The three categories of mom blogs

Mass media (and some mom bloggers) would like to lump all mom bloggers into the same shoebox. As a result, it’s hard for marketers to navigate these waters without recognizing the differences between bloggers in the space.

Just as there are different types of magazines and newspapers, so there are different types of mom blogs. I’ve been researching the sphere of mom blogs for more than six months, and can generally classify them by three distinct types. I’ll describe them, along with providing some foothold references to traditional media, in the hopes of dispelling some questions. Comments from you are (of course) more than welcome!

1. Pitch Me – The marketing-focused mom blog

This is the blogger who says, “think of me as an extension of your marketing department.” The blog front page usually includes a “PR Friendly” button. This blog typically features lots of competitions, and wants to promote as much stuff like youtube services from as possible. Much like an advertorial-focused trade publication, there can be much value in the blog content, it can be very professionally done, and have a wide distribution.

Pitch Me blogs are keen to work with companies. (Pic credit: Flickr army.arch)

The blog owner may have ideas which extend to a complete campaign – they are like independent specialist creative agencies, but with a blog. Sometimes they will even want to negotiate a fee for their work with a brand and product (reflecting their role as being focused on marketing with your brand rather than an independent publisher). This is not new – there are older traditional publications that have done this type of thing – charging a company to have an article included.

The negative side of this is that while popular, the audience of these blogs recognizes that most of the content on the blogs comes from a marketing alignment (just as happens with traditional advertorial-focused magazines) and their purpose in visiting the site is to win stuff. Any kind of stuff. It is this type of blog that MSM (mistakenly) classify all mom blogs as.

For brands, it may appear easier to work with these bloggers – they are eager to develop a relationship with most PR representatives that have taken time to craft their pitch and do a little research on the blog and their style. This is not unlike pitching any kind of magazine, including the marketing-oriented advertorial ones. However, you should be ready to be asked for compensation for the inclusion of your material, whether you write and develop it or they do. These relationships are probably best suited to FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) products. The relationship is fast, and shallow – any belief that long-term resonance with the community will be achieved in this high noise space is fools gold, unless you run continuing promotions across a wide number of them (keeping it at high level is important here because your brand will be tarnished by a relationship with a Pitch Me blog that is low quality).

Prediction: These are the sites that are fast growing in number. There will remain a few high level blogs in the category, and these will develop to possibly being the best looking sites on the web – a necessity from sheer competition within the category. Sheer traffic numbers, however, do not demonstrate the readership’s commitment to the blog but rather to the range of competitions and giveaways. Because they tend to use passive voice, unless the blogger is in the top tier of these blogs, they are only of passing interest to the large readership and are not in themselves memorable brands to associate yours with. For deeper resonance on higher priced items, best find another outlet.

2. My Magazine – Multi-niche magazine-style blogs

These blogs reflect far less of a marketing approach and more of an individual, active voice. The blog will cover a variety of areas, generally reflecting special personal interests of the blogger (who may actually be a specialist or expert in one of these areas). These bloggers are open to receiving information about products/services/companies/brands across the realm of interests they cover, but nothing beyond that. In fact you’ll annoy them if you try – sort of like pitching a wedding venue to divorce magazine. Not only is it a waste of everyone’s time, it’s actually unprofessional and demonstrates a lack of understanding and/or basic research. And these bloggers are likely to call you out on exactly that.

The premise of providing compensation of some form to these bloggers depends upon the type of product, campaign and information you have. If you are looking for particular amount or style of coverage to be guaranteed, then it’s advertising and you need to pay whether you provide all the content, or if the blogger develops it themselves. Depending upon the blog (and its hosting ranking in the world), disclosures of these arrangements will be necessary. If you are willing to offer a product/information and hope that you’ve got enough nouse (and the blogger is interested enough) to hope to get something written, then you don’t pay. Of course, you’re familiar with this – it’s the same as a traditional general interest magazine and the writing ethics are reflective of a traditional journalist (even if the writing style itself is different). They have a more active voice and agency on their blogs, and do not focus primarily on competitions or marketing. They reflect more of the traditional journalistic standards in their writing, and will develop distinct areas of advertising and editorial to ensure adequate compensation and understanding is achieved for all parties, including their readers. They will sometimes actually feature boycotts and dissention rather than promotion (something you will not find in a Pitch Me blog). You will have a better idea of the readership of this type of blog, allowing better segmentation for more specialized products, or more specialized market segments – great for brand extensions or highly targeted mass consumer campaigns in the blogger’s interest category.

Prediction: These bloggers will align themselves with a few brands and have some short-term campaigns that will be highly effective for all concerned. Some of these bloggers will become more and more celebrated within their segments, through MSM outlets. While there are fewer of them, their range is wide and a somewhat varied audience of people find them to be ‘sticky’ sites that they will regularly return to.

