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Hey Microsoft: Sponsored Posts On 59 Blogs In The Same Tiny Niche Is Not Less, It’s Too Fucking Much

Hey Microsoft: Sponsored Posts On 59 Blogs In The Same Tiny Niche Is Not Less, It’s Too Fucking Much

Windows recently launched a phone that nobody cares about. But rather than just accepting that fact, Microsoft did what any large company with a mediocre product does: they threw money at the problem. In the social media space, this translated into calling up Federated Media, signing up for content-column placements on 59 blogs in the FM network, scheduling them all for the same day, and having them promote a Windows 7 phone giveaway. The posts were organized under the deliciously ironic theme of “less is more,” because not only does a 59-blog campaign for an unnecessary smart phone illustrate this point, but because there’s nothing like a little lack of self-awareness to announce how well-suited a brand really is to the mommyblogging space.

I was trying to explain to Mr. Right-Click (a non-blog reading, non-social media kind of person) what the problem with this campaign was, and this proved tricky, so I’m guessing this must be why Microsoft thought this would be a good idea in the first place. And it must also mean that, while whomever they have in charge of landing placement deals over at FM these days is clearly talented in selling the idea of social media as an advertising tool, they are not actually consumers of social media or — at the very least — not willing to set aside financial concerns for a better use of the space itself. Here’s the thing: I’m a mommyblogger, so when I open up my reader on Monday, and start reading blogs, I see one giveaway and it’s no big deal. I see two giveaways and I might smirk. I see three giveaways and I start to get annoyed. But now I’m only five blogs into my daily blog reading and ALL of them feature the contrived writing promptless is moresponsored by Microsoft, and bookended by a giveaway for a crappy phone?

Now I’m pissed. Now I’m wondering if there are any bloggers left who haven’t been bought off by Microsoft. Now I’m clicking through my reader trying to see just how bad the damage really is. Now I’m making droll observations to myself about how every single one of the people many of the people giving away these crappy Windows phones are enthusiastic an iPhone users. Now I’m getting on Twitter and making jokes about how bad this phone must be to require this kind of promotion. And now I’m going to find out how much these people sold their trust capital for — and it better be a lot of money, because I love bloggers to make money, god knows I do, but this is a bad deal made worse by the volume of it, and I’m hoping that none of them knew how many people were involved ahead of time and that this is just a giant clusterfuck that could have been avoided with some carefully asked questions.

But no. This campaign involved 59 blogs, and it is my understanding that people knew ahead of time how many people would be involved. Though there was some variation on how bloggers were paid according to traffic, and though I cannot give numbers I can tell you that I gasped when I heard how well paid this campaign was. So, I’m happy for these bloggers that they are getting good compensation for their content columns. I’m just not sure if the audience alienation is going to be worth it long term.

Am I overreacting?

Comments (101)

  1. Nov 16, 2010

    Ugh, ugh, this just makes me feel so embarrassed. Not that one should feel embarrassed on behalf of mega-corporations. But the thing is, when Google knew its phone couldn’t beat the iPhone, they killed the promos. They’re smart like that. The Windows phone is terrible. Everyone knows it’s terrible.

    And as for the bloggers, well, it’s mom-on-mom crime to try to get readers to buy into that piece of technology. Not to mention how uncomfortable it makes me to read everyone mentioning the giveaway like THISISSOGREATYOU’LLNEVERGUESSWHATIHAVEFORYOUYOU’RESOSPECIAL.

    Damn it, Anna, now you’re getting me all mad and stuff.

  2. Nov 16, 2010

    I had the same reaction. And the funny thing is? I used to work at Microsoft. But you couldn’t get me to take one of those phones for free. (Well. I mean, maybe I would. Christmas is coming, after all. I’m sure I could re-gift it to… somebody? My 90 year-old great aunt, maybe? Or as a “white elephant” gift at an office party?)

    I felt the same way about the Shutterfly thing last week – do I need to see ALL these posts ON THE SAME FREAKING DAY? – but this seemed like it was on a much bigger scale. And hence, more annoying.

  3. Nov 16, 2010

    The thing that got me almost angrier than the number of blogs shilling a crappy phone is that not many of them mentioned it up front. I felt like I was duped into reading an ad. Remember that scene in A Christmas Story when he realizes his secret decoder pin was an ad for Olvitine? I felt like that. Kudos to the blogs like Sweet Juniper and Suburban Bliss who at least gave a heads up in the title that this was a giveaway/sponsored post.

    But everything else you said is spot on.

  4. Nov 16, 2010

    Also – I always thought that FM was a pretty great model of how a good ad network should work. They lost all of that with this stunt.

  5. Nov 16, 2010

    At least they were paid….
    I am now sitting with a totally broken Microsoft Zune on my coffee table, we have pledged to never buy Microsoft accessories again. You should have seen my husband curse Microsoft and pledge his loyalties to Apple just last night.
    I find it disturbing when any company sticks all it’s eggs in one basket. Were any Tech bloggers given this phone? Or was it just parent bloggers?
    Sadly though if you wave a shiny,free, new object in front of people they want it. But the real question is when it is time to shell out the bucks will they want it?? I have a feeling after the last free phone is shipped that will be the last we hear of this phone’s greatness.
    I’ll skip it entirely.

