Please be advised that the journal will be unavailable for 30 minutes on Monday, July 26, 2021, starting at 9:30 AM EST. This downtime is scheduled for necessary upgrades. We apologize for the inconvenience that this may cause.

Brands vs. babies: Paid content and authenticity in Canadian mommy blogs

Authors

Keywords:

Blogs, Blogging, Mommy bloggers, Brand, Paid influencers, Cultural intermediaries, Source credibility, Authenticity, Credibility, Audience-as-commodity, Public relations, Paid media

Abstract

This study examines the influencers with the specific interest of parenting during a specific period in early 2017 when what were then called ‘Mommy Bloggers’ were charging public relations firms and the brands they represent upwards of $2,000 per blog post to write favourable product reviews. Findings revealed their business model and ability to continue selling their audience as a commodity was in jeopardy as audience trust in bloggers was on the decline compared to any other information source about brands; new, albeit vague, regulations (not laws) required the blogger to disclose any commercial relationship; and qualitative studies revealed audience negative opinion of the takeover of commercial content and resulting lost sense of community. Using determinants of authenticity as a measure of a blogger’s ability to maintain her audience with a personal narrative, a quantitative content analysis of 290 blog posts published by 30 of the top parenting bloggers in Canada was used to demonstrate with correlations that paid content was threatening authenticity and that a blogger’s legitimacy as an influencer was being weakened by commercial content.                                                  

©Journal of Professional Communication, all rights reserved.

Author Biography

Donna J. Lindell, Centennial College

Donna Lindell is professor and program coordinator for the award-winning post-graduate public relations program offered at Centennial College in Toronto, Canada. Donna has held many leadership roles in the public relations industry over a 25+-year career: in association; agency; and as vice president corporate communications at a global corporation, where she spearheaded the global communications efforts for the largest Initial Public Offering in Canadian history (at the time). She was named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2003 for her career achievements. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa and a Masters of Public Relations from Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax.

References

References
Archer, C., Pettigrew, S., & Harrigan, P. (2014). A tale of power, passion, and persuasion: Bloggers, public relation and ethics. Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, 15(1), 37-54.

Baran, S. (2002). Introduction to mass communication (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Berleson, B. (1952). Content analysis in communication research. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Blanchard, A. (2006). Blogs as virtual communities: Identifying a sense of community in the Julie/Julia Project. University of Minnesota. Retrieved March 17, 2017 from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy: http://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/172837

Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste. (R. Nice, Trans.) Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Competition Bureau. (2015). The deceptive marketing practices digest. Competition Bureau. Ottawa: Government of Canada. Retrieved March 17, 2017 from The Competition Bureau: http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/vwapj/cb-digest-deceptive-marketing-e.pdf/

Ehm, E. (2015, January). Pay-to-play: A guide to engaging bloggers. Retrieved February 26, 2017, from Cision: http://www.cision.com/ca-en/best-practices/pay-to-play/

Environics Communications. (2017, April ). Environics Communications CanTrust Index: The second annual study by Environics Communications on trust levels among Canadian consumers. Retrieved May 11, 2017, from www.environicspr.com: http://environicspr.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/ECI_CanTrust_Report_2017.pdf

Female Factor. (2016). Women in the economy. Retrieved January 22, 2017, from The Female Factor: http://www.thefemalefactor.com/statistics/statistics_about_women.html

Fisher, E. (2015). 'You Media': Audiencing as marketing in social media. Media, Culture & Society, 37(1), 50-67.

Foshee, E. (2010, May). Navigating the mommy blogosphere: Reach the world's largest target market. Public Relations Tactics, 17(5), 10.

Ghazisaeedi, M., Steyn, P., & van Heerden, G. (2012, June 2012). Trustworthiness of product review blogs: A source trustiworthiness scale validation. African Journal of Business Management, 7498-7508.

Grose, J. (2012, January 25). If Dooce can't make an egalitarian marriage work, who can? Retrieved March 7, 2017, from Slate: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/01/mommy_blogger_dooce_separates_why_it_affects_her_readers_so_deeply_.html

Horrall, C., & Cavanagh, M. (2014). CAIS paper: Mothers of invention: A pilot study of commercial content on mother blogs and perceptions of credibility. Connecting across borders: Globalization and information science research (pp. 1-5). St. Catherines: Canadian Association for Information Science. Retrieved May 13, 2017 from CAIS: http://www.cais-acsi.ca/ojs/index.php/cais/article/view/890/810

Hovland, C., Janis, I., & Kelley, H. (1953). Communication and Persuasion. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Hunter, A. (2016). Monetizing the mommy: Mommy blogs and the audience commodity. Information, Communication & Society, 19(9), 1306-1320, DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2016.1187642

Ismail, S., & Latif, R. (2013). Authenticity issues of social media: Credibility, quality and reliability. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, 265- 272.

