External content: how much is too much?

In my day job I’m an accountant but in my spare time I blog; predominately here as a parent blogger but I also have a few other blogs for material that doesn’t fit, and this is one of them, focussing as it does predominately on technology with a few other bits chucked in. Occasionally the worlds overlap and this is one of those times as I’m increasingly becoming overwhelmed with placed/featured/sponsored/paid for but undisclosed/review/competition posts in so many different channels it’s not real. Which channels? Google+ I can forgive because there is a facility to autopost content from blogger and as a social network it is very much focused on sharing internet content and commenting. But when a good 70% of content generally on Facebook and Twitter either features the word “review” or “competition” or a hashtag for a campaign or product, I begin to get placed content fatigue.

This is how bad it’s getting in my timeline, people are actually hashtagging tweets as not an advert.

post listLooking at my parenting blog, 7 of my last 25 posts have been reviews and a further post was one I was paid to write. That fits with my unofficial approach of trying to make sure I have at least two posts written by me on a subject of my choosing for every review/sponsored post. I’ve been at it long enough (over 5 years now), that I pick and choose what I review and I’ll only pick stuff that I actually think is worth having because it looks good- I don’t accept everything I’m offered because “Woohooo- free stuff” because I simply don’t have the time nor the inclination. In fact when it comes to product reviews, I often spend a lot more time crafting my reviews, time spent playing with the stuff notwithstanding, simply out of a vague sense of guilt at writing yet another review.

At the heart of the issue is the dichotomy that I’d rather read reviews and sponsored content on a separate blog (we own Mummy Reviews ostensibly for this purpose) but PR agencies and the brands they work for want reviews and sponsored content to appear on personal blogs because of the “authenticity” an individual voice gives (obviously in addition to having it spread all over commercial sites).

Obviously there are plenty of blogs out there that are explicitly review blogs and in a sense I hold no beef with those; I can choose to follow or not follow them as I wish. The thornier issue is some of the older blogs. And by older I suppose I mean anything that’s had it’s second birthday and is still regularly updated. For exanple my wife’s blog has had it’s 7th birthday and is serenely sailing towards it’s 8th, and was started as a chronicle of life with a little baby back in 2007. A lot of these older blogs started up when there wasn’t as much stuff being flung at bloggers but now it can get mad. Between us, the wife and I have to filter our way through well over 100 (sometimes even more than 200) emails a day that range from targeted approaches, cold (cut & paste text) approaches, to generic press releases. And it’s understandable that in the post 2007 world of austerity that we live in, people will generally look to supplement their income in any way they can, blogging included. There are times, like now when she is involved in running an impending literary festival, that wifey doesn’t actually have time to post on her blog but since she gets sent so many books, she has to find the time to keep up the commitment to writing those posts at the expense of writing personal content.

The problem is the balance. A lot of the admittedly few blogs I read, I read to keep up with how people are doing, find out the authors opinion on things and so on. I can do this around the odd review or featured item but when it’s one actual post per 4,5,6,7 or 8 placed articles or reviews, my attention begins to wander, especially when the social media content exacerbates this even more, with two or three carefully scheduled tweets promoting each of the posts.

I’m not suggesting my approach is an answer, it just happens to be how I feel comfortable curating the content on my blog, but surely there has to be a better way- I feel like we’re rapdily heading towards a state where I have to find peoples personal Facebook accounts to have any clue what they’re up to, which sort of defeats the purpose of having a blog really. I’m sure some people might read this and think I’m having a go at them specifically but the thought couldn’t be further from my mind; I’m really just interested in a discussion about the way blogging seems to be going, but if you insist on taking this personally, you should probably walk away with the thought that I’m frustrated because I care and want to know what’s going on in your life…


I’ve linked this post in to All about you, a linky. Feel free to have a look at the other posts.

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