  6. Nov 16, 2010

    Eh. I am not pissed or overly disgusted by the whole thing. There are bloggers making big money, so this in the same vein anyway (wasn’t there a similar dog food/Milkbone promo? I seem to remember something like that plastered everywhere earlier this year)

    Anyway. I just rolled my eyes and chuckled a bit. However, I also roll my eyes when folks wax eloquent on the genius of their iPhones. IT’S A PHONE. It did not just cure your cancer. I gave up my fervent attempts at being cool and hip in my early 30s, so that can be quite freeing to one’s soul, let me tell you. I love my PalmPre and I am unapologetic. Heh.

    As I tweeted last night, I totally own my sour grapes. So there is also that. 😉

  7. Nov 16, 2010

    I wasn’t annoyed by the fact that it’s this phone instead of another phone. I know nothing about cell phones, other than the fact that I hate them. So it could be a really good phone for all I know.

    And I’m not a mommblogger, and I only read maybe four or five mommyblogs, so I didn’t have 59 sponsored posts. I only had four.

    And I don’t hate giveaways. I’ve even entered some. As long as the entire post isn’t about the object in question, I’m fine with it.

    But I was STILL annoyed. Partly because it was in four out of five of the mommyblogs I read (this was the only one that didn’t have it), and partly because the theme was so obnoxiously dumb. “Less is more” and expensive cell phone don’t mix for me. Neither does being in nearly every major blog in an niche.

    Do they not realize that we all read the same blogs? I can see if they did 59 blogs in 59 niches…but not all in the same niche. Duh.

  8. Nov 16, 2010

    Eh. I thought it was annoying and I stopped reading the posts after #2. And while I, someone who pays no attention to the tech world at all, previously didn’t even know there was a Windows 7 smart phone, now I know it exists and it annoys me. So from a campaign perspective I think it failed.

    But from a trust capital stand-point, I think it was probably worth it. Most of these bloggers don’t do constant giveaways or sponsored posts. It stuck out a bit, but not enough to make me stop reading.

  9. Nov 16, 2010

    I don’t know that I was exactly incensed by the whole thing, although I don’t read all those blogs so the overall effect was less concentrated, but it was more like…first I didn’t care about the phone so didn’t bother entering the contest, and then I REALLY didn’t care about the phone and also didn’t bother reader the blog post that went along with the giveaway.
    Mostly I just want to know how much people got paid to do this, because that’s the fascinating part to me.

  10. Nov 16, 2010

    Also, this is one of the reasons why sponsored posts always feel icky to me, in particular when the notice appears at the end of the post. This is one reason why I intend to keep my review site active, even though I have removed ads from my main site. I like my opinions to be clean on my main site and I want my voice to be unobstructed by the almighty dollar. Or something lofty like that.

    Again, it is easy for me to say these things since I was never able to make money on my site. It is easy to purport a supposed set of morals when you have zero traffic. Heh.

  11. Nov 16, 2010

    I had a comment that didn’t come through before this one. The gist of that dud comment was that I wasn’t really pissed about the promo, I just thought it was a little cheesy coming from folks who are rabid iPhone fans. It did make me chuckle a bit.

  12. Nov 16, 2010

    Okay now I super duper want to know how much they were paid, if it made you gasp.

    And I guess the campaign worked, in the sense that I was like, “There’s a Windows phone? Huh.” Whereas before yesterday I had never heard of it.

    Now, if someone wants to give me five Kinects to give away, we can talk. Call me.

  13. Nov 16, 2010

    Second Christmas Story reference today about the same scene. LOL! The first one I saw used it in context to the Beatles/Itunes thing. *snicker*

  14. slynnro
    Nov 16, 2010

    Okay so, upon seeking out the giveaways and actually reading the posts? I don’t like giveaways where the tie-in post has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PRODUCT. There’s no review, there’s no comparisons, there is nothing. I personally don’t do giveaways like that, and that is the “trust capital” problem for me here. I don’t even have a problem with people giving away/positively reviewing products when you know they use something else. But at least TALK ABOUT THE PRODUCT. I know you aren’t a fan of BlogHer, but this points out two things done right by them: Separate review blogs with disclaimers AT THE TOP about how its a paid review, and second, you actually have to try and review the products.

  15. Nov 16, 2010

    See, I’d be WAY more annoyed if it was about the product. I wouldn’t trust what they said anyway.

    I actually like the idea of having a theme and everybody posting a more-or-less normal post on that theme. I think that’s a much less obnoxious way to do it. I just think this particular theme was completely incompatible with the fact that it’s a smartphone, which is pretty much a symbol of “more” and not “less.”

  16. Nov 16, 2010

    Maybe it’s because I’m a professional geek and I don’t tend to get my tech advice the standard everyday blogger, but they could say this Windows phone was the best and I still wouldn’t give a shit, let alone 59 of them. But the Xbox Live Pass…yes, please. I love my Xbox.
    It’s not the multitude of the contests that bother me. It’s the “Less is More” approach. I’m a former Clear Channel minion and LIM makes me twitch. And I’m pretty sure that it didn’t help the radio stations from sucking so much, so why does Microsoft think it’ll work for them?

  17. Nov 16, 2010

    I *cannot tell you* how happy I am that you wrote a post about this. While I was reading all those posts yesterday I was seriously thinking “I hope that Anna is gonna write about this because it will be great when she does!”

    And that is the only positive thing I have to say about this promotion.

    P.S. Perhaps part of my problem is that I’m such a geek that I read almost all of those 59 blogs, or so it seems. After reading three of the posts – on blogs I like – it felt like I had read 59.

