On Credibility

by anna on May 14, 2010

Here’s the thing . . . credibility can suck my ass with a straw.

I’m really not sure how much credibility I have with the Community at Large at present. And I really don’t care, because the people I really care about all pretty much have cut me some slack and know that, even if I have flaws and fuck up sometimes, for the most part I try to do my best with what I do and say, both here and in my regular life. And who cares about the rest?

The thing is, I keep getting emails and more information about that other Situation. You know, to do with The Other People and That Other Stuff that is really not so much of my problem anymore except insofar as it involves continuing litigation about which I’m not at liberty to speak.

Part of me, like the crusading dogooder part — which is like, a tiny, tiny, part of me, by the way — feels obligated to do something about some of this stuff.

Most of me thinks, fuck that noise.

Because look, I’ve got a new ad network, and I’m selling my own ads. I’m not losing money anymore and, besides, this is a free market economy. Everyone is free to choose to stay with or leave their representation as they see fit. I’ve tried selling the story to mainstream media and so far nothing has panned out.

So even though some of the stuff you guys are sending me is — WHOA — really scary and kind of disturbing, I just am like, why? Why are you sending it, you know? Because did you catch what happened to me last week? If not, perhaps you’d like to take a gander? Didn’t work out so well for me the last time I picked up that particular topic, and I’m not so sure that I’m ready to do so again.

I’d like to have this conversation continue, and I’d like to do whatever I can to facilitate that discussion. However, I am not convinced that I am the right person to continue to ferry it into its next incarnation. If you think that I’m wrong, I’m happy to be dissuaded from my current position — it’s not that I want the discourse to end, it’s just that I think that if I’m the only one who continues to post on it, that’s the only likely conclusion for it to reach.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts, peanut gallery.

{ 29 comments }

Ella May 14, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Anna,

At this point I don’t know who, if really anyone, is more apropos to continue the conversation than you are… again, at *this* point. I say that because of all the time and intense research you’ve put into it. Maybe you might not want to continue it, per se, but I think you’d probably be the best person to facilitate it.

I think this is a discussion that definitely needs to be had (that doesn’t even sound grammatically correct to me, but whatever!) and talked about, debated and dissected in depth. It probably won’t though because everyone is interested in maintaining the status quo and not rocking the boat. That’s disappointing because HELLO…if things keep going the way they are, then businesses get the message that it’s OK to walk all over us and take advantage of the talent we possess as individuals and as a community.

That other organization can get away with it (for the time being) because they’re pretty much the ones who got the ball rolling, so to speak and the ones who manage (I use that term loosely – I mostly just mean run the advertising campaigns), the largest collective of women and some men, who publish blogs and want to monetize those blogs. It’s a damned shame they can do so without complete and open disclosure, but until such a time as those who are letting them paste their ads all over their blogs – stand up and demand some CREDIBILITY from them, then it will indeed remain, status quo.

In the interim we need to either put together some sort of network that offers complete and honest disclosure of all aspects of advertising, or get off our asses and go out, like you have, and find our own sponsors and advertising.

Again, I’m grateful you’ve taken this on and I’m sorry you’re catching so much shit for it. We all fuck up from time to time…and you’re honest enough to admit when you have. Your credibility isn’t the slightest bit damaged, in my eyes.

anna May 14, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Ella, I agree that I know more about the topic, which is why it makes sense in some ways for people to be talking to me about it. That’s actually why I decided to publicly post on it. I don’t want to just ignore the information that gets sent to me or sweep it under the rug. But at the same time, I don’t feel comfortable passing it on to anybody else, because when it’s sent to me it’s done so in confidence, I think, and so even if there were somebody else, like say a journalistic site that dealt with the world of mommyblogs — you know, like a disinterested, third party site that really delved into the news of the mommyblogosphere with a journalistic eye (why doesn’t somebody start a site like that?) — I wouldn’t feel comfortable because it would be a violation of trust, I think.

