Heater, Mother of Lance

I’m listening

Today I’m going to pull back the veil a little bit and address some very vocal, at times brutal, at times totally helpful criticism that was left on a recent sponsored post. I read through every comment, even the ones that made me wince, and I wanted to let my thoughts simmer a bit before I put anything down in writing. That doesn’t sound like me, does it? To stop and take a moment before reacting? Where’s the Heather who would start this post out with SPONSORED BY MY BUTT and tell everyone to suck it? That Heather is napping on my couch in her underwear and I just drew a swastika on her forehead with a black Sharpie. SHHH! NOBODY WAKE HER. Otherwise she is going to lose her shit all over twitter.

Many of you know that I have been making money from this website for close to eight years. In fact, this website has been my family’s primary source of income for almost that entire time. I was one of the first authors to sign with Federated Media and have remained a loyal partner with them ever since. Together we’ve enjoyed the growth of this industry and weathered the unpredictable nature of it’s ongoing transformation. I mention them here because I looped them in over the weekend, showed them what the response to that post looked like, and asked if they would go on record about why it’s good for people like me to work with big brands. I’ll get to what they had to say in a minute, but first I want to address the biggest complaint I heard:

Why don’t I label a sponsored post at the beginning of the post?

This is a very valid question. Many authors do label sponsored posts right at the top, but my personal policy is to disclose the sponsorship at the end of my story. I decided on this policy for a few reasons. There is a very fine line that authors like me have to walk when working with brands. I don’t think traditional publications have to deal with this complexity as much as someone like me who is an independent voice. I don’t work for a large corporation or answer to a board of directors, and the authenticity of that independence is at the core of why bloggers like me have an audience.

So when my ad partner comes to me with the chance to work with a big brand, I have to weigh several factors. Does this brand fit my voice? Does it make sense for my audience if I work with this brand? Will this brand in any way disrupt the way I tell my story? Add to that the increasing impossibility for blogs like mine to make money with traditional banner ads. If I don’t work with sponsors, then I can no longer afford to run my website.

I take my authenticity very seriously because it’s fundamental to my relationship with you. And when I sit down to write a sponsored post, my thinking goes like this: if I can tell my story the way I’ve always told my story, if I can share my life with you in the style that I’ve been writing for twelve years, if I can do this without the sponsorship affecting how you read my words, then I’ve done my job. Then I have been successful.

If I label the sponsorship at the beginning of the post, I’m wary that it will impact the way you read my stories. I am in no way trying to dupe you or deceive you or trick you. In fact, I work tremendously hard to do just the opposite, to preserve the genuine spirit of my voice. I make every effort to show that *Heather* is still here. Perhaps I am more successful in one post than I am in another, but I assure you that I give every word and paragraph the same seriousness.

However, I am open to changing this policy since there were so many objections. Going forward I will alert you immediately to the sponsored nature of a story and hope that you will read it knowing that I have done my best to write the content that you have come to expect from me.

Another complaint I heard was that there are too many sponsored posts. I think I’ve elaborated a bit already as to why I need to work with brands, but here is what Federated Media has to say about this component of the evolution of this industry:

Federated Media Publishing’s mission is to champion an ecosystem where independent and influential publishers thrive. To that end we support building relationships between these online voices and the brands that these publishers chose to partner with. We believe that the most high quality conversations online occur when both the brand and the publisher chose to collaborate. Just like print media, digital publishers cannot afford to create content on an ongoing basis without advertising dollars to support their work. Delivering content that inspires, informs, and delights readers day in and day out takes time, staff, photographers, research, materials, etc.

Just like any article you may come across whether in print or digitally, if the content doesn’t resonate with the reader, it’s their prerogative whether to engage with the content or not. Time, effort, research goes into all pieces of content that our publishers produce. And if an article happens to be sponsored, we believe publishers have an obligation to always disclose that so that readers understand the nature of the relationship between publishers and brands. If they chose to read the content, fantastic. If not, they can return to the site knowing that the content they enjoy will return because advertisers recognize the immense value of independent voices online. 