  18. slynnro
    Nov 16, 2010

    To me, giving something away is endorsing that product. If you endorse something you haven’t tried? Then to me, that is a loss of trust capital.

  19. Therese
    Nov 16, 2010

    In general, I have no problem with sponsored posts. Many bloggers I read are tyring to make a living and if this brings them decent money, good! However, this Windows 7 phone thing was a bit too much.
    1. A good chunk (probably more than half) of the bloggers I regularly read had a sponsored post yesterday, it was definitely overload. Is that the individual bloggers’ fault, maybe not? But it is a fact of the situation (at least for me).
    2. Many of them did NOT mention that the post was sponsored until the end. Like a previous commenter, I found this most irritating. If you are doing a sponsored post, just give me a heads up.
    3. I prefer sponsored posts where the writer actually has something useful to say about the product in question. I didn’t read 59 blogs with the Windows 7 post yesterday, but I read quite a few and not one person mentioned any specifics about the phone, what it offered, if they had used it… This type of sponsored post just feels cheap and silly to me. What’s the point? How was that useful to me, your reader?
    4. Good for Microsoft, because if there plan was to bring awareness to the Windows 7 phone then it worked. I had never heard of the product until yesterday and now I am very aware of its existence. Am I interested enough to actually check it out a little more? I’m not really sure, but maybe. (Back to point #3, if any of the bloggers had provided real info about the phone, I might be more apt to check it out).

  20. slynnro
    Nov 16, 2010

    And more more thought- I get not necessarily trusting positive reviews, but the only reviews I pay attention to are people who I already trust because I know them personally, or I’ve been reading them long enough to trust them, or I know that whatever they’re reviewing is something that they would be inclined to use. And to me when someone just shills something they don’t actually know about, that makes them someone whose reviews I wouldn’t trust.

  21. Nov 16, 2010

    Sheesh. I didn’t know anything about this phone or the sponsored posts, but my daughter circulated a YouTube video ad for the phone on facebook that looked really clever — it was the less is more theme — so I shared it. Lesson: do not share ANYTHING on facebook without first figuring out what the whole thing is about.

  22. Nov 16, 2010

    I was disappointed because I thought Bakerella was going to give away the cupcake carrier she featured in her post, and I felt duped when the giveaway was the phone. But that didn’t stop hundreds of others.

    Plus, what kind of coup was it for Microsoft to have some of the biggest Apple/Mac fans on their payroll for the day? Well done, M$. I hope the commenters remember the Windows phone money when their bloggers start waxing poetic about Macs and iPhones again.

  23. Laura
    Nov 16, 2010

    This campaign almost feels like an essay contest. It’s fascinating to see 59 different ways of writing the same thing. As a former teacher’s assistant, I want to give out grades for originality, creativity and “truthiness.”

    As an aside, I think this is kind of sucky subject matter to tie to a glossy product. So many people right now are being FORCED to do more with less because of job loss and financial insecurity. This topic is so much deeper than only using one shade of eye shadow. For a lot of people it’s about one meal a day instead of three.

    I too was hoping you would write about this. I couldn’t wait to read your take on it. Well done!

  24. Nov 16, 2010

    This wasn’t unusual for Microsoft. They often run campaigns where they intentionally take over sites/niches/markets for a day. I wasn’t surprised or bothered by it in the slightest. They wanted to to make a splash and build awareness and they did it.

    People often forget about lurkers. You never know who is reading your posts that never comment on them and you don’t really know what sort of crossover there is between readers.

    Without knowing what their specific goals/objectives were I can’t say what sort of success/failure it was. But I can tell you this. They didn’t spend very much on this campaign. It was incremental dollars that they used to test a market.

    Power in social media comes from one specific place. Do your readers/followers respond to a call to action. It doesn’t matter if there are a million if they sit back and do nothing.

    Anyway, we’re going to find out very soon how serious Microsoft is about gaining marketshare. They have plenty of money to spend if they so choose.

  25. Nov 16, 2010

    I had EXACTLY the same thought about Bakerella, Kimberly! She does that a lot on her blog: Here’s this great thing, here are all its wonderful features — oh, and, look! You can have one, too! Except…not.

  26. Nov 16, 2010

    I do feel really conflicted about this because part of me is like FINALLY some money in the blogging space. But then I’m also like, what? What? WHAT? Because after yesterday I really felt like I should have been paid. I felt like I was owed some compensation for something. I say that knowing that it sounds horribly ridiculous, but there it is. It was just insane. Everywhere with the stupid phone giveaways and the less is more and HEY! look at me giving away a phone I would never in a million years use. Is it enough to make me unsubscribe? No. Not them doing this once. But if they keep doing it, it definitely could be.

  27. Nov 16, 2010

    This was more annoying, because now that you mention it, I did notice the shutterfly thing but it didn’t beat me over the head as much as this one did. But now I’m going to have to go back and count the shutterfly placements because if there are as many or close to as many of those, then this means they are planning on doing this regularly, and that is bad news. I also know there were several quilted northern TOILET PAPER GIVEAWAYS (can I EMPHASIZE that these were GIVEAWAYS for TOILET PAPER) but at least some of the people were sensible enough to opt out of those.

  28. Nov 16, 2010

    They don’t want to mention it up front because it makes it even more awkward, though I think if you put it in the title of the post it actually isn’t as bad. That’s how I would do it. Rebecca Woolf did it that way as well.

