The Decline of Blogs
The Decline of Blogs (and How PR Can Help Avoid It)
The Decline of Blogs (and How PR Can Help Avoid It)

I returned from the Blissdom blogger conference about 10 days ago and am off to Dad 2.0 Summit this week. There’s a lot of blogger love happening out there, and it’s wonderful to be in the middle of it, helping to connect brands and bloggers in creative and fruitful ways.

Lately, though, I’ve been coming home from parenting/lifestyle blogger conferences both inspired and dismayed. There are some really cool ways in which brands are engaging with these bloggers, and some of those efforts come through at blogger conferences. For example, at Blissdom, ConAgra launched their Child Hunger Ends Here campaign, encouraging bloggers to add the hashtag #childhunger to their tweets to donate one meal per tweet sent during the conference. The hashtag was flying and 20,000 meals were donated, with ConAgra matching to get to a total of 40,000 meals. Bloggers for a cause … I love it.

Microsoft Office and Windows worked with a well-known parenting blogger, Janice Croze from 5 Minutes for Mom, as the host of a live webcast from their Blissdom suite on time saving tips with Office products. Janice was exactly the right host for the busy mom audience they were trying to attract, and choosing to broadcast from Blissdom gave those viewers a peek into the conference.

So that’s the good. But there’s some ugly too.

Every time I go to a blogger conference I meet new bloggers, and of course I always ask them what they blog about. Every time, at least a handful of newish bloggers say, “oh, you know, I write about products and do giveaways and stuff.” And I cringe. It’s not that there can’t be good review blogs. Look at Cool Mom Picks, HighTechDad, or DadLabs, blogs which have been around for a long time and have a very clear point-of-view and target audience; they all do reviews really well. It’s the new breed of “review-giveaway bloggers” (at least that’s what I’m calling them) that gets to me.The Decline of Blogs

Over the years, it’s become clear to many people that some bloggers earn some money through their blogs. Advertising is rarely a good source of income for new bloggers, but payments from brands can be, and so a new crop of bloggers has appeared who want to get their slice of the pie. These new bloggers rarely have a well-defined niche or point-of-view. Some are poor writers. Their content is nothing but review after review, giveaway after giveaway. And to top it all off, many of them take payment for reviews – something which is anathema to most legitimate bloggers and, in my opinion (and many others’), should never be offered by a self-respecting PR agency or brand.

You all know these low-quality review-giveaway blogs; I’m not going to name them here. They’re the ones which have “reviews,” “giveaways” and “pr friendly” as their main navigation points on their blogs. They’re also the blogs that are turned on by the “make money fast by blogging” or “blog from home” come-ons in Google or Facebook ad results. And if you’re on the brand or PR agency side, you’ve no doubt encountered these bloggers pitching you – with their hands out, looking for you to pay them to do something with your brand.

I think these review-giveaway bloggers are giving all other bloggers (parenting and otherwise) a bad name. I’ve encountered dozens of clients and potential clients who, when I bring up the possibility of creating blogger integrations for their brands, say, “why would I pay for a review?” – as if that’s all they think bloggers do. It’s very hard to convince them that a creative blogger relationship can be an extension of their marketing efforts and reap rewards for both parties. Sadly, the blogs they find in searches and the blogs that reach out to them are mostly the ones looking to make a quick buck or score some product. Because brands get turned off so quickly, they never have a chance to meet or work with blogs who can bring their audiences to bear in an ethical and holistic way to help build a brand’s profile among their communities. And that’s really a shame. As a social media agency, it’s my job to help them understand that there is a better way – that true marketing partnerships with a small number of quality bloggers can yield great results. I’m working hard to do that.

