This? Is not OK: Bloggers giving commenter’s email addresses to sponsors.

by Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] on September 1, 2010

in Blogging

I didn’t want to write another blog post about blogging, but it seems I may have stepped in a pile of doodoo, and now I need to clean off my feet.

By way of reasons I won’t discuss here, I found a blogger (NOT Casey – I discovered the blogger by way of Casey’s post I linked to) and her blog post where something new is happening. The “something new” is not a good “something new” in the Blogosphere. It’s a bad, unethical, icky-feeling “something new.”

The blogger I found agreed to host a giveaway (nothing new) to give away a bed comforter from a company she’s working with. Mind you, I know NOTHING about the company, and I just stumbled on the blog and this particular post, so my research is shallow at best.

Included in her post about the giveaway, she adds a “disclaimer” indicating that “As part of the giveaway your email address and name will be provided to [sponsor name redacted] on behalf of [blog name redacted] so that you will be added to the mailing list for sleep tips, deals, and special offers. In compliance with privacy disclosure (note: I could not locate the privacy disclosure anywhere on the blogger’s site), your information is NOT being sold to [sponsor name redacted] or any other party. You may opt out at any time.

Essentially, every comment left will have its email address given (not sold?) to the sponsor in exchange for entering the giveaway.

I’m really at a loss for understanding how this is A) ethical, B) allowed to happen, and C) how any blogger would agree to the work of collecting all of the email addresses left in the comments. Aside from it being an arduous task of actually collecting the 100+ email addresses from the comments, it clearly crosses a privacy line within blogging.

I’ve never once (and maybe it’s because my eyes have been closed to it?) seen any blog or site outright say they will collect your private information for marketing purposes without having me separately agree to giving my information. Any time I submit my information to a company and giveaway/contest/survey purposes, it is explicit and a “check box” is included in the submission process so that I am aware that the specific company is collecting my information.

It’s never assumed that your private information left in a blog post or giveaway post will be given to a sponsor for their marketing use.

Is this just a new tactic for sponsors to use bloggers as marketing collection tools?

Is this OK?

Is it OK because a “disclaimer” is included in the post?

Or is this a “new low” in the scrutinized “Mommy Blogging” community?

If you disagree with my assessment that THIS is not OK, please convince me otherwise.

Your respectful opinions and comments will be respected.

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

1 MommyNamedApril September 1, 2010 at 11:17 am

“your information is NOT being sold to [sponsor name redacted] or any other party. You may opt out at any time.”

except that it IS being sold. by her, for the price of a comforter.
An Awesome post on MommyNamedApril´s blog … The Many Faces of J

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2 Mommy on the Spot September 1, 2010 at 11:19 am

Ick! That is not cool at all. Why would she agree to that?

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3 Hannah @ Peggy Ann Design September 1, 2010 at 11:19 am

Is this for serious?!!!! oh dear, this is scary. i would be VERY interested to know if this is happening elsewhere…
An Awesome post on Hannah @ Peggy Ann Design´s blog … Big Day 2- Are You A Smarty Pants

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4 Issa September 1, 2010 at 11:20 am

I don’t think it’s okay. I am sure they can get around it, by adding it in as a disclaimer, but it still shouldn’t be allowed. It’s no different than giving your number to a store and them selling it to everyone else. Just isn’t cool.

Also? What really sucks is most people don’t read whole posts where they could POSSIBLY MAYBE WIN something. So they commented in hope of WINNING something SHINY and then their info was basically given away without their knowledge.
An Awesome post on Issa´s blog … What do you say

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5 Melissa (MBonn) September 1, 2010 at 11:20 am

Oh yuck. No no no. So very not okay. I’ll be sure to read the fine print from now on. What the hell people?
An Awesome post on Melissa (MBonn)´s blog … Madi Diaz &amp The Civil Wars

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6 Miss Britt September 1, 2010 at 11:20 am

I have to say, the disclaimer makes it OK.

Is it a good idea? Would I comment? Would I host one of those on my own blogs? Hell to the no. But is it OK or ethical?

It’s no different than the giveaways you see at the mall or the “drop your business card in the bowl” giveaways at BlogHer. That’s the precise reason why they do those giveaways – to collect leads of people who are at least interested in winning their product and may be potentially interested in purchasing said product.
An Awesome post on Miss Britt´s blog … How To Save More Money Than You Ever Dreamed Possible

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7 Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] September 1, 2010 at 11:25 am

I agree that the “disclaimer” makes it OK-ish, but the fact that it’s said that the addresses are not “sold” makes the disclaimer a moot point.