  29. Nov 16, 2010

    I agree, FM has always been, as we know, the ad network I’ve been courting from afar that has continually snubbed me. However, I think this is really bushleague of them. It just doesn’t really demonstrate an understanding of social media and/or it shows that they are willing to capitulate to advertisers’ needs over what will work in this space. I also have noticed that something is up with their CPM numbers lately that is fishy. I haven’t figured out what it is yet though so I haven’t written about it.

  30. Nov 16, 2010

    This was spread out over all of FM I think. I’m sure it was on some of their tech blogs, but I haven’t looked. The 59 blogs are not only parenting. I only looked at the ones in my reader, which are a combo of parenting and design I think.

  31. Nov 16, 2010

    Would it make a difference if this was a product everyone was excited about?

    I mean, I hate all cellphones, so I don’t care about the brand. I’d feel the same if it was an iPhone (in fact, I’d hate it more if it was an iPhone, because I do not understand this cult around a phone that you cannot actually use as a phone…but whatever).

    But one of the things that seems to be bugging people is that it’s *this particular* cellphone.

  32. Nov 16, 2010

    Correct me if I’m wrong here, but when I attended Blissdom last year, they made it clear to us that sponsored posts must be identified at the top of the post. They said that was in keeping with the new FTC guidelines.

  33. Nov 16, 2010

    They just don’t care. They wanted us to be beaten over the head with it because that’s how they’ve always done advertising. And FM knows that social media people don’t like this. I don’t know why they signed off on this — I mean, I DO know why they did, I just wish they hadn’t.

  34. Nov 16, 2010

    Seriously Anna. Right before I clicked your post in my Reader I just got down looking at like the 9th blog with that damn giveaway and I said to myself “Jesus! How many people are doing this?!” You are a mind reader. That’s kinda spooky.

  35. Nov 16, 2010

    it would still annoy me because I don’t want to read the same contrived, excuse for a post over and over again on the same day. But it would help, yes, if it were a giveaway, say, for something that I actually wanted, that I could not get in a store. Like, say, the iPhone 5, that nobody has, that hasn’t even been released yet. Then, I might actually read the post. I might even enter the giveaway. I was thinking about this today: what would entice me to actually RUN a giveaway on my blog — it would have to be something like that: a product that I would buy myself, but that I cannot buy myself for some crazy reason like market unavailability. That would have to be it.

  36. Nov 16, 2010

    It’s a lot.

  37. Nov 16, 2010

    I think Slynnro brings up a good point. There’s the trust capital at stake just for using your content column, but then there’s also the fact that people go into these things with a different set of expectations. Some people object to seeing any sponsored content at all, but others are OK with it as long as you adhere to a set of rules. And still others are OK with it, but they have a totally different set of rules. This is why I am so wary of sponsored content! This is why I feel like you HAVE to be getting like two or three mortgage payments out of the deal in order to make it worth it. And for the record, though this campaign was paid well, these people are not at those numbers yet. At least not in California.

  38. Nov 16, 2010

    I don’t even know what the stupid FTC guidelines are. I hate the fucking FTC. They are unconstitutional anyway. But I agree, it should be in the title of the post, it’s the least jarring and the least obnoxious to the reader. That would be the best practice way to handle it IMO.

  39. Nov 16, 2010

    I can see what you’re saying. I don’t know if I always agree, but I definitely can see where people would come at the giveaway from that standpoint. It’s an interesting thing to consider.

  40. Nov 16, 2010

    Yes, that makes sense. And the more you do giveaways like this, the more you train people to ignore you, regardless of what you are talking about, IMO.

  41. Nov 16, 2010

    There was a milkbone one which I noticed, but for some reason this one seems bigger to me. Maybe it wasn’t though? I’m not sure. Obviously I have some archival research to do.

  42. Nov 16, 2010

    I don’t even understand how it applies. Less is more? WTF? It’s a phone. A smart phone. Duh.

  43. Nov 16, 2010

    Yeah, if you only read one of them I’m sure it’s no big deal. It’s after you hit the three or four mark that you start getting pissed. Four is critical mass.

  44. Nov 16, 2010

    I think it is kind of the fault of the bloggers, actually, because they could have opted out. They could have said no once they saw how many other people were participating in this campaign. That’s what I’m saying, that maybe they need to do that. Although I am allowing that this would be a very, very difficult thing to do when faced with the compensation. And I am not saying that I would be able to do it — I like to think that I would but who knows, we all know I’m a dirty whore.

    EDITED: OK, I’ve just found out that I was being too harsh on the bloggers, I think that while they did know before they did the giveaway how many people were doing it, they didn’t know until it was way too late to back out. So if we are going to blame people here we have to blame FM and Microsoft mostly. The only way to safeguard the bloggers from this would be if they had had the foresight to ask ahead of time how many people would be involved, and since this hasn’t happened before (that I know of), I’m not sure that would be a reasonable expectation to have of them.

  45. Nov 16, 2010

    That is hysterical. I had the same reaction to Rebecca Woolf’s post — I thought it was a giveaway for Jose Maran’s makeup. Not that I was going to enter! I just thought that was what it was for.

  46. Nov 16, 2010

    How funny is it that the cupcake carrier is more appealing that Windows’ dumb phone? But you are right about the Apple/Mac fans on the payroll. Nicely played, Microsoft. Nicely played.

