female bloggers beyond trying to inundate them. When will they realize the power of 1:1 influence? And, above all, what is the magic formula?
    3. I think we all are seeing the big brands come at social media hard and fast and in some cases reckless (Hello big mistakes for @CokeZero on Twitter, the normally thoughtful brand giants). Which brands will actually offer VALUE to their consumers through female bloggers is the bigger question for me. How do they live in a symbiotic blogsphere without sacrificing either image?

  • Samantha

    I certainly would have enjoyed meeting you, too bad you didn’t make it, there was even a BUS filled with female bloggers.

    Point #3 is a good point, many of these brands get caught up in the heat of the moment, over zealous in reaching their marketing objectives. You’re right, it’s not all to blame on the bloggers, although they must remain cool during a period of demand.

  • Jeremiah –

    Great question about the bottleneck. We’ve actually considered starting a separate review blog, but I’m still on the fence about that. I see our job right now as sharing with our fellow moms products that we LIKE and would recommend to close family and friends. We turn down products that we don’t feel comfortable reviewing for whatever reason – maybe none of us have a need for the product or it was a really impersonal, BAD pitch.

    How can a brand stand out? Well, it all depends who’s pitching the brand. Why would the product make MY life easier/healthier/cheaper, etc. How can it help my kids? Read our work, address us by name. Offer stellar products for giveaways, that’s what’s creating a lot of buzz right now.

    When you approach a blog about reviewing a product, you’re essentially asking them to take the time to write a post with free advertising – why should the blogger bother? That’s where value-added comes in. If you read the reviews on our blog, you’ll see one is for a company that I actually approached and begged for product to give away on our site. I loved the product and wanted to highlight it. But you see, this brand had already piqued our attention on Twitter…… There are more products that I plan to do this with, I just think that companies need to be willing to offer something in exchange for the advertising a blog post provides.

    This is a hot topic in the mom blogger world and there are some calling “sell-out” on the whole review topic – I’m not one of them.

  • Thanks Kate,

    I think a community run “product review” site would be incredibly helpful, as long as all the relationships were open and disclosed.

    Also, brands are going to send you stuff whether or not it’s good or bad, believe me.

    I’m also confident you’re going to do a great job –authentic and openly. Good stuff.

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  • You’re right about the intensity of companies who want to have their stuff reviewed by “mom” bloggers. My wife started her first ever blog a few months at in the green/mom niche at

    Not a day goes by that she isn’t getting a few emails from someone wanting her to review some green product. I helped her develop a policy to send back to these companies that talks about how she’s not a journalist, and how if they want to send product, they’re not guaranteed a positive review, etc…

    It’s funny, 90% of the people who get back to her are stunned she has a “policy” in place, and stunned in a good way, they like it that she’s up front with them.

    Anyway, yes, the mom blogs are hot, hot, hot for sure.

  • I’ve worked as a journalist and editor for consumer magazines in the past…covering cars, electronics, bikes, and all sorts of outdoor gear. I wrote for Outside, Men’s Journal, and many others. This dates back to the mid ’90s, well before blogs. The showering of product for review is nothing new. Give “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” a read; it’s about a Vanity Fair editor and gives a behind-the-scenes look at how it goes.

    Journalists don’t disclose whether or not they keep the products they review. You just assume that Vogue editors are wearing a ton of free clothes. Do you question their credibility? Perhaps. But that’s consumer journalism. This isn’t Consumer Reports, which is the only pure source of consumer product review.

    I’ve also been there when deciding which products to feature in a magazine, and I can tell you that advertisers play a role in that decision. This is Vanity Fair we’re talking about. It’s just the way it is. That doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy reading VF, and it doesn’t mean that their credibility is compromised. They don’t take cash in exchange for editorial. But all else being equal, an advertisers’ product gets more consideration.

    So I’m afraid that this is much ado about nothing. Perhaps you’ve just never witnessed the interaction between PR folk and journalists/editors. It’s a racket and a hustle. Always has been and always will be.