She’s either being paid money or being given the product in exchange for the post. That is the part that makes the whole “disclaimer” moot because the information IS being sold or bartered.

If she’s NOT getting paid or being given a product in exchange for the post, then there’s a WHOLE OTHER CAN OF DIRTY WORMS to open about bloggers being taken advantage of for their hard work.

Either way, not OK with me.

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8 Deb September 1, 2010 at 11:29 am

From what I’ve been told, if you run a drop-in-the-bowl giveaway you are only governed by the laws of the state in which the bowl lives/giveaway occurs. If you run a giveaway on line you are governed by the states of all parties and FTC rules. Mail = postal rules, federal penalties etc.
An Awesome post on Deb´s blog … Highwaymen &amp Bodhisattvas- Loving the Gulf again and again and again

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9 Nancy [Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas] September 1, 2010 at 4:20 pm

I agree with Britt on this one. From a PR ethics standpoint, it’s fine for the blogger to give the contact information to the sponsoring company as long as he/she clearly discloses that, by virtue of the commenter’s participation, they agree to release that contact information to the selected third party. The blogger in question also does right by giving the commenter the ability to easily opt out and not be penalized in the contest.

In terms of whether this practice is advisable, I guess it’s all in how you view your blog. If your primary purpose is to generate revenue and build brand relationships, then I think this practice certainly falls in line with those objectives. If the primary purpose of one’s blog is to share life experiences/observations and/or build community, then this would come off as being a huge misalignment with your brand and would likely (and justifiably) put off your regular readership.

Not to diminish your point of view in any way, but being shocked at this is like being shocked that People Magazine has an unflattering image of Lindsay Lohan on the cover. It’s legal and what you expect from them. Now, if you saw that same image on the cover of The Economist? That would be legal and just plain weird.

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10 Deb September 1, 2010 at 11:25 am

Even more than a privacy issue, this is a bloggers as contest hosts issue. Countless bloggers and companies have been sliding on giveaways without worrying about the ethics and legalities of contests, sweepstakes and games of chance. Bloggers should take notice that when a company hosts its own giveaways, even for small prizes, the legal disclamers are at least a page of 6 pt text, with variance for different states, etc.

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11 Melanie (ModernMami) September 1, 2010 at 11:26 am

Guess I’ll have to read more carefully when entering giveaways now. I agree that it’s not right, but the disclaimer does lay it out for you. Why a blogger would go through all that is beyond me…
An Awesome post on Melanie (ModernMami)´s blog … Balancing Many Roles- Wife- Mother- Daughter

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12 Headless Mom September 1, 2010 at 11:27 am

I happen to agree with Britt. The disclaimer says it all. Doesn’t mean you have to like it or comment. And also, if the company really wants those emails they *could* click through to each blog and contact each person that way. I’m on plenty of email lists that I never signed up for but since my email is out there it’s pretty easy for someone to grab it and put it on their list. At least, on this one, I’m (you’re) told up front that it’s going to happen.
An Awesome post on Headless Mom´s blog … Just Curious-Pet Peeves- Part 2

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13 kim September 1, 2010 at 11:27 am

um no. not ok…at all.

gross.

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14 Chibi Jeebs September 1, 2010 at 11:27 am

I’m with Miss Britt: by putting it in the disclaimer, the blogger has *technically* skirted the ethical issue – it’s not her (or the company’s) fault if her readers don’t do their due diligence in reading the rules, etc.

I wouldn’t enter a contest like that, nor would I host a giveaway that listed this as a requirement, but that’s just me – hell, my first (and who knows if it will be my last) giveaway, I made it clear that I wouldn’t host it if readers HAD to enter by commenting, tweeting, liking, reblogging, etc. Unfortunately, if more bloggers aren’t willing to take the chance of losing said giveaways by putting limits on what they’re willing to demand of their readers, this will likely end up becoming a common phenomenon.

I think it may be time for me to sit down and figure out what I’m (not)willing to do where my blog – and my readers – is concerned.
An Awesome post on Chibi Jeebs´s blog … HYC- Week 35

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15 moosh in indy. September 1, 2010 at 11:36 am

By linking my blog you are hereby notified that your email address and blog will be sold to dogs eating cheese with an option to opt out at anytime.

So happy I sleep with a lawyer.

While I couldn’t tell you right or wrong as far as legal ethics are concerned, I can say icky.
An Awesome post on moosh in indy.´s blog … the one where casey stands on a social media soapbox

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16 Scary Mommy September 1, 2010 at 11:52 am

Ditto. It’s icky. We, as bloggers, need to know when to say no to inappropriate requests. This should have been one of those times.