  47. Nov 16, 2010

    It did feel that way to me. I felt like I was grading papers again. And that is not a good thing.

  48. Nov 16, 2010

    If it makes you feel any better, I was always gonna write that post about forgetting my pants.

  49. Nov 16, 2010

    No, I believe that. I actually believe that of many of the people, the problem is not with most of the posts standing on their own, really. It really is the bulk of them all together that made this bad. It’s hard to point fingers directly at any one blogger because of that.

  50. Nov 16, 2010

    Agreed. Diapering Gigi in a GAP bag and the bungee cord from my dad’s truck was already on my editorial calendar. The only difference was more swearing.

    And in the interest of disclosure, I don’t have an iAnything, and I was four seconds from lighting my Blackberry on fire and dancing on it’s ashes.

  51. Nov 16, 2010

    We’ve figured out that four is critical mass for this kind of thing, but you can figure that I have a much higher concentration of FM blogs in my reader than the average person. So, maybe go with, at most, 30% of the placements next time? Like 20 blogs max coverage overall? Or something? I don’t know. But this was definitely too much.

  52. Aleks
    Nov 16, 2010

    I think the difference with the Milkbone posts was that there wasn’t a giveaway (might need to check on that), just sponsored posts and the bloggers had the freedom to write whatever they wanted to about their pets (not an essay topic like this one), and the bloggers had a previous precedent of writing about their pets so it wasn’t as jarring. In that case, it didn’t bother me at all that these people may or may not use Milkbone products, because I didn’t feel like there was an overt push to buy or try Milkbone. Milkbone was just getting the transitive property of the funny, heartwarming, etc. posts about people’s pets.

  53. Nov 16, 2010

    I think that having all those bloggers write actual reviews the phone would have been WAY more annoying. As it was, most of the posts (that were in my reader, anyway) seemed like a regular post from my favorite bloggers, with addendums. And while I found it a little much (the “Less is More” must be ironic), and fairly contrived considering a lot of them are declared iPhone users, it wasn’t any more irritating than most advertising. Plus, before the campaign I didn’t even KNOW Microsoft had a phone, so if their goal was just to raise awareness, I guess it worked.

    (I still won’t buy one though, so it didn’t work THAT well.)

  54. Nov 16, 2010

    I recently got a different toilet paper pitch. It was fun to try to come up with hilarious ways to talk about it, but I of course I turned them down. I just can’t see blogging about toilet paper.

  55. Nov 16, 2010

    That’s almost exactly what I thought – it was the same thing remixed on a bunch of different blogs – blogging Groundhog Day.
    I find it surprising that MS couldn’t find hardcore MS tech moms to write the reviews and run the phones through their paces properly with the “less is more” theme. There’s millions of us working moms who are hardcore MS product users who could have actually talked about the phone and the “less is more” theme (off the top of my head, how about a post about how you can now approve an organization’s SharePoint content on the phone – forget lugging the laptop and security token around).

  56. Nov 16, 2010

    As a reader, I really didn’t mind this — BUT, I only read three or four of the bloggers in question regularly. This time, I saw Sweetney’s, Brittany’s, Amalah’s and Finslippy’s, and honestly, none of them bothered me. They seemed to fit in with the blogger’s regular voice, and seemed like posts they would have done anyway. In two cases, I didn’t even see the giveaway coming, and I didn’t feel duped when I did. And I’m usually hyper-sensitive to that. If I read more, I might feel differently, and probably would, but that’s not the bloggers’ fault, as you pointed out, it’s FM and Microsoft’s.

    I thought that they did a good job with it as bloggers, and because I only read four, I didn’t feel BOMBARDED! When I saw that you said it was 59, I thought, well, if I were the BLOGGERS, I’d be pissed, but that’s only because my approach to giveaways is that (selfishly and rather self-centeredly), I usually only like to give away things that not everyone else has, because it’s something I usually use and/or really do endorse. BUT, not everyone does these things the same, and I don’t expect and/or need them to.

    And if this was sprung on me at the last minute, I’d be mad. But I probably wouldn’t pull out of it, particularly if the contract was signed, and they paid me a shitton.

    As a reader, I really wasn’t bothered by it at all. The give away was an addendum I just sort of glossed over. The only difference is that I didn’t comment (and I totally would have on Amalah’s post, because I always do when it’s about Noah), and I figured, meh, she’s not going to read mine out of the hundreds out there.

    I’m not bothered by sponsored content, though, if it’s done well, and I’ve done it, so I’d be a total hypocrite if I said I was. I AM bothered by crazy giveaway bloggers who do nothing but that sort of thing (as I mentioned on Twitter the other day), but none of the bloggers I read do that kind of thing often, so once in a while, I can deal with.

  57. Nov 16, 2010

    Was it for a giveaway of toilet paper? Because that’s where they lose me. I’ll go ahead and buy my own toilet paper, thanks. Can you imagine entering a giveaway for toilet paper? The shipping would be more expensive than the toilet paper. What is the point?

  58. Nov 16, 2010

    Ahh, you’re right. I think the only thing about the Milkbone one that was a little odd was that there was not a whole lot of leeway between when the bloggers bought their dogs and when they started shilling for Millkbone. So it was a little weird because although I think it’s crazy to suggest that somebody would buy a dog in order to do a series of sponsored posts (I say this knowing that it’s crazy, understand) it looked like that might be what was going on because several of the bloggers involved in the campaign had puppies.