So how can we stop the proliferation of these kinds of blogs and this “pay-for-play” mentality? I feel the answer lies primarily with the PR firms. As I’ve said before, agencies need to step up their game, and realize that “pitching to bloggers” does not mean paying for reviews, paying for giveaways, or paying for links. Blogger relationships can and should be marketing partnerships: use bloggers as spokespeople, have them write content for you or appear in videos, bring them to headquarters to talk to your staff, have them conduct informal focus groups or product parties in their hometowns. Pay them as marketing consultants and expect professionalism from them. If you don’t get what you expect from your relationship, be sure to give them feedback so they can do better; many of them don’t come from marketing backgrounds, which in no way diminishes their power to connect and deliver their communities to you.

If you’re an agency who uses a “spray-and-pray” pitch approach, sending mass emails out to dozens or hundreds of bloggers at a time, or if you’re ready to hand any blogger $50 to do just about anything – stop. You’re really the ones creating the breeding ground for these poor quality blogs.

The future of blogging, at least in the lifestyle/parenting category, will have to be defined by more and better: more actual content, better content, more focus, better writing, more ethical behavior. It’s always great to see new high-quality blogs, but I’d like to see the the blogosphere grow less rapidly, if it means low-quality blogs will go away as their authors realize that there’s no such thing as easy money.  Agencies, you have the power to help make that change.


About the Author

Stephanie Schwab
Stephanie Schwab is the Principal of Crackerjack Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in social media planning and execution. Stephanie is also the founder of the Digital Family Summit, the first-of-its-kind conference for tween bloggers and content creators and their families. Throughout her 20-year career, she has developed and led marketing and social media programs for top brands and has presented on social media and e-commerce topics at numerous conferences and corporate events. Stephanie writes about social media at, sometimes hangs out at Google+, and tweets @stephanies.
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  • Bill

    I think you are over generalizing your statements. There are some blogs, which are even far better than yours, that do enter into a business relationship with companies in which they receive product or payment, that does not make them bad, just better at business than you. I do agree there are a crop of bloggers that frankly need to spend their energy in other places and are looking for a quick buck. However to be so general in your statements is very naive.

  • Rana Sinha

    Very interesting post. There are lots of blogs, which are attractive and give lots of promises but fail to deliver on one essential point – give any kind of value to the reader. The blogs that can deliver value, to the reader, have better chances of surviving without the hype professional bloggers try to use.

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  • There have always been different types of media. Obviously blogging makes it easier for anyone to publish — a good and bad thing, perhaps. Rather than saying some blogs are more or less valuable, I prefer to see them as fulfilling different functions. Compare a photocopied zine, a circular, a community paper, a glossy fashion mag, and a news magazine…. they all fulfill different functions.

    People who blast out pitches to Copy and Paste bloggers believe they are getting something valuable. Depending on their expectations, that may be the case. I wouldn’t look in a local circular for advice, but I do to find out about businesses and discounts in my area.

    I seriously doubt they are handing out $50 Willy-nilly, though. More like $10 or a product that wholesaler for $5. Sometimes that is valuable to get your release in 100 places for $500-1000. I may not like it but if two people enter into an understanding, that’s up to them. Yes, SEO (or the popular understanding of it) may hurt quality writing. That stinks. I think the best way to counteract that is to support quality writing. Hopefully more and more companies will do that.

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  • Very Interactive and Thoughtful post. Today people need quality, not quantity and for good quality we need good and ethical content. Blogging should not be for money. It is should be Ethical !!!! 

  • The decline of blogging is not so easy and not possible because, better  content writing will not let it fall. More ethical, comprehensive and meaningful content is enough to save the blog from lowering down PR. Hence, its future is bright.

  • Melonie Dodaro

    Wonderful post.  Thanks for the insights you just shared here.  Yes, there may be a growing pay for play bloggers nowadays. Though they may be able to command a following, soon enough people will just get tired of them, and in the process go back to the real ones who have more substance.

  • Blog is something personal and professional but unfortunately a lot of them are just duplicated sources

  • Caitlin T #SMHART

    You’re right, a lot of pay for play bloggers are low quality and may not deserve their large followings. However I do think they are underestimated in this article. After obtaining larger followings than what may be considered high quality undiscovered bloggers, who has the real opportunity to affect change and disseminate information? These low quality bloggers may be new to blogging but have figured out how to establish themselves quickly. Giveaways get users attention and we have to hand it to those bloggers, they are getting noticed, whether we think it is right or not.