If you ask any professional blogger about what it’s like to run their business, I’m willing to bet that every single one of them will tell you that the amount of work and the hours spent making sure that their content is fresh and compelling and entertaining (plus bookkeeping, back-end work, and the mountain of administrative minutia required to keep things up and running) is all far more intense than they ever imagined it would be. I’m not saying that any of us are asking for a pat on the back as I’m sure that other small business owners in any other industry would say the same thing. Working with brands and writing sponsored posts are now what makes it possible for me to continue to spend these hours developing this product for you. These posts keep me in business and allow me to continue to tell stories.

Finally, I wanted to address the accusation that I was rewriting history and taking credit for all of the work and renovations performed on the homes that I have lived in. If you go into my archives and read about the kitchen remodel or the sewer line or the raccoon who lived in the chimney, you can see that I have not changed a word. I have not removed Jon from my archives, and he will always be there. He was an integral part of my life for eleven years. Going forward, however, he and I wanted to give each other the courtesy of not mentioning each other in any way online. That is the only reason I used “I” instead of “we” in that post. Of course I did not do all that work alone, and it was not my intention to give anyone that wrong impression. Again, I’m walking a fine line here of what is respectful as I navigate this very new, emotionally fraught territory. I may get things wrong from time to time, and I’m hoping that you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt.

I hope that I’ve explained why and how I approach working with brands, and even if you still disagree with me I wanted to give you my side of things. I’m going to open up comments in case you have any further questions or concerns that I can address. As always, thank you for reading and taking the time to share your opinion.

425 Comments
  • Melissa Wolf

    2013/04/30 at 4:10 pm

    Same. Couldn’t give a shit less if a post is sponsored or not. As Bush II would say, you gotta put food on your family. Keep at it.

  • Anitra Manca Thompson

    2013/04/30 at 4:11 pm

    Why should I continue to be shocked over how brave, picky and PLAIN OLE RUDE people tend to be towards others OVER THE INTERNET. Doubt these gripes would be voiced to you personally, Heather. In fact, I’ve been semi-following your blog for a few years and am very interested by how you’ve maintained a very popular blog from a marketing perspective. Your ability to evolve the integration with Facebook/Twitter, keep your audience, and preserve sponsorship is what makes the blogging ground you’ve broken captivating.

  • amy

    2013/04/30 at 4:11 pm

    I have to admit that when I get to the end of a sponsored post I think arggg…but I also love getting to the end and realizing its sponsored and thinking dang, that there is some good writing when I didn’t even see that coming! Kudos to you!

  • Susan Dakes

    2013/04/30 at 4:15 pm

    Are you kidding me? People actually get upset over sponsors? I have been reading your blog for years and simply enjoy it! I could care less about sponsors!

  • Isabel @alphamom

    2013/04/30 at 4:16 pm

    as i understand it, FTC asks that disclosure be before the first “click away” from the post. Also, my understanding is that they prefer it be written into the story (if applicable with review items “the company provided me with a sample”) than just disclosure language. As Heather mentioned, many publishers just put it along the top. However, I completely understand and agree with Heather’s point about not wanting to disrupt the flow of the storytelling. Every independent publisher I know works incredibly hard (probably hardest) on their sponsored posts.

  • Patti

    2013/04/30 at 4:18 pm

    As a writer, you should fully know that you can make a statement without a personal pronoun involved. “The kitchen was remodeled”, vs. “I remodeled the kitchen” vs. “We remodeled the kitchen”. You don’t need to mention “We”, but you surely don’t need to come across as taking full credit on such items when it can clearly be done another way by using your writing skills.

    As for your sponsored posts. THANK GOD you are going to label them. I read your website because I enjoy it, but when you lie by omission, it is quite distasteful. For example, we all know
    that you took your daughter on a trip this past weekend “Leta and I are headed to Santa Barbara to spend the weekend together, just the two of us, no unfair little sister tagging along.”, but on your website you failed to mention that it was a sponsored event by Hyundai. One of the reasons that you have readers is that you were at some point truthful (and still are for the most part).
    It’s great for you that you had the opportunity to take her, BUT, here’s the disconnect- by passing it off that you are doing this special thing, just the two of you, and not telling your readers that it’s really part of this other event, it does not speak to the raw, truthfulness that we all came to
    love. If you had stated- hey guys, Leta & I have this awesome chance to go, and it’s a sponsored event, but it’s still a great opportunity to spend this time together, then that’s truthful and real.