3. Niche specialized blogs

These bloggers are becoming the new version of traditional specialized (or event trade) magazines. Focusing on a single general area such as health or politics, these bloggers have detailed knowledge and understanding in their field, and have enough passion and/or specialised expertise to blog authoratively about it. While they are moms/mums, they do not focus on product reviews, competitions and giveaways – however they might run them occasionally if it complements their niche. These blogs have far lower readership numbers overall, but the readers are influencers in the category, and are very loyal to the blogs in the space. These blogs are very sticky to those who are influential in the subject matter. The readership also has deep respect for the blogger’s expertise and looks to them for specific recommendations.

Niche mom blogs have one particular area of expertise. Pic credit: Flickr Mike Licht,

These bloggers are also the ones least likely to enter into a variety of advertorial-style campaign deals. They will want to work with specific brands only, and develop a ‘brand ambassador’ relationship that is more akin to a spokesperson role. Through that relationship, some form of compensation would be negotiated, that would not necessarily guarantee coverage on the blog. These blogs are better suited to high-end, or specialized products with a defined niche target audience.

Prediction: This area will be growing in breadth and depth over the next year as more women with specialised interests and expertise decide to blog, and as some early entries to the competition-focused FMCG field move on and develop a loyal base focused on competitions in one category.

Summing up

Over time, the tiers of influence to be found in each of these areas will prove themselves. In much the same way as you already use your media monitoring forces to discover influencers in traditional media, you should utilize the same strategies for blogs and bloggers. Just like journalists, they have their brand passions – and their brand dislikes. More and more often, they have their story needs and deadlines that will see you gain the most favourable treatment when you can help them at the most appropriate time (just as you do with journalists). Some already have editorial calendars – you should ask for them, and use them. The only difference is that the internet works on dog years – the field changes seven times a year, not once. It’s a challenge to keep up, but everyone should at least try.

Finally, it would be a mistake to trash any of these three types of mom blogs. Each of them have a place – and there are great and not-so-great iterations of all three types. Depending on the brand, the best relationships will be had by aligning with the best blog (and blogger) for the objective – and these decisions need to be made with consideration of more than traffic numbers, google rankings or other shallow metrics in mind.


  • Very interesting read Jo — and your definitions are well delineated and thoughtful. I just wonder where the personal/non marketing oriented blog fits, or if your intention was to focus on professionally-oriented mom blogs (in which case a title tweak would do the trick). I mention it because at the last couple of conferences I have been at there have been sessions dedicated to the writing craft; it’s clearly a topic that many (myself included) feel passionate about. -Christine

  • Hi Christine, thanks for your input. I’m not sure about why the writing craft makes a difference to whether you are seeking brand relationships or not? Could you explain that some more? Non-marketing oriented blogs tend to fit in all three categories, but the post is really geared toward helping companies and bloggers see how they can work together. Ultimately I really don’t think that those without marketing relationships have decided to go that way, or are just waiting for the phone call, if you know what I mean. What do you think?

  • I also think that Christine brings up a good point. Although I am a “niche” blogger in that I write about travel, my primary concern from the time I started my blog has always been writing. In fact I consider myself a writer first and foremost.

    With that said, I’ve been working hard to raise my profile both because I’d like to have more readers (what writer doesn’t want readers?) and because if possible, I’d love some return on my investment of time and effort.

    I do think the distinctions you make are useful. I also wonder if good writing is one of the things that separates the wheat from the chaff in *all* categories.

  • J, oops, to clarify. I didn’t mean to say that professionally oriented blogs aren’t of a writerly persuasion. I obsess endlessly about writing quality at Boston Mamas and know lots of bloggers in the above 3 categories who attend with great care to their writing craft.

    What I was (not so clearly) getting at was memoir (or other) style bloggers; those writing simply to write, with no interest in marketing relationships. Maybe there aren’t many out there anymore who don’t offer ad tiles etc., but they do exist. For example, Julie at The Mom Slant explicitly does not offer advertising, and I don’t take ad/marketing requests at my personal blog, Pop Discourse.

    I’m sure there are lots more! -Christine

  • Interesting categories Jo. I would say that the middle category is probably the most difficult for PR folks to navigate. Or at least it takes more work on their part to get a sense of whether there is a fit with a particular blogger and to customize their pitch appropriately. They have to get to know that person in order for their pitch to be effective.

  • They are great examples, and I took some care to say these were general categorizations – there are always going to be the exceptions (and I guess they prove the rule?). That said, looking forward I find it hard to think that everyone would knock back opportunities to align with others – whether they be brands that are traditionally known, or even other blog brands. Thinking outside the box, reaching a greater/wider audience and gaining credibility appears to be everyone’s goal when they’ve been blogging for a while. I don’t think that personal journal blogs akin to keeping a private diary, are the focus for long unless someone has an alternative route of exposure? I am totally open to conversation on this – and am very interested in your input. Christine, you’ve identified a very real area here.