  • Hinessightblog

    Excellent article. I enjoyed hearing what you had to say on the subject.  As a relatively new blogger who tries to really put thought in my stories and content, it irks me when I see these giveaway blogs with 1,000s of followers.  There is no content at all.  Thanks.

  • Nice insight and I enjoyed the comments even more. Makes blogging more engaging this way.

  • PR Friendly blogs are KILLING the industry.

    What used to be a medium for stories and support is now all about chasing the next endorsement.

    As soon as I see “PR Friendly” on a blog, I’m gone.  If you need to disclose what you’re doing, you’re probably doing it wrong.  Decades ago payola killed the music industry, how long until it’s revealed that the blogosphere runs on it too?

    • Thanks, Buzz….you’re totally singing my tune. Love your posts.

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  • I think the most important thing for any business is the target-group. They want everything and they want now.  

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  • Admin

    Blogger is not an occupation.

    • For me it is. :)

      • I agree with  – blogging can be an occupation.
        I also think that  ‘s article is mist-titled.  It is not about a decline in blogs, but instead about a decline in quality maybe (for the type of blogs she is describing).

        Personally, it is about trust, can you trust these bloggers or will they write and tell you whatever they get money for?  The FTC is very clear about this and says you must disclose that you got paid to do something. For bloggers this means even if you got a product sample you must say so (of course, I wonder why print journalists are not asked to do the same but that is another story).

        This means we have put it into our disclosure policy: ComMetrics’ disclosure policy

        Interesting is also what @socialologist:twitter – Stephanie writes here and I quote: 
        “I think these review-giveaway bloggers are giving all other bloggers (parenting and otherwise) a bad name. I’ve encountered dozens of clients and potential clients who, when I bring up the possibility of creating blogger integrations for their brands, say, “why would I pay for a review?” –  ”

        However, I find a potential client who states something as pointed out in the above quote should go back to social media 101 should she not?  If you believe blogging is about making money instead of engaging with potential clients and current customers, you should probably continue paying for advertising in printed media ….

        I have to do a blog post about this myself. This is inspiring!

        • Thanks, Urs, for your comments! Agreed with what you’re saying about clients and social media….the problem is, most clients are not (and need not be) social media experts, so most have not taken Social Media 101. We’re there to guide them, right? Which is why starting with a poor impression of bloggers is tough, it’s hard to crawl up from there to convince them that great blogger programs can be really beneficial.

          • Dear @socialologist:disqus 
            Thanks so much for replying.  I can see what you are suggesting. Nevertheless, I advice my clients to look at the disclosure policy. If it does not exist, I have to wonder if I should take the blogger seriously.
            If the client is new to the scene, however, we need to advice them to find their way.
            This means we all have to read a blog, make up our mind, before we start asking the blogger to review one of our products. 
            I am thankful that there is some work left for you and me and all the others that know about blogging.
            Thanks for sharing.

  • I wasn’t going to reply to this cause I think things written to bring down bloggers don’t deserve attention. I think this post sounds bitter and resentful. What you overlook is the fact there there are many GREAT review and giveaway bloggers. They are funny, smart, witty and their audience loves them. Are there bad R&G bloggers? Sure. My belief is that those out to just make a quick buck or for “free stuff” (which I HATE that word by the way cause you know as well as I do an item for review is a barter for service and that item must be worked for ie by post, promotion, exposure, etc..) die off quickly cause while it may be appealing to a PR rep for a couple months- eventually, they see no substance and move on to another better blogger. But just like there are crappy R&G blogs out there, there are also some pretty crappy content/parenting blogs, and crappy fashion blogs, and crappy… well you get it. There are always some good and some bad.