  • Shannon Conley

    2013/04/30 at 4:19 pm

    Not to be all sappy and positive just because (because how annoying is it when you post a serious post and 1,000 people are like we-love-you-heather, and you want to say where-were-you-the-other-day-when-this-discussion-was-going-on-the-first-time-people?) but: your sponsored posts are some of the only ones I read (as opposed to ones on other peoples blogs which I very often tend to skip). This reading here but skipping other places has to do with the fact that I almost never buy things related to the sponsors (not what the sponsors want to hear), but your posts are funny and enjoyable anyway. So keep it up, and count me as one reader who doesn’t care whether the sponsored post announcement is at the top or the bottom.

  • Laura B

    2013/04/30 at 4:19 pm

    Oh I’m so sorry you have to deal with these things, but you handled this post beautifully and I’m glad you’ve addressed their concerns. I can’t believe i’m saying this but I’ve actually been reading your stories for 11 years now. I found you through Sarah Brown and laughed forever over the “Qualifying for Pacific Northwestern Citizenship” story with the “five-syllable cockadoodledo fart” (if you haven’t read it you must! it’s from 2002). I’ve raised my own babies while watching your life unfold. The fact that you’re having these issue now is difficult but please know I never have a problem reading your sponsored posts. You write them just as funny and beautifully as the rest! I’m so happy for you, sad for other things but still – happy this has turned out so well for you. Congratulations.

  • Amy Jacobs

    2013/04/30 at 4:20 pm

    Thanks Heather. And BRAVO for how you addressed this. Seriously, you deserve credit where credit is due…and it is here. If anyone reads a magazine, they are reading a big, huge pile of paper that is sponsored by not one, but many big corporations. If people take issue with that…sponsorship…then they will need to stop reading those magazines or watching tv or even walking down the street or catching the bus because evil corporations follow them wherever they go. #overreactmuchpeople

  • Kate

    2013/04/30 at 4:20 pm

    I read that post with the same amusement I read your others, and actually did an O face at the end when I saw it was sponsored. I guess I did feel a little tricked at first.. why I say tricked I don’t know, I am just telling you how I felt. But I thought about it for about a half a second, and then decided I was impressed you’d blended your sponsorship so seamlessly with what’s really going on in your life. DO you, Dooce. Most authors are not so considerate of their readers’ opinions. Maybe it’s time to bring back the page o’ hate and put those haters in their places.

  • Amberly Bradford

    2013/04/30 at 4:21 pm

    I love that you don’t announce “sponsored post!” at the beginning of your posts. I find that it turns me off & I read the story differently. I like the way you’ve been doing it because I read it & love the genuine content. Then I am floored at the end when I discover it was sponsored by Clorox wipes. & I think, “damn, that bitch is good!”

  • Amy Jacobs

    2013/04/30 at 4:22 pm

    Btw, that line about you and Twitter…seriously you made me want to hug you for that one. And, yes, please don’t wake the sleeping “other” Heather (that would have fit in so well with the movie of the same name). I like this current Heather and don’t want to see that other version again anytime soon! ; )

  • Alicia Soret

    2013/04/30 at 4:22 pm

    I love you and I think you’re great. The fact that you can maintain your family’s livelihood the way that you have been for the past several years is admirable. As a business owner myself, we’ve seen our ups and downs, and neither are always easy to deal with. I give you credit for putting yourself out there, and I love reading your blog. Keep on keepin on, Paleo Sistah!

  • crash1212

    2013/04/30 at 4:22 pm

    I haven’t commented before but have enjoyed your blog for a couple of years. I am commenting now because I cannot believe with shit you have to put up with from some of the people who continue to read you – I guess so they can complain about everything. I don’t care if you post sponsored stuff and I don’t care where you disclose it. I like what you write. I love that you share your life. The rest is just stuff and nonsense. Jesus, the internet can be SUCH a small minded busy-body sort of place sometimes.