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17 Rufus Dogg September 1, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Hehehe.. dogs eating cheese. Where do you come up with that stuff? 🙂
An Awesome post on Rufus Dogg´s blog … Charlie and Sallie sing Piano Man VIDEO

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18 Tricia September 1, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I, too, concur with the icky vibe. And I agree with Casey: I, too, am so happy I sleep with a lawyer.
An Awesome post on Tricia´s blog … Trust

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19 Maria September 1, 2010 at 11:36 am

Having to read the “fine print” on a blog post makes this complete BS in my opinion. Now this is where I become judgy and probably look like a bitch but I don’t care:

Looking at her blog I see that her top menu bar consists of “networking, PR info, and giveaways” amongst a few others. She’s in an incredible amount of directories. There’s an “enterprise” mentioned in her copyright disclaimer. She offers a button for self promotion. Her front page consists of only two posts (both contests) and then come the partial posts, requiring you to click to read for no reason other than to up her pageviews and improve her stats (because that’s the only reason anyone does partial posts). Combined, all of these are tell tale signs that she’s one of THOSE. By THOSE I mean the “mommy bloggers” that are not in mommy blogging for the sake of doing it, but to see what they can get out of it. For the free shit; the companies knocking at their gmail door; the money; the endorsements; the events, whatever. I cannot stand THOSE. They are every, single, thing wrong with mommy blogging especially because it’s usually THEM that have no idea how to actually operate a mommy blogging “business” in a way that is beneficial to the community as a whole, as well as making sure that THEY themselves aren’t being screwed over. They feel good that they’re being recognized out of all the others, you know the whole “oh geeze, lil’ol’me?!” and they’re willing to do really silly, naive things because of it.

I’m guessing she wasn’t paid. She got a free comforter (wow). And she evidently thought that that was worth her selling – because that’s what she’s doing no matter what the disclaimer says: she received a product in order for her to give them the information she receives in her comments, which is selling – out her commenters. Her community. If she was paid, that actually, probably makes it worse, because then the disclaimer would be a downright lie instead of just sort of one.

This whole thing bothers me, because it’s really only the beginning. Pretty soon, this will be a common practice. I get enough emails from PR compaines DAILY and I don’t know how they got my email because I never opt into anything. Sucks that now I’ll have to make sure I’m reading footers and disclaimers like crazy before I’m even willing to leave a comment somewhere.

ANGIE THIS HAD BETTER NOT BE ONE BIG GIMMICK SO YOU CAN SELL ME SHIT I SWEAR TO GOD
An Awesome post on Maria´s blog … One Week From Today…

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20 Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing] September 1, 2010 at 11:40 am

now i have your name, email address, AND your birth date to sell. i’m ready for the million$ to roll in.

neener.

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21 Mandi Bone September 1, 2010 at 11:50 am

Some giveaways have you sign up for the companies newsletter for an extra chance/entry. I am seeing this as a new way of signing up. I do not think that it is ok. How long before companies are asking bloggers to give them the email addresses for all comments and not just on the giveaway post for the exchange of something?
An Awesome post on Mandi Bone´s blog … Shut the Fck Up

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22 Robin September 1, 2010 at 6:56 pm

I concur with you – this shit has been happening for a while now. I sign up for a newsletter and all of a sudden I am inundated. Ugh.
An Awesome post on Robin´s blog … Cleanse

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23 Tarasview September 1, 2010 at 11:56 am

wow… I agree with you. I really don’t think that is ok. I suppose since it wasn’t done in a sneaky way it isn’t actually unethical… per se… but it makes me uncomfortable.

I have hosted giveaways where the sponsor has asked for one of the entries to be signing up (on their site) for their newsletter and that is ok with me. Totally optional and on the company website.

And ya, why on earth would any blogger want to go through all the work of collecting email addresses like that??

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24 cindy w September 1, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Yeah, I agree. Ick.

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25 Peeved Michelle September 1, 2010 at 12:12 pm

It seems ok to me. I wouldn’t enter the contest, though.
An Awesome post on Peeved Michelle´s blog … Draft Gives Me A Headache

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26 Lynda September 1, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I agree with you that bloggers shouldn’t be considering this if they want to be considered credible. Is it unethical? I don’t really think so, since the blogger’s being upfront about the intent to pass along the email addresses. It would absolutely be unethical and probably illegal if the blogger were to do that without informing the entrants. The whole thing may be illegal in the blogger’s jurisdiction.

