Mummy Bloggers v Liz Jones

Today controversial Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones has published a scathing and bitter attack on Mummy Bloggers (and Mumsnet users).  According to Liz, she of sperm stealing fame, bloggers may as well wear burkhas.  Um, ok…

Actually while I am, as a rule, extremely anti-Jones I do see why she might be a little upset in her position as a (albeit not terribly good) journalist.  For some time I’ve noticed that writers with experience and qualifications are being marginalised by the boom in blogging.  It’s depressing to find that bloggers, many of whom are lacking in writing ability and free and easy when it comes to research, are given more credence than those who slogged to get to even the measliest paying position on a local rag or low-traffic website.

It’s also patently obvious to anybody with any knowledge of the Mummy Blogging world that the success of blogs boils down in large part to popularity amongst your peers.  Just as there’s a pecking order in coffee morning cliques so there is in the blogging community, and clicks on pages are, one might suggest, produced not necessarily through genuine interest in the content of a page but in the person who produced it.  Successful blogs are not often made by natural means but by hardcore networking, a touch of nepotism and a good knowledge of how the web works.

I suppose you could say that successful Mummy Bloggers win the popularity contest that Ms Jones and her Prada bowling bag were never offered a place in.

To put this in to perspective, imagine if you worked in a bakery.  You might bake some of the best cakes in the country but if there’s someone baking crappy cakes but putting lovely icing on them and sending them out to all the other crappy bakers with cutesy notes ending in ‘xxx’ and all those crappy bakers start saying wonderful things about each other’s crappy cakes you’d end up going out of business.  It doesn’t matter that those other cakes are shit, because the sheer amount of cakes and the cake popularity contest has devalued your great bakes.

That probably makes no sense, it’s little wonder that I’m one of the first ones to lose their career as a journalist because blogs are easy money.

I know, I know, there are some great bloggers out there, I’ve met them, I’ve read their blogs – even the ones about knitting and baking and buying cute Scandi clothing for their kids and taking maternity leave (none of which make a Stepford Wife out of someone or equate to wearing a burkha) and I know Liz Jones is a heinous, bitter old shrew but for once maybe she does have a badly conceived point.  Of sorts.  Not really, but you see what I’m…oh, never mind *awaits anger of the Mumsnet Mafia*

20 responses

  1. I am afriad I don’t agree. When I started blogging I knew no one in this world and people read when it was funny and didn’t when it was crap. My blog got more popular as I changed my style and wrote more and yes some people visit my blog because they have followed my issues with the kids but I am pretty certain if I wrote crap stuff with pretty icing no one would bother coming by any more. I certainly only read good content.

    • I think I’ve perhaps not explained well – I don’t tar all bloggers with the same brush and many are very good but unfortunately, as is the nature of the Internet, there’s a lot of dross to pick through too. I certainly don’t begrudge anybody their right to blog or their popularity but simply question the way SOME blogs become popular and the ‘cliquey-ness’ of the blogging community.

      • I sort of see your point but cliquey-ness exists in every industry in every job. In journalism there is a huge amount of dross to pick through and some talent. The writers for some real life magazines that document the depression of human life may not be fantastically written but if that topic interests a reader they will buy the mag.

        Popular blogs typically become popular for being controversial and argumentative, or well written and compelling, or review focused and PR friendly, or witty and well presented, or written by an individual who is compelling enough for readers to want to engage with.

        I still firmly dont agree with you that SEO and icing make popular blogs, but then if you asked me who was popular I could only tell you who I read and I dont chose them by stats merely by choice.

  2. Not sure that I agree that journalists who are qualified are necessarily any better! A piece of paper or letters after your name does not make your work enjoyable to read! I choose a novel because I like the author, not because the contents will be be some seminal work of great literature, why should the blogs I read not be the same!
    ‘Mummy bloggers’ as you and Ms Jones deem them (it’s not a title I am happy with) are not bad people, they are not evil or unkind, anymore than you or Ms Jones are. There is a social structure, there is in any society. Some are more popular because they have ‘friends’ some are not – it is no different to normal life.
    I would suggest that your post is fuelled by jealousy because your blog is less successful than someone else’s who you emulate! Bloggers offer a support network among their friends and readers and if you don’t like that you don’t have that then i suggest you don’t defend poisonous old sticks like Ms Jones and open yourself to receiving the blog love that is out there waiting if only you would allow it to happen!