    PR reps that pair with an R&G blog want the service that that niche provides. Maybe they want some quick exposure that a giveaway will provide. Maybe they want to see what kind of relationship they can form? Who knows really, but that doesn’t make a R&G blogger bad or the cause of a decline of blogs. It’s just different. Everything evolves- blogs had to expand eventually from just being one thing. I think it’s great.. it means blogging is a career now rather than a hobby. We have parenting blogs, review and giveaway, coupons and deals, LifeStyle, Fashion, Beauty… god… so many categories. It’s a HUGE, eclectic, wonderful MIX of blogs in the world now.
    My opinion? Posts like these which point fingers at different niche of blogs is what really is cause of any sort of “decline” you think there is. Bloggers vs Bloggers…and THAT is what gives us a bad name.

    • Good point.  And this conversation could have easily just been about quality of content on blogs instead of being a “content bloggers vs. promotional bloggers” debate.  Why are we comparing apples to oranges?  We definitely don’t need to separate ourselves into “us vs. them” categories.

    • Right on Yolanda. You said basically what I think!

  • Annie S.

    Someone knows nothing about business and marketing. I am a Graduate student pursuing an MBA with a concentration in Marketing, but this is something I knew during my younger years. Those BRANDS want to PROMOTE their product – right? Apparently we – the “SAD” bloggers – are doing SOMETHING right. 
    We work very hard – something you cannot say for yourself. This is the most pathetic blog post I have ever seen. Do you realize how petty and immature this all sounds? Do you see R&G bloggers sitting around talking about the “dull blogger that only writes”? No. Why not? Because we don’t care to judge. 

    It’s very disheartening and the only conclusion we can come to after this post (yes, we talk inside of private groups; someone shared this post – and the discussion is really ‘great content’ – you are missing out!): There is so much jealousy filled in this post. I cannot wrap this around my mind… maybe because of the low quality reading I am used to seeing on blogs. 

    Obviously we are doing something right. We do not force brands to work with us, but they approach us to help promote their products. This is how it works – how you could sit and say “How PR Can Help” – WHY would they want to stop promoting client products? Does that make any sense at all? Can you imagine a client asking for monthly reports – asking WHY the 2,000 samples weren’t distributed to the press? “Well… someone said we should HELP content blogs and STOP relying on bloggers to review and promote your products”. 

    We are on our side of the fence – you are on yours. As someone in the e-commerce and Internet marketing industry for over 12+ years, I can tell you that this silly trend is going nowhere. It’s something that has built small businesses into large companies. Mom inventors have been able to escalate their dreams into storefronts and support their families. Bloggers posting reviews and working with brands is not a bad thing. There will always be different types of blogs. How do you accept different types of people? Do you discriminate against sex? religion? race? Sure that’s obviously a LONG shot… but being different and who you want to be on YOUR blog is ultimately YOUR decision.

    I have respect for all content blogs — and have (easily) over 20+ that I read on a semi-daily basis. I would never judge or tell someone how they aren’t getting the full experience because they don’t post reviews. It’s very petty…Childish, Jealousy – Not sure which one, but I think you need to open your mind. 

    … and a marketing textbook. 

    • I’ve read this comment several times now and I’m having trouble making sense of it. I can’t quite see how you made the jump from a post trying to give pr firms a clue how to spend their money better, to a rant about discrimination. You say you’re studying marketing, so try to look at this from a marketing perspective: simply getting eyeballs on something does not sell it. How engaged are the eyeballs with the blog? Is the owner of those eyeballs already invested in what the writer has to say? Has trust already been built up? Or are those eyeballs just there to skim for freebies, with little thought of the writer, and no trust or investment? Where will the money get the best return on the investment? These are judgments that absolutely should be made. It’s not petty or childish, it’s smart business.

