Something I’d Like To Share With The Class (Blog-Ola, FTC, etc.)

high-school-student-passing-note-to-classmate-sitting-behind-her-vintage Last Monday (July 27, 2009), during our road trip, I was listening to NPR’s All Things Considered, in which they covered the issue of “Mom Bloggers” and “Blog-Ola.” I’ll skip my general dislike of the term “mom bloggers” applied to any woman with children (“mom bloggers” should only be applied to moms who blog about parenting & mommy issues; it’s a rather inappropriate & dismissive term when applied to those of us discussing non-parenting issues) & get on with the real hub-bub, bub.

“Blog-ola” is payola, pure and simple. It doesn’t matter if you’re paid in cash or product.

The dealio-mc-bob isn’t really new, but apparently had the 1,500 attendees of the 5th Annual BlogHer Conference in Chicago in heated debate. Companies give stuff to bloggers with hopes that they’ll get positive press & reviews — that’s nothing new, either; it’s the basic principal behind review product, review copies, etc. And there’s nothing inherently bad about that either. But apparently the internet is rife with the following unethical folks:

* Those bloggers & reviewers who feel either obligated or so free-stuff-happy that they are writing positive reviews &/or giving gobs of press attention to products &/or companies, regardless of the quality of the stuff they receive. If you don’t believe me, check out the show’s transcript.


* Those companies & persons (publicists, PR folks, etc.) who feel that bloggers & reviewers work for them when they send them “free” review items. Don’t believe me?

Here’s the most recent & most flagrant offense.

Recently, when I gave a just-deserved negative book review (for a book that calls those with Autism “cursed!”), I sent the link to the publicist/promoter (along with my synopsis, as appropriate) & was sent the following in reply:

I haven’t read your review yet, however, honestly I wish you wouldn’t post a negative review about this or any other author.

To which I replied:

I can understand your disappointment, but I won’t remove or change the review.

I clearly stated from the onset that I was skeptical of cures and while you & the author may feel her story is not intended to be read as a guarantee for others, I can accept that. However, I find the references to autism as “deathly ill,” demonically possessed” and “cursed” more than inaccurate or mere opinion, but unacceptable. I’m aghast that anyone would write such a thing. What’s more that you would, especially after my email about being skeptical, insist upon only favorable reviews; that’s unethical.

I have a responsibility to honestly review books/products, and that is what I have done.

If you’d prefer not to send me any more emails/invitations etc. because you dislike my honest opinions/reviews, that is your decision.

To which she replied:

The purpose of a blog tour is to promote the book and encourage people to buy it.

I fundamentally disagree with blog hosts posting a negative review. I would never ask a blog host to post something they don’t agree with on their blog. If you don’t anything constructive to say…stay silent.

My post was constructive; it warned my readers of the dangers of such a horrible book.

Her email continued:

I know too many authors who also review books professionally. Their stance is to not post bad reviews. It will come back around. It’s kind of an unwritten rule of the industry to not slam a fellow author. Guess blog hosts don’t live by that rule.

So…for this blog tour book…we’ll agree to disagree. It happens.

I would love for you to be a part of future tours…under the condition that you post the interview, and if you can’t that you let me know and post nothing. Deal?

No, Karen, we most decidedly do not have a deal. (And, yes, Karen, I do have the right to publish our email exchange; you courted me as a member of the press and so I have the right to quote you until/unless you state things are off the record.)

First, I did not “slam an author” — I corrected her inaccuracies (found on page 72), her inappropriate implied “cure” (page 110), and her labeling those with Autism as “cursed” (page 111). In fact, I was so incensed by what the author wrote, I could have been far more scathing in my review; but I remained as fair as I could.

Secondly, where you get all all mixed up, Karen, is your confusion over our relationship. It maybe her purpose to promote & encourage people to buy the book; but it’s not mine. Mine is to honestly review the book sent — a book that, in this case, I specifically discussed my reservations about prior to agreeing to receive the book. It doesn’t matter where the book (or product) came from, those rules don’t change.

And that’s what the FTC is concerned about, the ethics of all this.

Oh, and one more thing… Sometimes companies think they can get your free publicity with just the promise of product. If I read one more call for bloggers to post a review and then the first few (or those with the most comments or whatever) will “win” a review copy or review product, I swear, I will scream.  Loudly. You cannot, should not, review something you’ve never used/viewed/read; if you do, you are advertising (and lying about use) and that’s where the FTC comes in. Or should come in.

Let me help you, dear blogger who wanted to be treated like a member of the press, to act like a member of the press. Do not to fall prey to Blog-Ola or payola and/or the bullying of persons & companies who would have you do so. Here’s a simple reminder: You do not work for publishers, publicists, companies or individuals that send you review product; you write/review for your readers, and they deserve honesty.

Keep that in mind, and you’ll have nothing to fear from any FTC investigation or legislation.

Think back to those notes passed in school. You cared about what was written on them because you trusted the person who sent it to you. You would have been upset if the note was sent to you because Susie was paid, in cash or product, to do so. Even if the teacher (FTC) never found out, Susie lost a trusted friend (your blog reader). So stop participating in these forms of payola.

Image Credits: High School Student Passing Note to Classmate Sitting Behind Her via


  1. I can’t even express what I’m feeling right now. I’m truly at a lose for words. BUT at least you had the courage to post something honest and true. I’m also horrified that you were courted then bullied by the promotors to NOT print what you felt was an honest review. The irony is that you could have been much more scathing than you were, but you held back.

    When my father sent me this book highlighted throughout, but especially the horrible page 111 that says that autism can be caused by demonic possession and curses I felt VERY ANGRY and very alone. That was until I found your blog. THANK GOD, literally, since it has helped me shed some of the anger I felt about this book being sent to me by not only a relative…but my FATHER! And he thinks his loving grandson is in need of a deliverance because THIS book says so? Of course, it must be right since it was written by a CHRISTIAN and it’s in PRINT. ARRGGHHHH! My Dad even called my Mom and other relatives to try to get the deliverance set up. I PRAY this book does NOT get into any other vulnerable hands! It is NOT helpful to the autism or Christian world!!!!

  2. As the mother of an autistic child, I’ve heard a lot of crap (and tried some – GF diet, casein-free diet -of it if it wasn’t in any way hazardous to my child) but this one takes the cake! And from people who call themselves Christians, no less. I’m just spluttering!

  3. Hey Michelle, thanks for following me/the story, over here :)

    I cannot express to you how sorry I am that your father did that to you; it’s the horror of that which made me (as you know) post a small version of my review at Amazon, with hopes that such a thing would never ever happen to another. Based on the promoter’s “push” on the book, I wonder how many bloggers wrote positively about the book or neglected to mention the horrific parts just to make folks happy — but at the price of making other people miserable. Ugh.

    You are not alone, and you shouldn’t feel like it. I’m here ;)

  4. Hi Elizabeth,

    You know, I keep forgetting we are in the same boat-ish with our kids (among other things)… I too have tried many things to help (20 years and counting with the eldest), but never ever did I consider such things as written in that book (and did you notice that I didn’t give those folks extra links either? ha!)

    In our quest to get help, find support, parents should not have to endure such inaccurate and judgmental stuff; yet if ‘blog-ola’ has its way, books like this will get positive attention & sales — that’s the worst thing of all, I think, to know that that’s happening and that folks like Michelle (above) will get blindsided by it.

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