    Having come from that world, though, it’s like seeing history repeating. There’s nothing wrong with schwag. When it crosses into payola, then you have a problem. If a brand wants to sponsor your blog with cash, go for it. That’s where I see all of this headed, since I don’t think ads reflect the value of blogs. But disclose those relationships. No one will fault you for it. You can still write good (honest) things about a sponsors’ products, as long as it’s disclosed. But that’s not necessary if they’re sending you a baby seat to test and you end up keeping it. That’s just the way it works. However, if you’re not honest about what you write and the seat sucks, you’ll quickly lose credibility.

  • I’m not a mom blogger, but I’d love to have some marketing people pitch me. I’ve had over half a million visitors …

    How about it Wynn Hotels, or the French Laundry restaurant or The Spa at Pebble Beach? Or maybe Costanoa, Duarte’s Tavern or Doc Wilkinson’s Calistoga Mud Baths …

  • eve

    I’m with juliemarg, I only wish some-one would love my blog so much that they offered me products to review!

    I think there are a few at the oversaturated end of the market, and then the rest of us, and it’s not necessarily a function of the quality of the blog.

    BTW mommy bloggers are, I think, quite savvy consumers…..I don’t think blatant pay for comment sites last very long. I am sure the big companies are aware of this.

  • The model of how this whole thing work does not appear innovative to me. Like what many point out, it has been done with reviews in magazines, etc. The only difference i feel is that in the case of blogger it feels like ordinary folks get to be involved making it appear to be more credible.

    The thing i am wondering is that as time goes by, will all these bloggers achieve celebrity status? If that is the happens, isn’t it the same as what we have today? should companies continue to focus on them or will they shift to emerging bloggers?

    But no matter how you look at it, I think that targeting influential bloggers appears to be relative less costly and more effective compared to other review alternatives.

  • I’ve updated my post with the following:

    Key Update 12 hours later (a moment of clarity):

    First, to be very clear, it’s not the character of the bloggers I’m challenging, it’s the economics of great demand for a limited supply, please don’t misconstrue this.

    After a good night’s sleep (something I rarely get) I can see what’s going to happen now: 1) The opportunities for brands to get in front of bloggers to review products has become saturated, pitching to them has become less than effective. 2) Therefore, the advertising network that blogher, sugar, glam, or others puts forth where be where the excess demand goes, brands will simply pay to advertise their products on the major nodes of the network, based on other blog network models, there will be little trickle down for b-a list bloggers in this space. 3) The credibility of “blogger review” will be reserved for a few products, but the supply of excess product marketing demand will be alleviated through a blog advertising network. Marketers are great at figuring out where there is less friction.

  • I don’t think you’re on the right track here. It may seem like mom bloggers and corporations are or near a saturation point, but that just is not the case. Companies cannot get their products into our hands fast enough. Believe me, I get too many pitches to even respond to.

    I was on a conference call yesterday with a very large corporation and in their vast marketing strategy mom bloggers are very high on their priority list. That’s all they wanted to talk about, in fact.

    The type of buzz a company receives through product reviews doesn’t even compare to what an ad network *may* accomplish. Aforementioned company has to do the traditional banner ads like most, but realize when they want to attract real eyeballs to their site, they come to us with products and/on place content widgets on our sidebars.

  • Jennifer

    When I refer to “over saturated” is marketer demand, but limited blogger time. So I think we agree on that point.

    Interesting anecdote, I’m not surprised by your concall at all.

    No doubt conversations about a product speak much more (endorsement in some cases) and can be more effective but just the sheer volume is going to leave many products by the wayside –hence while they will go to advertising to reach this community.

    Therefore, I’m pretty sure that we agree.

  • Thanks for the update! I just have to say that in the first 2.5 months of having the blog up, we’ve received WAY more value in product received than advertising dollars. We’re a part of the Glam network now and I’m just not seeing it as being extremely profitable in the long run. Possibly not profitable enough to let those ads sit on our site much longer, I’m not sure. It all comes down to whether it detracts from our main content. I agree with Max that blog sponsorships better reflect the value of blogs.

  • Kate, keep me posted on how this works. We’re just in the early days, so hang tight. I’ve heard complaints from tech bloggers about the low payout of Gawker and Federated Media, and ad sense isn’t the way to do it either.

    Unless you’re getting over 100k visitors, (Techcrunch) daily then can you shift to a heavy ad model.

  • This is interesting Jeremiah, but I think there are other critical steps to take – we shouldn’t only be thinking about marketing. We need to look at mom as a cross-cultural discussion driver on issues management.