  • Love. Someone needs to say it. I agree that the overall quality of blogs has seen a sharp decline with the rise of the “stuff” blogger. Now, I do reviews and giveaways (along with other types of content), but there is a way to provide content that is useful for a reader and not just an attempt to line our own pockets. I don’t understand why quality companies continue to work with bloggers who simply re-post press releases, post giveaways, and share sponsored content. People aren’t reading and engaging with those blogs; they visit for giveaways and freebies. There was a time when blogs came from the heart, whether it be personal stories or a deep engagement with the subject matter. I do think we have lost a lot of that over time. I believe we each have the right to create whatever we want (within legal boundaries, of course) on our slice of the Internet, but the decline in quality writing and compelling content on blogs reflects on us all. I feel it when I try to get media access for legitimate coverage of an event and when I attempt to build quality relationships with companies. I suppose it’s like many other public professions… there is a wide range of skill and quality of work, and the individuals command a wide range of praise and compensation.

  • I don’t believe blogs are in decline. According to you, I am a “low quality blogger” because I primarily focus on reviews and giveaways. I take offense that you feel I do not have the right to run my blog the way I see fit. I started my blog as a release from stresses in my life, and it became (and remains) an outlet for me. YOU have every right not to read it. Blogs don’t really survive or grow if no one reads them, do they? This sort of negativity, pitting one type of blogger against another is unnecessary. It’s wonderful that you are established and have a clearly defined niche–but did you start out that way? Were you perfect from the start? 
    Low quality in your opinion, but you won’t catch me bashing other bloggers or telling firms how they “should” run their business.

    • I don’t think she’s saying you don’t have the right to run your blog as you see fit. I think she’s pointing out that engaging with blogs that focus solely on products and giveaways is not the best way for pr firms to spend their money. Bloggers can have a lot of influence over readers when it comes to products, but first the blog has to have an engaged audience, not one dropping by for ten seconds to see what’s being given away. I’m not saying that’s what happens on your blog, I’ve never been to your blog. But that’s the kind of blog she’s referring to.  

  • Cecilyk

    I think so much of these $50 and $25 pay per posts are coming from from a source outside of PR. It’s from SEO agencies. I should know. I did blogger outreach for an agency for a year. I left because I couldn’t stand doing it anymore.

    Just another thought. :) 

  • Yes. YES. This is what I think blogging is moving towards (and away from at the same time). It’s almost as if we’re moving back to the storytelling and diary format of yore but with smart and meaningful partnerships with brands. 

    As both a blogger and social media consultant I see both sides of this picture, and it’s definitely evolving and changing over time-maybe not as fast as we’d like but it is happening. I often say my blog, my about page, and my story need to change and grow as time goes by. Bloggers and outreach that doesn’t evolve to the those changes will eventually become extinct.

  • Great job Stephanie! We met at Evo last year and appreciate your perspective and honesty. 

    • Thanks, Kathy! Appreciate you reading and commenting. Hope you’re well.

  • Selfmademom

    Yes! I agree in so many ways being on the agency and blogger side of things. However, one point of discussion missing is that many bloggers who won’t take money for “paid” reviews, often want more for just looking at a product. And by more, I mean, a more meaningful relationship like you mention, or more like more money. I have had lesser bloggers tell me how they won’t work for nothing, and there’s lots of talk about how bloggers should be worth something – lots of “don’t work for free!” So where’s the happy medium? Yes, for a big brand with deep pockets, I think creating a meaningful program where there is interaction, and room to “do good” is amazing. For smaller brands hoping to get their name out there, it’s harder and harder to cut through the noise, and sometimes cash incentives are a nice addition to help boost visibility, even if one is against the “sponsored post.” Would love to know what you think or if I’m missing the point, here. Thx for starting the discussion!

    • You’re right, it’s a tough question for smaller businesses.  But wouldn’t you agree, better for them to figure out something genuine with fewer bloggers than paying for a sponsored post, or , a review, with more? I’d rather see a small brand choose one “spokesblogger” who can help them create content, amplify the brand voice with their readers, and represent the brand at events, than a dozen similar sponsored post.  