Jensen, R. (2011). Blogola, sponsored posts, and the ethics of blogging. In B. Drushel and K. German (Eds.) The Ethics of Emerging Media (pp. 213-232). New York.

Kang, M. (2010). Measuring social media credibility: A study on a measure of blog credibility. Institute for Public Relations, (1-31). Retrieved April 1, 2017 from Institute for Public Relations: http://www.instituteforpr.org/measuring-blog-credibility/

Kupenberg, A., & Stone, P. (2008, August). The media depiction of women who opt out. Gender & Society, 22(4), 497-517.

Lefebvre, R. (2007, September). The new technology: The consumer as participant rather than target audience. Social Media Quarterly, 13, 31-42.

Li, R., & Suh, A. (2015). Factors influencing information credibility on social media platforms: Evidence from Facebook pages. Procedia Computer Science, 314-328.

Lopez, L. K. (2009). The radical act of 'mommy blogging': Defining motherhood through the blogosphere. New Media & Society, 11(5), 729-747.

Lytle, L. (2013, October 29). Mom Central Consulting on the power of influencer marketing. Retrieved March 9, 2017 from Weber Shandwick Seattle: http://webershandwickseattle.com/2013/10/mom-central-consulting-on-the-power-of-influencer-marketing/

Mendelsohn, J. (2010, March 12). Honey, don't bother mommy. I'm too busy building my brand. Retrieved March 17, 2017, from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/fashion/14moms.html

Morrison, A. (2011, Winter). "Suffused by feeling and affect": The intimate public of personal mommy blogging. Biography, 34(1), 37-55.

Morton, M. (2018, January 22). Under the influence: Inside the ‘Wild West’ of social media ‘influencer’ marketing. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from Global News: https://globalnews.ca/news/3978372/under-the-influence-inside-the-wild-west-of-social-media-influencer-marketing/

Perlmutter, D. D., & Schoen, M. (2007). “If I break a rule, what do I do, fire myself?” Ethics codes of independent blogs. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 22(1), 37-48.

Rieh, S., Joo Jeon, G., Yang, J. Y., & Lampe, C. (2014). Audience-aware credibility: From understanding audience to establishing credible blogs. Eighth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (pp. 436-445). Ann Arbor, MI: Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.

Ronan, A. (2015, May 29). Heather 'Dooce' Armstrong talks life after mommy blogging. Retrieved March 16, 2017, from New York Magazine: http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/05/dooce-talks-life-after-mommy-blogging.html

Roumeliotis, I. (2017, March 20). Peddling authenticity: Social media influencers undermine traditional ads. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/social-media-influencers-beckerman-twins-1.4024696

Rourke, L., & Anderson, T. (2004). Validity in quantitative research analysis. ETR&D, 52(1), 5-18.

Rubin, A. (2012, August 9). Mommy bloggers are gaining clout -- and retailers are taking notice. Retrieved March 20, 2017 from The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/mommy-bloggers-are-gaining-clout-and-retailers-are-taking-notice/article4472076/

Sanoval, M., & Fuchs, C. (2010). Towards a critical theory of alternative media. Telematics and Informatics, 141-150.

Smith, B. G. (2010). The evolution of the blogger: Blogger considerations of public-relations-sponsored content in the blogosphere. Public Relations Review, 36, 175-177.

Smythe, D. (2001). On the audience commodity and its work. In M. Durham, & D. Kellner (Eds.), Media and Cultural Studies (pp. 253-279). Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

USC Centre for Public Relations and The Holmes Report. (2016). Global Communications Report. Annenberg: USC Centre for Public Relations and The Holmes Group.

Warner, J. (2015, April 2). The opt-out generation wants back in. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/magazine/the-opt-out-generation-wants-back-in.html

Wu, F. S. (2016, October). The serious business of mommy bloggers. Contexts, 15(3), 42-49.

Xifra, J., & Huertas, A. (2008). Blogging PR: An exploratory analysis of public relations weblogs. Public Relations Review, 34, 269-275.

Yang, S.-U., & Lim, J. S. (2009). The effects of Blog-Mediated Public Relations (BPMR) on relational trust. Journal of Public Relations Research, 21(3), 341-359.

Zappavigna, M. (2013). Enacting identity in microblogging through ambient affiliation. Discourse & Communications, 8(2), 209-228.

Downloads

Published

2021-01-01

Issue

Section

Research Articles