  59. Nov 16, 2010

    But you stopped reading the posts, and it stuck out a bit. So, that means it is not worth it in terms of trust capital. It means it cost them.

  60. Nov 16, 2010

    No, they save that for Dooce only. Please note that Dooce made sure that she had something different from everyone else. Don’t assume that is by accident. And assume that her placement had at least four zeros on the end of it.

  61. Nov 16, 2010

    That would have required doing research. All they had to do here was call up an ad network.

  62. Nov 16, 2010

    I think that there used to be a clear distinction between that and this. I’m not sure that the distinction is so clear anymore. Or, in any case, the lines are beginning to blur. That’s what is concerning me a little bit. These kinds of things teach readers to tune out. Look at what people are saying above “I stopped reading,” or “I skipped the post,” or whatever. I stop reading sponsored posts even when I know that the person is trying to make them interesting, I can’t help myself. I think many people do. I think bloggers are kidding themselves if they think this won’t have an effect on their brands. But maybe I’m just being chicken little again.

  63. Nov 16, 2010

    The ad campaign in general is off the mark. It’s supposed to be clever, but I think it smacks their target market in the face.

    I really didn’t notice this at all until I saw your tweets. I read about 6 of the 59 posts, and I actually liked them. Of course I knew going in it was a giveaway so if it was a surprise I might have felt differently.

    I guess I just don’t understand it at all. I don’t think it’s effective marketing on any level. But I am glad to know that the bloggers got paid well.

  64. Nov 16, 2010

    It was positioned as a sample and a giveaway.

  65. Laura
    Nov 16, 2010

    I think it is interesting that you noted Dooce has a different giveaway. Although maybe it would have been strange for her to offer this product so soon after the Verizon partnership?

  66. But Dude
    Nov 16, 2010

    What is this about? Is LOD is getting paid to send people to Dooce?
    http://laidoffdad.typepad.com/lod/2010/11/kiddie-kilowatts.html

    Or am I reading his disclaimer all wrong?

  67. Nov 16, 2010

    No, I think she just wanted her own thing. And said that the Windows phone sucked and she wasn’t going to do it, and Microsoft wanted her to do something, so they gave her the Kinect because she’s Dooce.

  68. Nov 16, 2010

    OMG, that may be the most bizarre thing I’ve seen all day. What IS that? Don’t tell me they are all going to be doing THAT now, are they? Because LOD only has like 10,000 pageviews a month. How is he sending any traffic to Dooce whatsoever? Dooce’s post already has like 2,700 comments on it. What on earth?

  69. Nov 16, 2010

    Well, the plot thickens. That is fascinating.

  70. Addie
    Nov 16, 2010

    I am not a blogger, and so don’t really know the ins and outs of social media and all the action happening in this area, but I do follow about 25 blogs in the “momblog” space – so I saw a lot of those giveaway posts yesterday. As soon as I clued in, I clicked away – I was totally disinterested in reading those posts. I have been noticing the sponsored posts and giveaway trends of late, and I have to say, for those bloggers that are doing these things on a very regular basis, I am tending to not read their posts. As you say, the trust capital gets eroded when you get the sense that a blogger is willing to shill anything – and especially when a whole slew of people are shilling the same thing. It’s totally their right to do what they want with their blog, and I applaud their efforts to make money doing what they love, it’s just that that kind of blogging doesn’t appeal to me. So I am now starting to go elsewhere. May not matter, but I have to believe that as a target audience – early 40s mom to two under 5 boys – there are more people like me out there finding that this trend isn’t working for them. Enjoyed your perspective on it.

  71. Nov 16, 2010

    Right, but I was back again today with no hard feelings. So no loss. But if they were to run another one today, then I’d starting looking askance.

  72. Nov 16, 2010

    Oh look…I’m watching last night’s Castle on DVR and there’s a…what is that product placement? Oh. It’s a WINDOWS PHONE.

  73. Nov 16, 2010

    Plus, I’m the FIFTH blog you read? AFTER Brittany? I think I am offended.

  74. Nov 16, 2010

    Dude, your blog starts with T. She starts with B. Your beef is with the alphabet here, not me.

  75. Nov 16, 2010

    why is the alphabet always fucking with me?

  76. Nov 16, 2010

    I read two sponsored posts about this–Mom 101’s and Finslippy’s. Now, admittedly, I’m a big admirer of their writing, and I would probably read an exegesis if they blogged it, but still. I thought they were well done. Certainly a notch, or a hundred, above a meme.

    And the giveaway wasn’t in your face–tweet it, like it, friend it.

    And why is it any more offensive/too fucking much when they do it than when an ad network plasters the same campaign across hundreds of blogs?

    It would be nice if you told us some numbers. But I totally get the whole blogger/Deep Throat privilege.

  77. Nov 16, 2010

    Really? you don’t understand why reading ten or eleven giveaways for the same product in the same day, consecutively, would be annoying? Have you read any of the previous comments? And you don’t understand how that is different from sidebar ads? Have you considered if this blog is meeting your needs?

  78. Nov 16, 2010

    As for telling numbers I cannot because I told the people who confided in me that I wouldn’t. I can tell you that if Dooce were paid on the same scale, according to traffic, hypothetically, as this campaign, for her Kinect giveaway, then her placement today would have netted her about $15,000.

  79. Nov 16, 2010

    I haven’t read most of the previous comments. Is that on the test?