The main thing is, as long as I am the public face of this discussion — the only public face of this discussion — it is too easily swept under the rug. It is too easily dismissed. I know I’m not a troll, you know I’m not a troll, really everybody knows I’m not a troll, including my former ad network, given that I was on their network up until just a few weeks ago, but that term will be trotted out when it’s convenient and that’s the reality of things.

Things that are new and different and that make people uncomfortable are dismissed by the masses. That is what people will do with my site for a while. I have accepted this. The problem with this particular topic is that it is something that affects real people, right now, and I feel like if those people want something to happen, they need another face for this movement, not me, because I am not a politically viable choice. I am the “mastermind,” not the political face of this. You need somebody to sell this, that is not the kind of thing for which I am useful.

Jett May 14, 2010 at 4:52 pm

I don’t have to read past the first line. I’m in hysterics over here.

….but I did read the entire post, and here’s what I don’t really understand (granted, I don’t do adverts, but still; I’m pretty clever and shit’s just not adding up): These women whose ad proceeds are somewhat negligible money-wise….why aren’t they speaking up? I somewhat understand those people who have a heftier slice of the pie not rattling anyone’s cage until they have other arrangements in place. What’s the deal with the ladies who really and truly don’t have anything to lose?

I can’t help thinking it’s because they want to go to the conference in August without any sort of stigma attached to them personally. But why would you want to gladhand anyone who is fucking your pocketbook so they can grease someone else’s?

If you don’t want to spearhead this thing and run the risk of being left hanging, Anna, then just walk away. Request that people stop involving you in the discussion unless they are willing to publicly stand alongside you in the endeavor. I don’t think that’s too much to ask of anyone.

jonniker May 14, 2010 at 5:10 pm

This is precisely how I feel. I’m mad that people are feeding you information and not willing to speak up. I don’t get it. I’ve said stuff publicly, and what do I care? I can tell the people are BlogHer aren’t all that stoked with me, and I don’t blame them, as I sort of publicly slammed their CEO for making some public comments. I’m still standing. I’m still going to BlogHer. I haven’t been smote by lightning yet. And if I am, you can damn well bet I will raise fucking HELL.

As far as I know, people are still friends with me — the ones I care about — and the rest of them I never liked anyway, and I don’t think they have a drop of integrity. You know, the ones who are being sanctimonious douches about how bloggers need to behave and the ones who don’t like you, so they’re suddenly buddy-buddy with other people who suddenly don’t like you. Never trust anyone who’s only friends with you because of a common enemy, friends. Those people will turn on you on a dime.

But yeah. I would just shut the conversation down unless people are willing to go publicly on the record, as themselves. Otherwise, honestly, it’s asking you to bear too big of a burden. Even though I know you’re capable of handling it, ethically speaking, I think it’s really disgusting to leave you holding the bag while their (damaging) information goes public anonymously. That’s bullshit.

Grow a pair, people.

Anyway, I think you have plenty of credibility, but I sense I’m one of the people you aren’t too worried about.

anna May 14, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Well, some people have mixed loyalties. Some have left the network and some have thought about it. Some are thinking about leaving, but not sure they should. Some are scared. I kind of understand, and I kind of don’t. My main thing is just . . . I can’t do it for everybody all on my own again. Not after last week. And I wish I could, but it’s just not working out, because it’s too much. For me it has nothing to do with the conference, either — I find it laughable that this would even register on anyone’s list of concerns, in fact. It’s three days out of your lives. But whatever.

anna May 14, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Jett, I think it absolutely has to do with the conference. And I wish I could say something to these people to make them less afraid of that, but you know BlogHer is a giant conference it really doesn’t make any difference. I am going to be there and trust me, I’ve been to a much smaller conference where people were uncomfortable with me and survived.