Back when I started blogging, there was no such thing as making money from it. No PR companies wanted to hook up with any blogs and there were no giveaways on blogs. No such thing. I miss those days. While I’ve benefited through a lot of giveaways, I don’t enter ones where I’m not very familiar with the blogger or the company sponsoring the giveaway. I feel too many mommy bloggers dive into doing giveaways as a way to make money through their blog, yet the only thing they really succeed in doing is making themselves look like a get-rich-quick spammer with no real content to offer. Their blogs are not going to last very long if they continue such low practices to make a quick buck.
An Awesome post on Lynda´s blog … The Blog Tax- Updated 8-27

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27 Marinka September 1, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I don’t understand why this is icky and I’m upset because being outraged and icked out are some of my favorite things ever, so obviously I’m either getting soft, senile and both.

Since the disclaimer says that by entering this contest, the person agrees to her email address being shared; I assume that if the blogger is not if that’s not cool, no need to enter the contest.

I also don’t quite understand the expectation of privacy in an email address. I mean, we all get spammy emails and they’re pretty easy to ignore.

But I do think that this is an important reminder to read the fine print. Because no way am I entering a contest that makes me agree to having my avatar photo get superimposed on labia. (Sorry, old Gloria Steinem joke. I’m old. see also, senile.)
An Awesome post on Marinka´s blog … The Feline Nickiller

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28 Pammer September 1, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Wow this is so many levels of bad I just want to take a shower. Thanks for highlighting this – while it might be technically “okay” thanks to the disclaimer, it does nothing to lift up the mommyblogging community and policing our own is JUST FINE WITH ME.
An Awesome post on Pammer´s blog … The 15-30 Challenge – Let the Madness Begin!

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29 Cindy September 1, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Yeah completely wrong. Maybe not “legally” wrong or whatever but either way, I consider myself “safe” commenting on bloggers posts without worrying that my non-spam email will end up on a new spam list. Definitely wouldn’t comment and probably wouldn’t follow her blog anymore. I didn’t go to that company’s site so I don’t expect to have to withstand spam from said company. /shrug

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30 Colleen - Mommy Always Wins September 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm

I’m in agreement with Britt and a few others – its kinda shady, but as another commentor noted, the company could essentially find a way to contact those who entered the contest anyway. Still, if I were the blogger I would have shouted a big “no way”…not just because I think its a crappy thing to do to your readers (cuz it is) but also because of the amount of work it would cause me. I doubt that whatever they’re giving her in exchange is worth the amount of time she’ll spend.
An Awesome post on Colleen – Mommy Always Wins´s blog … You know how I know youre from Wisconsin

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31 Boston Mamas September 1, 2010 at 2:09 pm

When I saw your tweet, my brain exploded. Because, yeah, I’ve been asked by companies AFTER I’ve administered a giveaway whether I would be willing to share the emails of all those who entered, to which I’ve responded with long emails about privacy and ethics, no doubt from my many years sitting in and following HIPAA training/protocols.

Anyway. when I read here that there was a disclaimer in place, my brain exploded a little less on the behalf of the company but I couldn’t shake the ick factor on the behalf of the blogger. This kind of “protocol” makes me incredibly sad. Simply disclaiming questionable practices doesn’t make the practices OK.
An Awesome post on Boston Mamas´s blog … Back to School Books

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32 designHer Momma September 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I need to take a bath. Just dirty.
An Awesome post on designHer Momma´s blog … On the Eve of Becoming Me

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33 Saidah @ AProverbswife.com September 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I am so with Maria when she says “now I’ll have to make sure I’m reading footers and disclaimers like crazy before I’m even willing to leave a comment somewhere”.

I respect the trust that my readers instill in me and would not compromise it for a blanket or anything else. I will definitely be scrutinizing future giveaways that I enter.

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34 existere September 1, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Someone offered me a product a few months back and wanted me to send on email addresses…and didn’t understand why I refused. I’m glad you do.

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35 Rufus Dogg September 1, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I hate when bloggers and such short-value their community and trade emails and contact info for a few beads and trinkets. It devalues us all. If you are getting my email address for people commenting on my blog, big company, you are going to give me a whole heck of a lot more than a comforter.. and that is probably a seconds. (BTW, email and contact info is never for sale on DWB, so comment freely.. I know you will kick me in the ribs if I ever break that promise!)