    If I came across several blogs that screamed GIVEAWAY! FRIEND HERE! VOTE HERE! RETWEET HERE! without original content, yes, that would indeed be annoying. But a disclosure about the sponsored post and the contest didn’t take away from the quality of the posts that I read.

    And just to be clear, are you asking me if your blog is meeting my needs?

  80. Nov 16, 2010

    This post is not about whether sponsored posts are good or not, or whether they people did a good job with them or not. The fact that you brought that up made me wonder if you were getting your needs met by this blog, which is why I asked.

  81. Nov 16, 2010

    Well, I get what I paid for.

  82. Nov 16, 2010

    I had this really witty comment prepared about how you must be reading all the wrong blogs…and then I clicked on the links and was all “damn. she actually reads great blogs.”

    In their defense I thought they all wrote great posts. It’s a conflicting thing, hosting giveaways, because you don’t want to turn everyone off with a giveaway, but you also don’t want to turn down the opportunity to bring in some money. I’ve always thought if I weave a great story into the post…one that I really feel good about…then it’s a win win. People coming by for a great read, got one, and oh by the way you have a chance to win a free phone! Win win.

    Unfortunately I don’t think it works the way we’d like it too. I don’t know what the best solution is for hosting giveaways, but I don’t think a blogger should feel obligated to turn one down just because she knows others will be hosting one. Sounds like poor party planning if you ask me.

    Can we start a #boycottmicrosoft campaign on Twitter because those are super fun!

  83. edna
    Nov 16, 2010

    Oh please, why are you such an angry old troll? Let’s face it, you’re just jealous that all the other bloggers are getting stuff and you’re not. You really need to crawl back into your your sad lonely corner of the internet and shut up.

  84. Laura
    Nov 17, 2010

    Edna, This is really the only blog that I am aware of that attempts to do critical analysis of an emerging media market. Blogging is an art form and all art forms have their critics — art critics, movie critics, book critics. Lively discussion in a free society is almost always a positive thing. Anna is almost always very fair in her remarks and she allows dissent in her comments. She is open to considering other viewpoints. I don’t understand why blogging is immune from fair opinions. If a blog is written to make money, then the authors should expect fair, logical critiques. Money generating blogs are a business even if they started out as family journals (in the case of mommyblogging). This business model is new. Anna’s unique voice fills a void and asks some very good questions.

  85. Nov 17, 2010

    Slynnro – I agree 100%. To me a giveaway is an implied endorsement of a product. That’s why I laughed to see it from people who have dedicated posts of love to their iPhone. For this reader – trust capital = gone.

    I also think it’s awesome that each of these bloggers got paid well. But if this is what it takes for blogs to earn their worth I’m not sure I like the path. After the 2nd or 3rd one I really felt like I was reading a elementary school’s class writing assignment. I toally get the theme idea, but having them all roll out on the same day, in the same niche is just comical.

  86. Nov 17, 2010

    What Laura said. Ditto.

    I often do not agree with Anna and just as often, I think she is too harsh. However, she provides a place for dissent and thoughtful (usually) conversation. In a timid community where folks are too scared to say what they really think for fear of recrimination, Anna actually has the big brass balls to say out loud what she thinks. Good for her.

  87. Nov 17, 2010

    Okay, for those of you who feel like a giveaway is an endorsement: what if it’s something that you personally don’t like/want, but that a majority of your readers would love?

    Like, for example, and iPhone. I personally wouldn’t buy an iPhone because it’s too expensive for the way I can use it (my hearing is lousy so I can’t really talk on cell phones). I use a prepaid cellphone because it’s cheap and allows me to call 911 and text and email, which is all I need. I don’t need voice because I can’t use it.

    But if I had a giveaway for my prepaid phone, it would flop, because I’m the only one who likes them (except for teenagers and drug dealers and other cheap deaf people like me). If I had an iPhone giveaway, my readers would love it. Because everyone but me wants an iPhone.

    So…are there cases where a product might not be your thing, but you’d still do it for your readers? Because one thing about giveaways is that you might not want to refuse something fantastic if it’s something your readers would really like.

    (Not arguing…I’m not actually sure where I stand on this point, so I”m just curious as to what other people think)

  88. Nov 17, 2010

    I was thinking about what you guys said about giveaways being an implied endorsement because initially I did not agree with this — I was of the school of thought that maybe with a giveaway a blogger doesn’t want the product but that somebody in the audience would want it. But then I thought, when I give somebody a gift in my real life, most of the time there is an implied endorsement there, right? Because unless I am buying something that I know specifically they want and they have asked for (like with my son), it’s something I’ve chosen for them, that I think represents a certain quality or that I think is a good product. So I might not have used it, but I’ve examined it and am vouching for it, in a way, by buying it for somebody, wrapping it up, and giving it to them.

    This is all kind of an academic exercise, because of course giveaways are going to mean different things to different people, but I think bloggers should understand all of the various cultural implications that their readers might be coming to their blogs with when they do a giveaway. This is really interesting to me.

  89. Nov 17, 2010

    The example I’m thinking of is for a software product that is very popular among readers in my niche. I don’t particularly care for that software–I use a different brand. But many of my readers would be absolutely delighted to get that software for free, and while it’s not a fit for me, it would be for them (because they’re doing different stuff than me). And I like my readers, so I don’t want to say no to free stuff for them, necessarily.

    So, if I have the chance to give away that software, do I say yes? Or no?