I guess that’s all I’m asking. I don’t mind doing the work, or helping the discussion, even when it’s not exactly my battle anymore to fight. I do mind being asked to stand here holding the bag by myself, though. I didn’t mind so much before last week, but last week made me . . . hesitant to try that again. Particularly when it is not my battle any more. If somebody is willing to stand with me, then sure. I’ll let anything be published on my blog, I’ll help run numbers, but I’m not going to be left hanging as the only name out there again. Because, you know, it’s just not cool.

And there’s still part of me that is disappointed for not being willing to do that, but you know, bleah.

pamela dayton time May 14, 2010 at 7:22 pm

uh-oh. you said blogher…

anna May 14, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Well, I don’t think it really matters all that much. :)

Nyt May 14, 2010 at 6:14 pm

A view from afar…
So I’ve been watching and reading for a bit now, and I’m going to stick my 2 cents in. You are BY FAR the best person to present this discussion. You’re now selling your own ads and therefore have no horse in this race. Now the discussion is no longer emotional, no longer about outrage, now it’s about numbers and testimonies.

The “Network Who Shall Not Be Named” relies on people backing down, they rely on the “mean girls” to put you in your place, they rely on litigators to scare people into submission. I’m also of the mind that they exploit the need of women to be “liked” or to be part of the “group”. Don’t fall for the intimidation.

I’m thinking that if you’re still able to sell ad space, then you’re probably more formidable than you realize. If you really and truly were on the wrong track I’m thinking that advertisers wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole.

My last thought here involves the education factor. There are literally thousands of folks scrabbling to get into “The Network Who Shall Not Be Named”. How are they to know if its the best fit for them if they’re not presented with the other facets of the business?? I’m willing to bet that most of these folks aren’t advertising savvy, but I’m also willing to bet that they’re literate enough to make good decisions for themselves if given the facts.

Don’t stop Anna….

anna May 14, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Hi Nyt:

Well, I do plan to try to offer an overview of all of the ad networks, from a different sized blog perspective, regardless. I would do that no matter what. I think of that as being a separate issue from this specifically, because there are some specific . . . issues with this particular company, some of which may or may not be common practices in an unregulated industry and some of which may indicate something unkosher. And, well, basically, it’s just like yeah, I can keep investigating but to keep doing this and then getting my name put up on sites next to a lemon with the ace of spades and barely literate people who once played in a band with Courtney Love offering their legal opinions, I just cannot stomach much more of these absurdities.

I know they depend on me backing down, the mean girls getting me to, the institutionalism of it all, I think that’s the ONLY reason I’ve come this far, honestly, is the knowledge of that. It really sticks in my craw. And to be honest, I know that their business model depends on this kind of inertia, that I would probably still be running their crappy code if they hadn’t booted me off the network, even though I’m better off now financially, because it’s just so easy to do it. It’s easy to run the code and never figure out how much money you’re losing and why and how, and they benefit. When I stop to think about it, it infuriates me.

And now you’ve gotten me all mad again.

But that’s the thing, I’m getting mad on behalf of people who — if you’ll beg my pardon — have more or less thrown me under the bus. And, I may have my faults, but I do have some pride.

Nyt May 15, 2010 at 3:59 am

Well, I didn’t mean to make you all mad again….or maybe I did… :)

You’ve got to know that the reason that you’re being thrown under the bus is precisely because of the intimidation factor. I’m sure laziness plays into it, but I’m willing to bet that the largest portion of the vitriol comes from those who’s job it is to intimidate and the sycophants who are afraid of either losing their “membership” in the club, or the possibility of ever belonging to the club at all.

Obviously you need to do what’s best for you, and it’s certainly a helluva lot to ask one person to front the discussion. But, it is a discussion worth having. I can’t help but wonder, if this many people are vocal, how many are silent?? I hope you continue on…

anna May 15, 2010 at 8:54 am

I think there are many who are silent. I think that me giving them room to decide might actually help the situation, though. I’ve been gabbing on so much, you know, maybe they haven’t needed to talk yet. Who knows?