    Shoving brands in front of mom has always proven effective, and the online channel is just the latest iteration of going everywhere the customer goes. But blogs are more than a place for mom to say “I like this product” or “I don’t like this product.” Eventually we’ll see diminishing returns and the brands will go back to creative advertising platforms, as you can see they’re already doing.

    We need to think about a company’s overall reputation and so we need to think about the issues a company faces along with the products it sells. The mass marketing approach doesn’t apply as well here. We need to think more constructively and creatively and engage mom with respect and transparency on the issues she cares about most.

    THIS is typically where a company’s general counsel gets a little freaked out. But it’s the next great leap in social media, and it’s already starting.

  • David

    It’s going to be hard for some brands, esp when they look at their competitors dishing in the blogger trackbacks and when they’re worried about their own brand reputation.

    I’ve seen brands do amazing and shocking things due to competitive pressures.

  • Female bloggers really have a strong voice online. Remember what happened when “The X-marks the spot ad” and a female blogger responded to the ad on it’s intent. It blew up in the companies face.

  • Andy, you mean Target’s Target? Yeah.

    I’ve documented it here

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  • This is a great post and discussion. I do see what you’re saying now about too many products being thrown at mom bloggers. I can attest to that. So far these product reviews still work, but how many products can we review before our readers’ eyes start to really glaze over? I think most of us are extremely selective about the products we review and how many we publish. I do see your point, though.

  • Christopher Coulter

    Swag has been part of the game since the advertising industry was hatched in the late 50s, nothing new, or exciting here, just a new audience, acting like it’s a brand new world, and to them, it is, complete with all the endless ethics and disclosure dust storms, long since fought and won in things journalism.

    But once companies start really applying metrics, and realize how actually small and ineffective these micro-audiences are, the wanton exuberance swag-element will drop. When in doubt, aim the freebie chain-guns on anything that halfway moves and pitch to celebrities, which is the extent of the creative thinking that passes for marketing these days.

  • Chris

    Can you back this up with data?

    “But once companies start really applying metrics, and realize how actually small and ineffective these micro-audiences are, the wanton exuberance swag-element will drop.”

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  • Great post. And thanks for stopping in to the Kirtsy/Alltop party. It was an incredible snapshot of the female blogging community.

    As you noted, not all the swag made the bag. Only the quality and/or interesting stuff. (No marketing fliers, they’re useless and end up in landfills anyway.) Junk is junk is junk. Why would anyone want junk at a great party?

    One nice thing about the female blogging community that we’ve experienced is its overall ability to weed through the crap. It self regulates quite effectively. This is just getting to be a more time-consuming process as more crap is thrown about.

    The key is maintaining high quality standards on both ends…from what marketers and bloggers are putting out there. We truly believe in setting the bar as high as possible to maintain a smart conversation. And I believe conversation…and an open dialog about this growing trend…is the key. So, back to where I started here, great post.

    Also, you mentioned the need for review sites out there. And there are some really good, no bullshit ones. Cool Mom Picks and Green Mom Finds, for instance.

    Finally, to bring up one more thing. We’ve noticed that a number of smart brands are starting to connect with this community for ideas, insights and input on things instead of just throwing products at them to shill. Of course, this backfires when it’s not authentic, but it creates incredible results when a real conversation begins. And it’s not that difficult to start a real conversation.

  • Thanks Laura, it’s really amazing to see how all this attention is being brought to female bloggers, good job with the filters, it’s important in order to build community, as you suggest.

  • Sorry, forgot to include the good review site links mentioned.

  • Liz

    Hi Jeremiah, wonderful discussion. I’m the co-editor of which Laura Mayes kindly mentioned above.

    The key for bloggers is integrity. Are you reviewing something because you want it for free? Or because it has relevance in your life? Is it relevant to your readers? And perhaps most importantly, can you make a great post out of it? Because if your content is lame (even if that Swiffer or soap or new digital camera is awesome) you’re doomed.

    As I often tell marketers, just because a blogger’s audience and the marketer’s audience are the same, it doesn’t mean that the brand is synergistic with the content. Or that the product should be on blogs at all. Packaged goods in particular are tough. There’s a lot of figuring out to do on both sides.