  • Ed Wojtkowski

    2013/04/30 at 4:25 pm

    I wish I could get paid to blog – carry on and ignore the trolls.

  • barforama

    2013/04/30 at 4:25 pm

    So, how much do you make?

  • Michael Mathews

    2013/04/30 at 4:26 pm

    You can’t please all of the people all of the time. I think you do a pretty darn good job of juggling all the considerations that go into what to post and when to accept sponsorships.

  • Caitlin

    2013/04/30 at 4:27 pm

    Tough post to write, I am sure. I am one reader who “got it” before reading this post. I appreciate your service of writing the blog – I have been reading daily for nine years. I expect some marketing here and there. I would never purchase some of the advertised things (garbage bags), and some of the items I consider, because you’ve “plugged” them.

    Keep up the good work. As you’ve always done, get past the haters and keep entertaining/therapizing/connecting us. 🙂

  • Guest

    2013/04/30 at 4:27 pm

    I’ve always thought that your sponsored posts were very authentic. bummed that you are moving the sponsored by at the top though. i liked not knowing until the end, and seeing how you seamlessly incorporated that sponsorship into your words.

  • Kristin A.

    2013/04/30 at 4:28 pm

    I’ve always thought that your sponsored posts were very authentic. bummed that you are moving the sponsored by at the top though. i liked not knowing until the end, and seeing how you seamlessly incorporated that sponsorship into your words.

  • Meg H

    2013/04/30 at 4:30 pm

    As someone who is barely six months out of ‘not really a divorce because marriage isn’t legal yet’ I’ve found it INCREDIBLY hard work to modify my pronouns, online and off, mentally and emotionally and physically. I have to stop and consciously use “I” when every habit has “we” in conversation. The fact that y’all have been able to agree on and stick with some policy, whatever it is, is an accomplishment in my eyes.
    [Also, seriously, why does no one mention how expensive it is to duplicate the shared belongings? All of these THINGS I needed to buy. (And, yes, needed, not wanted. I didn’t replace the couch but I definitely needed to get a bed. And I know she had to get dish wares & silverware & etc.)]

  • jen

    2013/04/30 at 4:31 pm

    I’m going to say “ditto” to what Cassie said too. You get paid? More power to you! Sheesh, people need to find a more positive way to spend their time than bitching about your posts and how they come about.

  • mjbutah

    2013/04/30 at 4:32 pm

    I come specifically for the posts that are sponsored by your butt. Can we have more of those?

  • Betty

    2013/04/30 at 4:33 pm

    Same here!

  • Angela Beth Cantido

    2013/04/30 at 4:33 pm

    Every other UFC fighter has the Badboy eye logos across the butt of their shorts and millions, including me, still watch the fights. Maybe you should put your sponsors on your ass instead! But seriously, keep up the great work.

  • Say_Oz

    2013/04/30 at 4:34 pm

    Signed up just to say that I couldn’t believe the crap in the comments on that last sponsored post. How dare you make money to pay for the blog that we read FOR FREE!

    I accidentally stumbled on upon your site around eight or nine years ago and have been visiting ever since. I’ve enjoyed your writing and often admired your ability to keep succeeding despite all the negativity trolls that internet anonymity breeds.

    Seriously, people. If you’re worried about a sponsored post corrupting your feeble mind then you’ve got bigger things to worry about.

  • Jil

    2013/04/30 at 4:35 pm

    There’s just no pleasing some people!
    and don’t tell my mom that I’m talking about her on a website

  • Madam Von Sassypants

    2013/04/30 at 4:36 pm

    Exactly! That’s why having the sponsorship message at the end is a surprise! Otherwise I go into it looking for the advertising message. Sometimes you do it so subtly it’s remarkable, but not in a creepy subversive way, I should note.

  • jil

    2013/04/30 at 4:36 pm

    I feel the same way, crash. It must be incredibly frustrating for blogger hipsters asking Heather to stop being so mainstream

  • Jasi Lee

    2013/04/30 at 4:36 pm

    if a blog post is dull and seems contrived i just stop reading. that hasn’t happened here for me in the few years i’ve been following.

    do as you do and make no apologies to the “noise” in the crowd. people who make a fuss at this or that will always find something to make a fuss at. seriously not worth the time.