Kerry May 14, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Honestly? If I were you I’d stop.

Because by now, people have read this stuff, and they get the idea. So it’s up to them to look at their own numbers and see whatever it is they see.

And if they see shady stuff…well, then they need to either speak up or suck it up. Because to see something shady and then do nothing except put someone ELSE’S neck out on the chopping block is just chickenshit. I understand not being able to quit, or not being able to put your own neck on the block…but I don’t understand repeatedly asking someone else to do it. If that’s your situation, put your energy into finding a better deal for yourself. But don’t expect someone else to take the hit for you.

anna May 14, 2010 at 7:51 pm

It does seem like there’s enough information out there, doesn’t it? I mean even if I have more damning stuff to say, it’s like . . . there’s enough to make a decision already, I’d think.

Jennie May 14, 2010 at 9:16 pm

I’ve tended not to comment on much of this situation for no other reason than I haven’t followed the whole thing and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s people making their opinions public when their opinions are based on half the story.

But, if people are coming to you to air their grievances for them, so to speak, without allowing you to use their name/website, that’s just asking you to take a public beating they’re not willing to take. And, for lack of better phrasing: that shit’s not cool.

If I were you, I’d move on as well. You’ve told your story and they should tell their own, if/when they find their public voice.

anna May 14, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Well, it’s not exactly asking me to air grievances. It’s more like . . . here’s something that happened, maybe you should look further into this other area. And the areas are possibly worth investigating further, but I’m not ready to invest that kind of time and effort, at this point, if I”m the only person who will be presenting it to the public, i guess is what I’m saying. In other words, it might not be something that somebody can do on their own, so I’m willing to help, but I’m not willing to be the only public face of it anymore.

Sara May 14, 2010 at 9:16 pm

See something, say something. You did, and you did. What else is there?

I’d write about it for you but I have zero readers.

You know who would be a great person to have a candid conversation with about that ad network? Heather Armstrong. Say what you will about her as a person or a blogger, but jeez I bet she could tell ya some stories.

anna May 14, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Yeah, it’s a bit more complicated only because a lot of the stuff that is important only becomes apparent through sharing information, and various people come to me with information, and then through comparing the information that’s how we/me figure out things. It’s kind of hard to explain in the abstract, but more or less there are few people that can put together problems on their own and write about them without my help or without pooling information from several sources.

So I’m happy to facilitate these kinds of things, and even lend my blog or my name to those things, or my time or help. But not only my name.

Re: Heather, did she ever use that network? I wasn’t around back then, but I had thought she was with FM all along.

Sara May 15, 2010 at 3:07 pm

I think you’re right. For some reason I was thinking she had been with BH before FM because she had attended the conference, but “anyone with a ticket is welcome,” right?

Mel May 14, 2010 at 9:39 pm

I’m not sure if you would like for everyone to continue the conversation in your comments..you could always link to blogfrog and that way the conversation can be for everyone without it taking up pages of your blog. Just a thought…

I support you and have been following your articles on what has gone on. I am not someone who advertises on my blog but I understand where you are coming from and how it does indeed matter to those that do. I have not commented before because I did not have anything to share. But I hope you do indeed feel support :)

anna May 14, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Hi Mel, thanks. I don’t really mind the conversation happening here, though if people feel more comfortable elsewhere that would be fine. I think that the biggest issue is not where the conversation takes place so much as people feeling comfortable about taking part in a public conversation. They are worried about repercussions. So, I understand that. As always, people can email me with concerns. I just wanted to publicly state that this was what I was thinking on the matter, if people were wondering why I didn’t post about it again or if there were more posts coming. Because I really don’t see how I can do it at this point . . . at least that’s how I feel right now.