  • Jeremiah,

    I love this. It hasn’t been that long ago that women weren’t on anyones radar. Even though for some time they have made 85% of brand purchases and are the brand purchasers for the family. I have a blog site called http://www.she-conomy that provides helpful tips, tactics and discussions on marketing to women. My audience however is men. A guys guide if you will on how to market to women. As one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country, I can assure you that a lot of advertising is either male centered, gender neutral or pink. Most men don’t understand how to market to women. When they look at the stats they are amazed at how many categories women dominate. Then they become defensive, almost a state of denial. When they are finally on board the band wagon they think lace and pink and rush out trying to capture this market without an understanding of how women make buying decisions. I think P&G and many other companies have awakened to the dominance and buying power of women but I still don’t think they understand how to reach them. A lot of new activity that is going to produce little impact.

  • Interesting post + comments.

    I was at the Kirtsy/Alltop party (Kirtsy editor, etc.) and noticed a few things happening that I wanted to point out.

    1. Women, towards the end of the party, were actually digging through bags to take out the schwag they want. Not even close to everything in that bag makes it home…women are choosy about their schwag. Consider Zwaggle. They had a “zwaggle your swaggle” booth where you could recycle your unwanted schwag ( at BlogHer. I went in the room to talk with Adam Levy (founder) a few times. Pounds and pounds and pounds of schwag that would ordinarily go directly into a landfill was being recycled. I mentioned to Adam that he should keep a list of the number of each unit being recycled to feedback to the companies. What great market research + feedback! “Your very cute, very expensive schwag didn’t make it out of the conf.” More conferences should use this approach. Making it into a schwag bag doesn’t guarantee it a flight home to daddy + kiddies.

    2. I sat in on the Monetizing Your Blog (beyond advertising) sesh. One of the “ideas for monetizing” that kept coming up was giveaways. Get a brand to give you stuff to give away on your blog. I’m not sure if this is going to continue to be effective because, as you say, the market is saturated. However, I also went to the closing keynote w/Heather Armstrong aka Dooce. She said that in 2 days she got 42,000 comments for a Wii giveaway. Sometimes it’s not the “schwag” but the blog giving it away that matters. Perhaps it’s most of the time that is true. Influence/the Attention Economy ain’t going anywhere.

    3. Nintendo gets it. About 2 months ago I was asked to be a Brand Enthusiast for Nintendo. I was not required to blog about it, but was told I could invite a group of women to a party (you’ve probably heard about this new tactic already, but I’m just restating for your readers). The tactic is to reach out to so-called Influencers and put the product in their hands. Then to throw a party (very post-Tupperware if you ask me) and invite all your closest gal pals. Give them all a DS as they leave the party. Talk about viral marketing. Everyone wins. Nintendo invests in the parties, the women that attend have a rockin’ time and develop an affinity for the product which they then evangelize. FOR FREE. Nintendo definitely gets it.

    I was already crazygonuts about my DS (which I stood in line for 2 years ago in Japan to buy b/f it sold out). It made sense for them to contact me. But they also reached my friends, who are Influencers in their own spheres. The ripple effect can’t be understated.

    Do we know we’re being marketed to? Damn right. We’re all branded, so how about we start choosing the brands we’re going to support and let them spend their dollars directly on us, giving us cool stuff and throwing us parties rather than tv, magazine and billboard ads that no longer make an impact?

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  • Great post and discussion. We certainly hear a lot of these questions in our space. It seems every day the power of the Mom Blogger (MB’s) grows. We know many PR/brands don’t understand how best to work with them.

    I’ve learned: it’s all about value and respect. Kate’s comments were right on. Where is the incentive for MB’s to post reviews?

    It’s not always about money – how about providing solid, free content?

    It’s not the product per se – how about doing homework? Learn about each blogger, determine which products & services would be appropriate to send to her based on the tone of her blog and the flow of her life.

    Develop relationships – will this be an ongoing discussion between blogger and your brand? Will you engage her, work with her and respect her opinions?

    Jeremiah, you asked, “how can (a) brand effectively stand out from the rest?” With a remarkable, useful product for women. The MB’s we work with want to use and fall in love with products. They won’t just write a blank review and add a link. Their reputation is on the line too.

    We’ve found a brand can talk all they want about their product, but if it doesn’t fulfill a need, moms won’t pay attention.

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