  • Jasi Lee

    2013/04/30 at 4:39 pm

    good point. i’m not in the market for a car but i’ll take free entertainment. thanks!

  • KristenfromMA

    2013/04/30 at 4:40 pm

    And when I sit down to write a sponsored post, my thinking goes like this: if I can tell my story the way I’ve always told my story, if I can share my life with you in the style that I’ve been writing for twelve years, if I can do this without the sponsorship affecting how you read my words, then I’ve done my job. Then I have been successful.
    I’ve read each of your sponsored posts, Heather, and not a word in any of them has felt artificial to me. The products themselves, whether they interest me or not, also don’t strike me as anything that wouldn’t fit into your life (from my distant vantage point).
    As much as I admire your willingness to adapt to your readers’ comments (ahem), I say fuck the haters, Heather! Fuck ’em!

  • RG

    2013/04/30 at 4:42 pm

    I don’t feel bad or duped by your sponsored posts. What everyone says about you deserving pay for content rings true for me. And I especially tolerant of it here, because I know this is your living.

    That said . . . truly, I am tired of blatant advertising being splashed into every corner of my life. Some of this is probably what leaked into these comments. Ads appear on the line of scrimmage in a televised football game – they jump up on your screen when you’re online – a full third of a half hour tv sitcom is now devoted to advertising (and that’s just the commercials, not including blatant shots of the apple symbol on the protagonist’s computer, or the heroine’s Starbucks cup). Our stadium is now the Mercedes Benz Superdome, with the sign on the outside, the Benz symbol projected inside onto the field and the roof. I get no relief from ads, and blogs are supposed to be my relief from everything crummy.

    I’m a lawyer, and I have to market myself, too. I feel sort of icky when I do it, but it’s gotta be done to pay the bills. When I see something is sponsored, I get the icky feeling on your behalf. And it does make me suspicious of what is true and what is false – of what they told you to incorporate into your post somehow, and of how you went about doing that while staying true. It’s very selfish, really – we like our artists starving so we don’t question the truth of their art.

    To be honest, though, it isn’t even so important to me if what you write here is true. Not in the sense that your name is really Heather and your daughter is really nine and you really just moved into a rented house. You could be a fifty year old man from L.A., and you still wouldn’t owe me any explanation – I enjoy what you say because it RINGS true, whether it is or not.

    u really just moved into a rental house.

  • Rachel Michael

    2013/04/30 at 4:43 pm

    People are so whiny. They need to realize that you are just trying to support your family. You never rant or rave about how amazing any brands are, and you’re never insincere. Plus the brands that do sponsor you are brands that pertain to regular people (Hyundai, etc.) not brands like Gucci or Lexus. Keep up the good work!

  • patti

    2013/04/30 at 4:44 pm

    Wow, some fans you have! That their negativity bleeds onto you is so sad.

  • Justine

    2013/04/30 at 4:44 pm

    I didn’t find most of the criticism rude or uncalled for…in fact I thought that for the most part the tone was hey I like your writing, but could you please xyz. I thought it was feedback and as a writer myself I find feedback invaluable.

    That said, thanks for the post addressing all the issues people brought up. Nicely done. It was great to learn a little bit about how blogging for a living works. How do you decide when to open for comments? Most bloggers always have them open, or don’t, but yours are both. I’m just wondering. Not criticizing.

  • Abigail Burnham

    2013/04/30 at 4:47 pm

    Me, too!

  • Rachel Sea

    2013/04/30 at 4:48 pm

    When I find a product I really like, I tell people (lookin’ at you GrabGreen Tangerine and Lemongrass de-greaser, and your magical ability to get my white cabinets sparkling clean, from ceiling to floor, in 30 minutes). As long as I still feel like you are endorsing a brand because you like the brand and not just because they are giving you fistfuls of sweaty money, then I have no problem with it. While I do appreciate that you are adjusting your format so that I can take what might be your bias into consideration when I read, I’ve not been bothered by having it in the text and at the bottom.