Mel May 14, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Anna,

That’s cool. I wasn’t sure if you were possibly looking for another way of having the conversation :) Seems like everyone has something to say. I found your charts very interesting. Thank you for showing something in a more tangible way. I find it interesting that there are reasons people are not getting paid fairly for the ads to be hosted. I hope that people decide to come forward and share publicly what is going on…because to be honest, this is not only a fairness issue among bloggers but also an issue of wrong and right. And we should definitely be holding ‘the company not to be named’ to a high standard since they are a large representation of bloggers. I would hope that if I was in charge of that company and there was a problem that people were seeing, they would come to me, talk to me about it, and make sure it got taken care of in a fair way. (Hope that makes sense…)

Heather May 15, 2010 at 8:40 am

Anna,

I understand why you are feeling this way. It is unfair for you to have to be the only one bringing this to light. I agree with the “mean girls” philosophy someone talked about above. People don’t want to piss off the company, because of the conference and their perceived power in this genre, and they don’t want to alienate the popular bloggers who are remaining silent here.

I really feel that the ONLY way to get everyone talking is to get a major media outlet to blow the lid off of this story. But what are the chances these people who don’t want to go on record with you will suddenly grow a set to talk to, say, the NYT?

I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe after August, when the scary conference is over for another year, things will change? I feel for you, Anna. This sucks – and beyond the scope of your personal litigation with them, it’s not your responsibility to carry.

anna May 15, 2010 at 9:00 am

Thanks, Heather. I think that the fact that the conference is looming makes it much more difficult. I would expect there will be some kind of huge blowout after the conference. First of all, there always is something that happens like that after the conference. Secondly, everyone is kind of biding their time anyway, because most people are scared of confrontation, and bloggers tend to be introverts in my experience so they’re probably avoiding it even more.

Now, you bring up a good point. Even if MSM picks this up, they might still be hesitant. But a real journalist is going to be far more skilled at getting the story than I am. So maybe people will still be hesitant, but you know how it is, they get a call from someone at the NYT and OMG it’s the NYT! I don’t have that kind of OMG! credibility. So, you know, we don’t know if that would work or not.

I want the story to get out because I think it’s in everybody’s best interest. I don’t think this is a good situation, I don’t like how this industry is being run — not just this particular company, though I have suspicions about this particular company that make me think it is particularly egregious. I think it’s a mess that I am not qualified to unravel. I think I’m the only person who has bothered to do it so far because it is so much of a mess and such a headache that it’s much easier to leave alone. I really think that is what the grand journalistic institutions are there for, that is why we still need them, why they cannot ever be replaced by new media. So I really hope they will pick it up, even though it seems like a niche story, it really isn’t because it’s something that spans into all online advertising, probably into how ads are run on the NYT website as well.

But we will see.

Tipnut May 15, 2010 at 6:53 pm

My opinion is that if you find that networking with other bloggers and credibility are priorities for you, it’s in your best interest to bow out. Networking is a furry beast that I don’t bother with, but some find it incredibly important. I’m not surprised you were thrown under the bus because when networking is the only thing that’s keeping your blog alive, you can’t jeopardize that in any way. Even if that means publicly siding with the “mean girls” or not standing up to them. We all survived highschool and we’ll all survive the blogging world, lol.

I found the information you provided so far really interesting (about there being a possibility of tiers) and of course I’d be here to read more of it if you continued, but I don’t think that’s even the issue bloggers should be concerned about or distracted with.

The REAL ISSUE (IMO) is whether or not an ad network meets your needs or your potential. Period. End of story.

I think it’s unrealistic to expect all publishers in a network (any network) to have the same % of paying ads. I don’t think the information you provided proved anything nefarious because there’s so much more to take into account (ad channels, ad preferences, traffic levels, number of unique visitors vs. pageviews, country origin of traffic levels, times of traffic levels, swearing, etc.). It’s all too convoluted to point definitively that shenanigans are happening.

