In a viral blog post last week, self-described mommy blogger Josi Denise called the whole blogging industry a scam and urged other mom bloggers to quit, telling them that their blogs suck and their writing is "sprinkled with horrible grammar and spelling, and you are contributing nothing to the world but static noise."
Denise explained her decision to write that post and her frustration with the whole blogging industry in an email to the Daily Dot. She said she began blogging in 2013 as she was "climbing a corporate ladder and transitioning from marketing to human resources management. My children were young, and a family member who cared for them was moving away. I had to face the decision of putting my toddler and preschooler in daycare for 10-plus hours every day, or put my career on hold to stay home until they were a little older...I thought that blogging could combine a lot of my skills and passions."
But in the past year, Denise said she's become fed up with the whole game. With PR agencies, blogger networks, and media companies looking for engagements, mom bloggers often resort to a game of sharing each other's posts, she said. "In reality, it’s a giant bubble of bloggers commenting on other blogs and regurgitating key messages that are (for the most part) lost on the average reader."
She explained that much of the writing on mom blogs is fake as well—or at least somewhat staged. For example, one time a company set her some camping gear and summer-related cooking products to review, and the resulting piece didn't portray what actually happened.
It was 100 degrees outside and humid in South Florida, and we weren’t allowed to have campfires in our neighborhood. So we put a tent in the living room and roasted s’mores in the grill. It was stressful and I could not enjoy the children having fun while constantly directing them to pose for photos that looked convincing or showcased the products in the same shot that they were actually smiling instead of being silly kids. Could you tell in the photos that it wasn’t what it seemed? No way. So is that really lying to readers? Not directly, but it’s not real.She also compared the mom blogging industry to a pyramid scheme, with a few players on top making money and the majority getting scammed. But she doesn't see the industry dying anytime soon, noting, "In the meantime, as long as brands are willing to pay, and the media companies have thousands of bloggers willing to churn out cheap content, it will continue."
Response to her viral post has largely been positive, she told the Daily Dot. "Those who work in the advertising industry have told me they appreciate the honesty, and they shared their predictions about the influencer marketing trend collapsing into itself," she said. "The best feedback has been from nonblogging readers, just ordinary people who have no stake in any of this, sharing how hard it is for them to relate to the majority of content creators in the world today. People can feel when something is genuine, and they know when to be skeptical."
But there have been some notable critics. Denise rounded up quotes from her detractors in a blog post titled "Women Who Deserve Sexism." Some of the sharpest criticism came from Kelby Carr, the CEO of Type-A Parent, a network of 12,000 mom and dad bloggers.
In the post, Denise quotes Carr as writing, "STFU, dumbass. Seriously, this is the biggest load of shit I’ve read in ages."
The Daily Dot reached out to Carr, who explained in an email that Denise's criticisms only highlight Denise's own problems:
[Denise's] overriding message was one of her own shortcomings—talking about fudged numbers and writing only for the purpose of making a bunch—that are all either worst practices in our industry or downright unethical. If she wanted to write a personal confessional, fine, but she declared she was representative of the entire industry. She is absolutely not. The Type-A Parent community that has been growing since 2007 is filled with highly ethical, talented, smart bloggers who would never dream of running their blog or business that way.
Carr admits that while there are some bloggers running awful sponsored content, and engaging in unethical promotion practices, she says that her network "[does] not condone that or even allow it. These are all decisions that need to be made thoughtfully by both bloggers and brands, not to mention influencer marketing networks that coordinate the campaigns. The second you stop caring about the quality content and readers first, this all falls apart. Anyone who tells you different is selling you a lie."
But Denise's critique of the industry is resonating with many other bloggers.
And Denise isn't the first blogger to be outspoken about the industry's pitfalls. Heather Armstrong of Dooce.com famously quit blogging last year, saying that blogging for money wasn't sustainable. She told the Atlantic in 2015:
It's kinda funny when influencers crack but srsly Josi Denise's holding up a really powerful mirror to the internet. https://t.co/fRLQ1k3YSL— Nicola Balkind (@robotnic) May 18, 2016
These days, Armstrong says she wouldn’t recommend blogging for money. The popular aphorism advises, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Armstrong did what she loved, so she never stopped working.
“I wrote a blog because it was fun, and I loved doing it,” she said. “Then it became my job and I hated it. You never want to get to the point where you’re like ‘Ugh I have to go do that thing that I love? Ughhhh.’”
But Carr doesn't think mom blogging is dead. She said the blogs who can't make it are "low-quality, crap blogs." Additionally, "Those blogs will die out just like with any industry. The cream rises to the top."
And despite her frustrations, Denise isn't going to stop blogging, either. "I have no plans to quit writing authentic content, and my blog will remain an open platform for that to happen."
She also claims that she didn't write the post for it to go viral. "I did not have a goal in writing this post, aside from saying what I felt needed to be said. That being said, I fully appreciate and welcome the honest conversation it has sparked about the influencer marketing industry, among other things."