      I also see a difference between a sponsored post and a paid review or paid giveaway. The former could be really great content – like a mom writing about her favorite camping memories for a bug spray brand, for example. That way each post is absolutely unique across many bloggers, and the content can still fit with the blogger’s audience and expectations (of course, a blogger who never goes camping should not take on that assignment – let’s hope everyone has the integrity to think that way!).  By contrast, a paid review (or a rote giveaway) feels so wrong, and cannot be good for the brand in the long run.

      • Selfmademom

        Yep, agree. We have toyed with your model… I get worried for a small brand to get hooked to one person… I think sometimes it can sound repetitive and then once you’ve burned out that one spokesperson’s audience I wonder what will happen… I would love to continue the discussion with you, though! 

  • I love this post, Stephanie. As someone who does make money from blogging, my happiest days are when I get to do something interesting and integrated with a brand that values my time, hard work and audience and pays me accordingly.

    I think the most important thing you mentioned was target audience. The most wildly inappropriate pitches I get are from people who didn’t bother to take five minutes to try to find out who my target audience is. If they had, they could have approached me in a way that would have benefited them, me, and my readers. 

    • Thanks, Amy, that means so much coming from you! I agree wholeheartedly with the match to target audience. That’s part of what irks me so much – the “spray and pray” approach from PR firms who don’t understand that reaching a select, target few is far better than reaching unmatched dozens or hundreds.

  • This is fantastic advice. I don’t do product reviews or giveaways or ads because of my own niche and platform, but I know excellent bloggers who can really boost a product they believe in, to an audience that has good reason to trust them.

    • Absolutely, Deborah, it’s all about trust. And a product reviewer who consistently gives great reviews (often because they’re getting paid to do so), gives all bloggers a bad rap.  It’s my hope that PR people will start to understand that paying for reviews and giveaways isn’t the only way.

  • Don’t really agree that it’s a decline of blogs…every site has their own use…but I do absolutely believe that content bloggers should not be approached in the same way as review/giveaway only bloggers. Our audiences are often very different and may not respond to the same types of promotions. 

    I think the suggestions at the bottom of the article are a great start. They are ways that PR should be building relationships with content bloggers. Our readers may be harder to win over, but in many cases, we have a great loyalty relationship with our readers that has been built through trust and understanding, and bring tons of great word-of-mouth advertising. All the more important to form long-term relationships that can also build trust and recognition with a brand. ♥

    I also agree though, that PR who just go for as many blogs as possible without considering how influential a blogger is or how loyal their readers are, is probably doing themselves a great injustice. Quality over quantity should be the general rule.

    • Of course I’m going to the extreme a little, Chantilly – but I do see the potential for all bloggers to lose respect if a few continue to put out bad content and keep their hands out.  I do see a place for pitched, “earned” media, but I think PR firms who are handing out fifty dollar bills willy-nilly are making it harder for true PR pitching and great blogger integrations to get fair due.

      • Stephanie, I don’t really see this as an issue with bloggers, so much as an issue with PR who don’t understand the differences in the audience and, yes, devalue content bloggers because they are completely oblivious to the unique sway we hold with our readers.

        Rather than shaming though, I think we need more transparency and education about how do form quality relationships between brands and bloggers.  I appreciated the last part of your article for this reason, it gives examples of what that relationship should or could look like.

  • Elizabeth

    I thought it was just me! I’ve been getting annoyed by blogs that actually used to be great, but have just devolved into “Giveway Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/etc!!!!” There’s no content anymore! In fact, particularly with home/crafting/organization blogs, I see alternating posts that are giveaways and “link-up parties.” It’s actually pretty smart from the bloggers’ point of view–they don’t have to create any content, while still building a community that product companies will pay to access.

    • Oh, no, Elizabeth – we’re all noticing. But it’s particularly sad when brands only see the giveaways and don’t see the great work bloggers are doing. Let’s fight the good fight and help everyone to understand what great content really is!


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