    Sure, from a style point, saying “the kitchen was remodeled” vs “I remodeled the kitchen” is more accurate, but so what. Long-time readers will get what you mean, new readers won’t be confused by a plural pronoun. In future, you could probably use “we” in many of those situations, without drawing focus to Jon, because most of those projects included some degree of help from family, friends, and professionals, too.

  • clarkorama

    2013/04/30 at 4:55 pm

    i, for one, would like to thank you and your sponsors for working it out so i can access your content AT NO COST TO ME. jesus, what people won’t complain about.

  • me

    2013/04/30 at 4:57 pm

    Oh please. Your profession is writer, and you get paid for it. As you should be.

  • Cocosmom

    2013/04/30 at 4:58 pm

    I’m not sure why anyone would object to you being paid. They wouldn’t work for free, why should you? I think you’ve done a good job of keeping your voice and still being sponsored, so who cares? I’m completely baffled by the people who come to your blog and have such harsh criticisms. When I don’t like a blog, I just move on. It’s not like there’s a shortage. I’m not in love with the new layout however, because I have to keep clicking on stories and then going back to the home page to read the next one. As a result, while I still read the whole blog, I only check in once or twice a week. Nothing but love, carry on.

  • Robyn Beckman

    2013/04/30 at 5:01 pm

    Fuck the naysayers. I hope my swearing doesn’t get you in trouble. The thoughts and complaints these people are saying to you – have NEVER once even entered my thought process! I LOVE your blog, your photos, your stories, your family, your bad days, your good days, crazy Coco and mostly Chuck. And YOU! Thank you for ALL that you do and for being so G.D. real!

  • Lisa Guidarini

    2013/04/30 at 5:01 pm

    The only people who care about the money you make, and from whom, are jealous they can’t do what you do and make it lucrative enough to live off it. That’s all this boils down to, Heather, and I know everyone here will agree. Everyone that’s not an ass-hat, that is. Screw the Ass-Hats!

  • Randianne

    2013/04/30 at 5:02 pm

    Here’s the thing: reading this blog is free. At this point, Heather is a professional blogger. What other professional is expected to work for free? If sponsored posts keep this blog alive, then bring them on. The whole “I’m offended by advertising” thing is such a first world problem. I’m thankful that I get to read quality writing for free. I’m thankful that a working mom gets to stay home with her kids. I’m thankful that when I got PND, I was able to read the story of another woman who went through it. An ad for Clorox or BHI doesn’t change any of that.

  • holly

    2013/04/30 at 5:02 pm

    First comment ever after reading your treasures for probably sixty-eleven years or so… You’ve ALWAYS been beyond honest & completely transparent with every single thing I’ve ever read from you. Whoever has a cranky pants issue is clearly not at all familiar with your style & your frank approach in your craft. You’re pure genius – sponsored or not. So VERY glad for your sponsors, though, because it supports your beautiful fam & keeps the awesomeness coming. Do what you’ve always done, and those of us who adore & admire & respect you will keep doing what we’ve always done. Your fans aren’t going anywhere…

  • Gayle Bennett

    2013/04/30 at 5:03 pm

    Well Said! And if ‘they’ don’t like it wake up the Heather on the couch to tell them all to suck it.

  • Teal

    2013/04/30 at 5:06 pm

    Working with sponsors and brands gives you the ability to stay home with your girls. That’s worth its weight in gold. Nothing else matters.

  • Amanda B

    2013/04/30 at 5:07 pm

    I have followed you for 7 years, bought your books, love your blog. I have remained silent throughout until now: Heather, please don’t change a thing. You rock at what you do; keep on doing what you do best. We all love you and your writing.

  • Karen

    2013/04/30 at 5:12 pm

    You make me laugh almost every day with your wonderful stories about Marlo and her lisp. Leta is a year younger than my daughter and I love reading about how she is growing up. Chuck and Coco both remind me of my C-R-A-Z-Y puppy, who at the moment has run away and my husband and daughter are desperately trying to catch him. I was sad when you broke up with Jon and wondered how it would all play out, but you’ve both been CLASS acts.

    I couldn’t care less that some of your posts are sponsored … the content is 100% you. And I have been reading your blog for 5 years now and this is the first time I have commented.

  • Stacy

    2013/04/30 at 5:16 pm

    Ditto.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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