    • but you see this is it! My issue is with this idea of ‘popularity’ over real content – indeed if I cared about the popularity or otherwise of my blog I wouldn’t write something which I knew would get the backs of bloggers up would I? Nowhere do I deem anybody as evil or unkind and I also agree wholeheartedly with you that there’s an awful lot of bloggers a million times better than myself and, of course, the poisonous old stick (not terribly difficult in fairness).

      I take great issue with your suggestion that I seek to emulate anybody else’s blog – if you’d read beyond this post you’d see that it’s based on my own experiences of mental illness, something personal which is impossible to crib from someone else. I write this blog as an outlet for my thoughts and experiences as someone with bipolar, not in order to make friends or money or as part of a popularity contest. It’s disappointing that you’ve turned what was a thoughtful reply in to the kind of bitchiness that makes one a little dubious about the blogging cliques in the first place.

  3. I totally agree with you. She does have a point in there.

    Some “mummy bloggers” write thoughtful, insightful and informative content about a range of subjects while others are concerned only with where their next freebie is coming from so they can write a glowing review heavily influenced by their gratitude, hope for further “business” and considerable thrill of self-importance.

    You’re right to call it a popularity contest. Blogging, like school, can be bitchy and cliquey and shallow.

    User-friendly technology and the internet means staying home for the kids doesn’t equate to enforced isolation anymore but it’s become a mark of the middle-class mummy to have your own blog – it’s as much a part of their uniform and self-expression as the on-trend handbag and the weekly Ocado delivery. And that’s fine.

    The way I see it, the last laugh is really on them as they have smoke blown up their arses by the media and retail industry so they continue to work for favours. Whatever you’re prepared to settle for right?

    It can be infuriating to those of us who make a living from writing, and agonise and sweat over every paragraph, but we have to remember to keep it in perspective. They’re on the take, interested in bolstering their own self-image. But those of us motivated by giving – anyone capable of producing genuine, focused content – have nothing to fear.

    • I had a feeling I was going to get it in the neck so a supportive message (and one so much more articulate than my own!) is very appreciated.

      What I think some are failing to grasp is that it’s not jealousy but frustration in professional writers – we’ve been consistently devalued over the past few years, not least by the increasing amount of new writers being made to work for free just in order to get a byline or a foot in the door, which is exactly what I had to do for several months to eventually get my first paid job for £7k a year. It’s a practice I don’t agree with but it appears to be a necessary evil. There’s also the carving up of well thought out articles for SEO purposes, being dropped by PRs for negative reviews (no longer does it matter if a journalist doesn’t like your product because there’ll be a blogger ready to give you a glowing write up) and on and on and on…

  4. And Mary, your reply is a perfect case in point – not only do you imaginatively speculate that this post was motivated by spite and jealousy simply because you disagree with it, but you go on to state that people only qualify for acceptance and support in the blogging community if they tow the party line. Says it all really – thank you so much, I’m sure Liz will feel vindicated…

  5. And you have all missed the point! I was not defending the ‘clique’ mentality I was simply stating fact. It is there, as it is in any office, shop, hospital, newspaper office – in fact anywhere more than 3 women are gathered together! We naturally gravitate towards it! I hate that we do – but it appears to be female nature! No one says you have to tow the party line, the fact that there are so many parties out there means that you can just join another one.
    I’m sorry that you didin’t like what I said – it was my opinion and yours is different, ok, there you go! My point about opening up to the blog love that is out there was certainly not a comment that you will only get it if you tow the line! My apologies if that is how you see it!
    I have read further through your blog, I didn’t just read this one, and I didn’t like it, it’s not to my taste and I won’t be a regular visitor. It doesn’t mean your wrong, it doesn’t mean you should stop – if you enjoy it and you find it cathartic or it makes you money then go for your life.
    There is dross on the web, but then there is dross in the printed media, there is dross on the shelves of Waterstones – if people choose to read dross then why shouldn’t they be allowed to? Why do you or Ms Jones deserve to make money when at the expense of someone else? Why is your writing any better than a ‘mummy blogger’ who will write for £2? It’s not – and it’s not any worse – it’s just different!! The world of small business is built on networking and knowledge of your market place – so thats all they’re doing!
    I’ll go and let you all bitch about how mean I am to criticise this blog, how I must be part of the mumsnet mafia, and backslap each other about how you are all better than that and deserve the success which is being taken by amateurs – which will really only make you all as bad as the people you are slating! *awaits anger of the anti-mumsnet mafia*

  6. Interesting on many points – some I agree with and some I don’t – but the main issue here that you have highlighted is that successful blogs aren’t just about good writing. If you had the most articulately written blog that you slogged away for years at you may not reach the dizziest heights that poorer writers are at, just because you aren’t a member of the same networks, don’t understand twitter or simply can’t afford the time to sit and comment away at every single blog. I don’t think I’d say this in the terms you have above, which could be construed as a bit snarky (sorry – but true).