One of our companies @tourneycentral takes in a lot of application data for soccer tournaments. Invariably, there will be a ball or apparel company stroke the tournament director for a sponsorship and then “negotiate” all the email addresses from the apps and the kids. (I know, there are laws, but..) And every now and again, some tournament gives them the list all for a few bucks off the game balls. And our phone starts ringing OFF THE HOOK with parents screaming at us for selling the email addresses because the tournament wouldn’t do that, it must be the greedy for-profit corporation. We don’t. And we just fire the client for breach. (it’s in our contract, we’re not scared to do it.) It’s not worth the hassle for us. it’s not worth the bad reputation. It’s not worth the lawsuits.

I suspect a lot of these bloggers are like many soccer tournament directors. A few bucks is like gold and they are counting the pennies of revenue instead of the dollars of trust. And companies smell the desperation but they don’t really care; all the legal and trust risk is on the blogger.

And a comforter is income too, whether it is cash or goods, the blogger still owes the tax!!
An Awesome post on Rufus Dogg´s blog … Charlie and Sallie sing Piano Man VIDEO

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36 Tara R. September 1, 2010 at 5:53 pm

This sounds wrong on so many levels. I’d never leave a comment in a giveaway that as sharing my personal info nor would I ever participate in hosting such a giveaway. Just wrong…
An Awesome post on Tara R.´s blog … A box of 64 is not enough

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37 Robin September 1, 2010 at 6:59 pm

“I’ve never once (and maybe it’s because my eyes have been closed to it?) seen any blog or site outright say they will collect your private information for marketing purposes without having me separately agree to giving my information. ”

I have seen bigger websites that do this, but never personal blogs or review blogs. However, since blogs are the new commercials now, I am not surprised that sponsors are going this route.

It’s things like this that make me leery about starting a review blog – I think we talked about it briefly when I saw you at BlogHer. I don’t want my readers to feel pressure to do anything like that….know what I mean?
An Awesome post on Robin´s blog … Cleanse

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38 Wanda September 1, 2010 at 9:47 pm

No, I don’t like it at all. But if it’s going to happen I want that disclaimer in bold print so I see it and have to check a box to agree with it. Many sites are so busy with information you may not even notice the disclaimer and we all know what happens when others get your address.
An Awesome post on Wanda´s blog … Solid Impact Door

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39 Avitable September 1, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I’m okay with it. But I also sell every commenter’s email address to tranny porn sites.
An Awesome post on Avitable´s blog … Acronyms you didn’t know

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40 Lisa September 1, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Nope, not okay. Not illegal, but definitely icky.
An Awesome post on Lisa´s blog … Sad Giraffe

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41 Jennifer September 1, 2010 at 11:15 pm

I’ve only been blogging for 2 years, with about 7 months in there where I actually abandoned my blog altogether. Also, I still have no experience with the pr/marketing/business-y side of blogging. Even so, I find this practice to be pretty damn ridiculous.

Then again, if people are reading the disclaimer and signing up anyway just to *maybe* win something— it’s kinda their own stupidity.

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42 The Sweetest September 1, 2010 at 11:18 pm

I have never seen this, It sounds really unnecessary and uncool on all levels.
An Awesome post on The Sweetest´s blog … Operation Beautiful

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43 SuperSavvyMommy September 1, 2010 at 11:35 pm

I’ve been asked to do this by at least one company. After I finished laughing at them I said, “who has time for this shit anyway? Not me.”

I’m not surprised by this but I’m not very happy to see it happening! Ridiculously new low….
An Awesome post on SuperSavvyMommy´s blog … Were a Cloth Diapering Family! Thirsties Review and Giveaway

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44 Velma September 1, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Legal? Sure.
Icky? Oh, yeah.

There are them who blog for the writing, for the community, for the love. And there are them who blog for the perceived payoff. I hate to be cynical, but remember the whole “lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas” proverb? Once you decide to “monetize your blog” you’d better be darn sure of where your boundaries lie, and be able to clearly communicate those boundaries to your readers… although I hesitate to use the term “readers” about blogs where there is little to actually read and the purpose seems to be a cyclical exercise in consumerism.

Off to rinse my mouth out. Bad taste and all, yada yada.
An Awesome post on Velma´s blog … In Which I Share a Cool Video

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45 Maria September 2, 2010 at 12:43 am

I think it sucks a big dirty lemon.
An Awesome post on Maria´s blog … DinHer 2010

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46 Martin September 2, 2010 at 2:56 am

Heh,such drama.

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47 Jenty September 2, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I agree, it’s not on
An Awesome post on Jenty´s blog … More answers about me

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