Preaching To The Choir

Is niche blogging just a big echo chamber? Do bloggers really have influence or are they just constantly preaching to each other?

Lately I’ve been thinking about the business of mommy bloggers. Are the readers “regular” moms who are finding solace and escape in the entries or are the bulk of the readers “other” mommy bloggers?

On the surface, the whole niche looks like “I’ll read your blog and comment and then link back to my blog! Then we’ll blog roll each other and offer support and encouragement and traffic!”

If you’re speaking to a niche, you’re not broadcasting and those likely to respond to your niche are most likely active in it themselves.

That’s the way it is for John Chow. His blog is about Making Money Online By Telling People How Much Money He Makes Online. His blog is a list of programs, websites, affiliate networks, tools and tips that are about making money online.

The people who follow John are likely those trying to make money from their own blogs. Problem is, John is the one with the audience and when the readers try to implement his affiliate tools, they have a hard time gaining traction. John is at the top of this pyramid (scheme) and he can make it work, but what about those on the bottom?

I have been wondering a lot about the relationship between bloggers and PR firms lately. I think bloggers are being taken for a ride by doling out mentions to brands in exchange for products instead of real ad dollars.

The blogs doing this are likely on the bottom of the pyramid. They’re the fish scrambling to climb the mountain and secure a real audience and build a real relationship with clients. When you have a small, local or niche audience, one that’s not sellable against the big blogs, you have to take what you can get. For many part timers, this means turning their blogs into infomercials.

And then you have to take it to the next step – are the PR firms placing products with the bloggers getting a decent return on their investment? If my theory that niche bloggers end up travelling in schools, the only people reading about “Mom X Blog’s review of Brand X coffee maker” are other PR Friendly blogs scrounging for their own nut.

From the outside, the world of amateur blogging looks like a series of professional contest players. The entries are their blogs, the prizes are diapers, coffee makers, trips and test drives. So when a PR company seeds one blog, do they end up with an increase in sales or simply an increase in emails from other bloggers touting their “Klout” asking for a prize?

Just look at the conferences, it’s not about parents sharing ideas on how to raise our kids, it’s about small business people trying to find a way to rise above the mediocrity.

Years ago I noticed this trend amongst bloggers in Vancouver. They were banding together in a herd to increase traffic and page rank in the hopes of getting genuine media accreditation.

The problem is, without the legitimacy of audience demanded by media directors for events, they are left filling the hallways with legions of those who serve no purpose other than to legitimize themselves.

Some bloggers, notably in Vancouver, openly admit to this sort of gaming of the system. Boris Mann of Urban Vancouver has defended his site’s scraping and republishing of content by saying it was a means to help bloggers gain access to events.

“Many people benefit from the ability of UV to help generate “press” credentials, for everything from music awards to the Olympics,” he said.

There will always be a couple of high level bloggers who will attract interest from the masses, but the rest of us are just fish trying to climb the hatchery ladder, and not all make it. In the end, those caught a few steps down the ladder just end up cycling back the same messages to each other in a drowning echo that goes nowhere.



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