  • Thanks Mara. I certainly don’t mean to focus primarily on the marketing relationship as the be-all and end-all of blogging, however the post was mainly written to help guide us all in our relationships with companies (so that’s why the focus in this post). Either way, it would seem the three categories exist, even if you take out the marketing relationships. One point for us to remember is that that not all bloggers write. There are many brilliant mom blogs that focus on video, podcasting and pictures/photography. Your main priority as a niche blogger (as it could arguably be with any of the categories) could be the content itself – without it, your blog would be of less value, correct? Included in this could then be the relationships you hold with brands, too. Some would raise your profile, others would not. Let’s keep talking on this. I love having your input!

  • Thanks Annie. I really think that PR professionals need to get their heads around the key people in every category, for every brand they have. As an ex-PR pro myself, I know I identified key tiers of journalists across different forms of media I wanted to keep onside/influence for my clients. The same exists here. And yes, they need to actually read the blogs/media kits to get a better understanding of the content and direction of the blogs. Additionally, they need to approach the blogger at the right time, with the right information. It took them a long time to get that with journalists (in fact many are still trying to understand it), so I’m hoping they catch up with the bloggers, especially when some bloggers don’t understand how it works themselves.

  • Bittersweet for me: Niche/specialized blogs have less visitors, but the potential to grow. I’m firmly in the camp that mothers are going to save the world using social media. Afraid we just may be too tired having carried the load for so long with so little acknowledgment from the outside world.

  • Joellen, mothers will save the world using social media, I believe it too. And no number of old school media hacks or doubters or naive people will change it. We’ll be tired (we already are, we’re mothers!) but social media enables and empowers people to such an extent that specialized blogs can match up the few who need only the strength of support from each other to make a difference. Marginalized voices do not only find strength in numbers, but in simply knowing that someone else is out there. 🙂 Mothers Acting Up does a great job of connecting women, and starting conversations. Who knows where it will end, but it can only be good.

  • I think this is the start of a good discussion, Jo. I think your assessments of the pitch-me blogs is pretty spot on, although I’m not so sure that any of these will ever qualify as “best looking blogs on the web.” I would give that accolade to the craft, design and photography blogs for sure! Ads and promos inherently clutter up space, especially the more into the mass market you get.

    What’s interesting to me though is that you’ve sort of grouped blog types based on marketing relationships, and not content (which you explained in a comment above). However I think that if a marketer really wants to understand the space, they need to look at content first. Not marketing relationships. Because that’s not how the bloggers generally think – we first think well, what are we passionate about? What are we trying to build here?

    My stab:

    -personal journaling/memoir (general motherhood and other topics of interest to the writer)
    -expertise (crafting, politics, travel, local, tech, etc)
    -discount/coupon blogs
    -review or advertorial blogs
    -magazine style blogs guided by an editor
    -group blogs with multiple contributors and different perspectives around a common topic

    Personal journal blogs like Joy Unexpected or hey, Dooce, are often PR friendly too – it’s just that that’s not their sole purpose, as you suggest. PR friendly doesn’t have to mean “I have no content without PR.”

    I also think there’s a lot of overlap. My site, Cool Mom Picks is like a magazine, and it’s niche, and it’s PR friendly, but it’s not an advertorial blog, it puts writing ahead of giveaways and it doesn’t have small numbers. Crazy!

    It might help as you do this to provide examples of some of the blogs you have in mind with your categories. I’d love to know more of what’s on your mind.

  • Great stuff. I would think a marketer would look at the topic area of a blog before thinking of what product to align with it – but you’re right, that might need more explanation. I do think competition in the Pitch Me blog space will drive them to be better looking than others (even photography and other image-intensive blogs), but time will tell and of course my prediction may be completely wrong. (I’ve been wrong before, once in 1997 I think. ;)) Another claim/prediction could be that all blogs are potentially PR-friendly if given the right opportunity. But some are far more obvious about it with a button on their front page. There will always be general categories, and the interesting thing is that while I might think my blog belongs in one category, another person may think my blog belongs in a different one. I think the 3-dimensional personality branding quality of blogging lends itself to the personal perspective. It shows we are working with real brands here. Compare it with other well known brands – Harley Davidson or Nike for example. Different people have different views of what they mean. I guess the key is discovering what your readers find to be the essence or category of your blog and celebrating it?
    Also, I was kind of hoping others would do what seems to be happening – trying to work out where they fit (if they fit) into the categories I’ve observed. There are no hard and fast rules/barriers for them, but as I’ve said here, I think if I categorized a blog somewhere, someone else might put it somewhere else. Maybe? Just for the record, I’d think Cool Mom Picks would fit in number 2. 🙂

  • It’s funny you know, for those of us who have been blogging forever (since ’03 for me) blogging was just a way of getting everything out of my head. That other people wanted to read it (and enjoyed it!) was an absolute blast. Wanting (and in my case NEEDING) to make money from it was a very late after thought and really only after the likes of Heather Armstrong and Amy Storch started to do so. Now I’m in the weird zone of trying to categorise my writing to pitch it to possible advertisers and well, I’m just not good at the cold calling or the hard sell.

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