    Blogging is a fantastic way of people with the need and often the talent to write to get their work ‘out there’ (me included, I always wanted to be a writer but was far too fickle to stick to a Uni degree to get me to that place). It does annoy my inner spelling and grammar nazi a little to see who I consider to be worse writers become so popular but hey, I figure they must have skills in other areas. Networking, Social Media, sucking up, whatever… BUT I think this true in all walks of life, behind every success story there’s a lot of talent but also a degree of luck, nepotism and plain plugging away at it until something clicks. Look at the Daily Mail: it’s badly written, poorly edited garbage. That doesn’t stop it being the most read online paper. Or 50 Shades of Grey… what a pile of tosh, yet still the bestselling biggest pile of tosh.

    I imagine Liz Jones is feeling majorly usurped in her position as she worked so bloody hard (probably starting at the bottom of the pile) to get to where she is today. But I don’t have any sympathy for her: I started in my industry in the same place but have learned to fight harder and get better at what I do. I don’t need to result to insulting and hurtful behaviour, I completely believe that what she did was wrong and designed to raise hackles and generate column inches. There’s no way she didn’t know what she was getting herself into and was probably paid well for it. I stand by my comment telling her to stick her shrivelled old ovaries up her bum.

    • Yes, at the end of the day everything LJ does is about getting a reaction and that’s why she’s paid a bazillion quid by the Mail for what are generally bad, bad articles – because people *do* react. I have suspicions that she is an invented character too.

      I probably am being snarky (sorry) but, as has been beautifully illustrated here by another commenter, the blogosphere is a pretty snarky place at times and there are a lot of people for whom the craft of writing, love of language or even the offer of something unique or interesting is way down the list after clicks and likes and a pat on the back from the PR who provided your last freebie. But point it out and you’re a jealous meanie.

      I don’t have a problem with bloggers good, bad or otherwise, I have a problem with an artificially flooded market which, inevitably, devalues everybody’s product.

      Ps: I didn’t stick out uni or an NCTJ either and as an editor I always advocated blogging as the ideal way to get in to journalism, as you’ve done.

  7. Pingback: The Daily Mail is sexist (and questionably racist)

  8. Hoola, I think that you are bang on with your post. It is a popularity contest fuelled by freebies and sponsored content. Blogging has lost it’s heart and the majority of reaction posts to LJ’s article simply back up her stereotype IMHO.
    Voting rings, paying networks to promote your posts, Twitter parties, Linky’s about everything under the sun to grab a few extra page views…..
    How did it stop being about great content?

    • Cheers m’dear. I think where I could’ve been clearer is in saying what you’ve said here and what Alice said last night – it’s not just the journos who miss out now but the really great bloggers who have been lost in the mire despite slogging away to build unique blogs that rival the best ‘professional’ content writers.

    • this. I think I may have said this at the time you posted that one but part of the reason I abandoned Toddler Review (apart from the sheer amount of unpaid time it sucked up) was that I just found it was too difficult to post a ‘bad’ review and started leaving out the stuff which I didn’t like rather than being upfront and honest in negative reviews. And so it began to feel like it was an exercise in gathering freebies. Partly that’s down to my own failings but partly it’s down to being caught in this cycle of great review > more stuff to review > great review and so on and so on

      Not to say, of course, that all bloggers are mercenary or that all PRs are soft shelled (I know some excellent PRs and bloggers both professionally and as friends – as you well know).

  9. I think you’ve raised some fair points in this, to be honest. We can acknowledge that there is some dreadful bitchiness among bloggers without that taking away from the other, better bits of the community.

    I’ve come at it from a slightly different angle, but I’ve also written a post suggesting we shouldn’t write off everything LJ says just because it’s her saying it. A bit of self-awareness and navel gazing is no bad thing from time to time.

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