Instead of asking:

–Are there tiers? The question should be: How much ad inventory do I have that can be monetized? How much of that ad inventory is this network capable of filling for me? (ME being the key word–not PW or other big bloggers or friends of network employees)
–Is the network I choose to work with stifling my revenue growth with their restrictions? Or are they able to accommodate those restrictions in a meaningful, prosperous way (for ME)? If a network demands exclusivity, are they providing higher paying ads? Are they providing enough of those higher paying ads to make up for the loss of not being able to continue to grow and earn revenue and build relationships by using another good paying ad network as backup (like most networks allow)?
–Does the real estate amount they demand work for ME and the growth of my site–or is it better suited for their growth at my expense? Or does the total ad CPM and % of inventory filled accommodate those leaks?

I completely understand what you are saying Anna. It rips you royally to see (what you believe) people being taken advantage of, and to see some big entity getting away with it and profiting from bad behavior (again, your perception). BUT…you can’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of or used to serve the needs of others (especially at your expense) when they themselves aren’t willing to do any hard work or ask/answer any hard questions or take a stand for THEMSELVES.

You’d do better (to serve you and your readers) by teaching the right questions to ask so that they’re educated enough to make decisions that are best suited to accomplishing their goals. They may find that their ad network of choice (whichever one it is) does its job and accommodates their needs just fine, or not. But now they’re making informed decisions rather than reacting emotionally, and that’s super important and a key to success.

Just my humble opinion of course, I hope I didn’t offend.

anna May 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Hmm. Networking with some other bloggers might be important. Not all of them. Not the ones who threw me under the bus, certainly. But I’m not sure they have much to offer me anyway. If they did, they wouldn’t be so concerned with covering their own asses, is my guess.

Regarding the tiers and all of that, it may seem kind of convoluted, I suppose, from what I published. It’s not so convoluted from this side, but that’s besides the point. From where I stand there is an ethical dilemma. I have some information that I think it is important from an ethical standpoint that I share with the public. But on the other hand, because of the nature of it, I cannot really go public with it without substantiation from many other parties. So though I’m pretty personally convinced of its veracity, I cannot stand by it alone and say it’s true and have that be good enough. It should be good enough but it isn’t. It isn’t for a variety of reasons, both journalistic, personal and professional. And since nobody in the community is willing to step forward, well . . . there you have it.

Still, I remain torn, because the information is bad. That’s all. It’s a problem. Personally. I would guess that many people deal with this kind of dilemma all the time in their jobs. I’ve never dealt with it before. I was in academia. I dealt with books. You know, dead people and onomatopoeia.. This sort of thing didn’t really come up. I’m learning about it. I can’t tell you everything I know because I just cannot, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel like these things feed into my opinions of how things are run. I’m a person, I don’t just run on all logic and facts. I doubt most people do. I think we all base our opinions on some logic and some facts and some gut instincts. I’ve got some logic, some facts, some definite stuff, some stuff I can prove, and a whole lot of really bad stuff I think but I cannot prove, and some suspicions that I haven’t told you about.

Marcy of The Glamorous Life Assoc. May 15, 2010 at 9:28 pm

It has to be you. HAS TO BE YOU. Everyone else is too scared. Like speaking up against the mafia or something (I like to call them the MOMfia)….I know you don’t want this job. But you have to be our Erin Brocovich. YOu have to be the one to tell the internet what a scam their network is. People NEED TO KNOW.

I for one am SO grateful you exposed them. You have done a very good thing. I am sorry all the stress it is causing you -but you amaze me with your bravery.

AnnB May 16, 2010 at 10:52 am

What tipnut said 1000 times over.

While you raised some provocative questions about Blogher, nothing at all was proven.

I’m not surprised the Media isn’t jumping on this “story” because there is no story just some inside baseball stuff that’s incredibly convoluted even to those who play inside baseball.

I’m a big fan of your Monetization posts, but this Blogher stuff was pure speculation.

And full disclosure I don’t use or car about Blogher or go to their conferences.

Maggie May 17, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I just want to say rock on–if you don’t do this nobody will. I admit your charts and explanations go way above my head but you’re obviously on to something.

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