  90. Nov 17, 2010

    Kerry, my impulse is to say of course you say yes in that situation. I know that many bloggers are doing just that on a regular basis — giving away products that they don’t want but they are sure their readers would love. I think you have to assess this on a blog-by-blog basis. My answer for me, on this blog, would be no, though, but that’s because this is not a giveaway blog. I’ve done giveaways here and they are a resounding flop. It doesn’t fit with me or my readership. We are just not that kind of crowd, really, I guess. So, for this blog (meaning any section of ABDPBT), like I said before, the only situation I could possibly see is if it were both a product I wanted and would use and there were some extraordinary market circumstances that precluded both me and my readers from buying it — like with an unreleased iPhone. So, basically, when pigs fly.

  91. Nov 17, 2010

    I’m with Laura and Cagey. Anna is passionate about momblogging and about using her analytical skills to reveal the workings of an often secretive, insular world. More power to her. I don’t always agree with her, but I always appreciate her courage and openness to civil debate.

  92. Nov 17, 2010

    I saw this on another blog last night too–I think it was DadWagon?

  93. Nov 17, 2010

    1. super annoying that they all rolled out on the same day
    2. super annoying that they had a writing prompt – even if some of the writing was really good, it’s automatically devalued in my mind
    3. super annoying that all the promoters are KNOWN iphone luvas.

    i think it would’ve been a lot better as a straight up contest without the stupid prompt and it would’ve been a lot more palatable if they had spread it out over a few months. that’s what i think.

  94. Nov 17, 2010

    (super glad they got paid well, though. in my opinion, no trust capital lost.)

  95. Nov 17, 2010

    Hi Anna:
    I agree that bloggers should take responsibility for the products they write about on their blogs. I don’t normally do sponsored posts, but I chose these two opportunities because there was no imperative to endorse the products. And I think there’s a difference between endorsing a product and merely making one available for a contest winner.

    If I endorsed anything obliquely, it was Microsoft itself. And I feel comfortable doing so, because they conceived of a marketing campaign that included us. Regardless of whether you agree with the structure or scope of the campaign, Microsoft recognized the value of the writing they solicited and paid fair compensation for it. If only some of the major media properties who also solicit written content felt the same way.

  96. Nov 17, 2010

    Hi LOD,

    Thanks for commenting. I also think there’s a difference between endorsing a product and just running a giveaway; however, some of my commenters disagree. It’s kind of interesting to see the different expectations that readers have when they come to your blog, it’s not necessarily something you have to take into consideration, but surely you agree it’s nice to have a space in which we can discuss these things?

    I actually don’t have a problem with sponsored posts in the abstract, or the fact that you guys did sponsored posts. I know that my post seems to have been boiled down by people to that, but if you check my archives I think you will see that I’m actually very pro-fair compensation for bloggers. I’ve also been experimental with product placement myself and tried to highlight examples of product placement in blogs done well. This post was more of a complaint against FM and Microsoft for ruining our experience as blog readers at the expense of you guys as blog writers. I do not think it is your fault for opting in to the campaign. I think it is the fault of Microsoft for failing to use social media correctly and FM’s for failing to protect their valuable properties from this kind of exposure. For saying this, I have (once again) been called a troll and been told that it’s sour grapes. I maintain that this was a crappy campaign and that people should watch out for this in the future.

  97. Nov 17, 2010

    OK, Anna. I have spent about half my day delving into your archives because of this post. I’m not sure I have anything to add, except for that seeing the giveaway on several blogs in my RSS made me feel icky and I couldn’t put my finger on why.

    The commercials for this phone are puzzling at best. “Buy this thing but don’t use it” is just not a marketing strategy that speaks to me. Anyway, I’m glad to see that someone not only thinks about all these matters, but is able to eloquently express her thoughts about them.

  98. Nov 17, 2010

    OK, so another thing I made a mistake about: MANY of the people doing the promotions are iPhone users, but not all of them are. I know of at least two who are definitely not, and there are perhaps more. So for everyone who is repeating me making that point, it’s not all of them. It’s exacerbated in the cases of the iPhone users perhaps, but I was unfair to claim they all used them. My bad.

  99. Nov 17, 2010

    Sidenote: one time I won a year’s supply of toilet paper and paper towels in a blog contest. They give you coupons to buy it and 4 years later, we still haven’t had to buy toilet paper. I want to mock the contest, but dude, the free toilet paper is pretty freaking great.

  100. Ana please please please tell us how much money some of these bloggers got. Please! I think we deserve to know. I need to know, for curiosity’s sake but also so I can hate them a little less. I was so pissed when I saw this all over the blogosphere. Dude, Window’s phone. It screams TERRIBLE!

  101. Mel
    Nov 19, 2010

    I don’t see how anyone can write a post and not make it more relevant to the actual product that is sponsoring the post or being given away? I mean I undersatnd that the post is about less/more time but no word of the actual product and its abilities and how that can correspond into ones own life…seems odd. I read Finslippy’s post and was like…okay interesting post…oh hey you are giving away a phone? It didnt seem to go together or flow well. After reading Amalah’s post..(trying to read your links in order) it was more of the same thing, although how her post relates to simplicity and simple….it seems a bit of a stretch. Am I being too harsh? I’ll continue to read your other links and see if any of them appear to be more relevant, and maybe they aren’t supposed to be, but if you were getting paid wouldn’t you at least try to connect the post with the product?

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