#BBlogers: PR Relationship, Sponsored Posts, Native Posts, Monetization. Let's talk!

First of all, if you have not followed the Periscope of Jane from @britbeautyblog, you must. Even if you never have thought of doing anything remotely related to money with your blog, if you are following Beauty Blogs, it is quite an eye opener -- or maybe I'm just naive.

Second, I am never against anyone who are making money off their own blogs, ever. There are lots of blogs I follow that make money from sponsored post/advertisement/affiliate links -- same also true with Vloggers, YouTubers, etc. They are all fine by me. When I read blogs, I read for content -- I do read sponsored posts, advertisement, native posts, anything. In fact, I quite admire those who walk the fine line between maintaining credibility and trust with readers and working business relationships with Brands/PRs. Adopting holier-than-thou attitude to those who will and can make money out of doing what they love will only limit my own exposures of blogs that are available out there. My readership never will solely based on whether a blog is commercial or not. I have commented, bought things, blogged/tweeted about things that I read from blogs and I truly appreciate the diversity of bloggers out there.

With that said, my issue is credibility -- and I think I am not alone. I am sad to see that credible, respectable, big, popular bbloggers are now becoming harder to come by. I saw one by one succumb to, not monetization per se, monetization and misleading readers about the content of the post, or by featuring products that do not align with their blogging style, DNA, philosophy, etc. What I will share here are purely my own experiences, in hope that we can have a frank discussion as readers and consumers of bblogs.

Where and when did I become aware of the blurring commercialism of blogs?

It all started with this beauty blog that I'm sure everybody knows by now. This beauty blog is huge, I mean, mega. The writer's stats are listed proudly on the "About Me" page and rightly so -- the writing is catchy and the pet is super cute (who can resist a cute pet??). I used to follow this blog until a little, peculiar "incident" happened: the writer mistakenly misspelled the name of the product and I kindly pointed out the correct spelling -- based on the actual product that I actually owned, like right in front of me. The writer denied/dismissed that it was the right name -- even when I sent a snapshot picture of the product's name, with the product on my hand. It wasn't until a fellow reader of the website pointed out that the writer might not have the actual product/product name featured on this post because perhaps all she got at that time was just a PR info. Well, talking about me all green behind the ears! First of all, I should have read the the FAQ of this blog, where the writer wrote verbatim that this blog is a "business with an advertising model." Whatever's left to finish the sentence just went over my head. From that point on, I regard this so-called blog as just that, a business and advertisement, for readers to see what's coming up with certain Brands (and only certain Brands are prominently featured on this website).

Looking back, there are a few things about this website that misled me. The title of the website contains the word "blog" prominently. I don't know about you, but to me, a blog implies some of the content that are independently written. If the content is commercial in any way, it is now required to be clearly marked (Temptalia is the excellent example of this, all credits to Christine!). With this particular website, it was -- and is still -- never clear to me if a post is an advertisement, or a "blog" post-- whatever it means by now. What's more misleading: this website "rates" products but I've never seen rating lower than a C. C'mon.. even my 4-year-old knows there are more letters than just A, B, and C.

Lesson learned, I moved on. I followed yet another bblog, of respectable followers. Along the way, I started to notice that the blog would feature a particular Brand more and more often, to the point where only this brand was written for quite sometime and nothing else. When I posted a comment about a negative experience of the Brand in general (it is a Brand that I rarely use, and for a good reason -- I thought -- the reason I shared in my comment. People do appreciate negative review, right?), I didn't get the usual reply from the author; yet, those who commented on the Brand more positively were replied by the author. Later on, I found out that these posts were likely to be sponsored or instances when PR samples were given, but nothing were disclosed on the write up. To my defense and the defense of the author, this happened before such commercial post should be declared as such. Yet another lesson learned, and I moved on.

Finally, a big bblogger that I followed, up to very recently. I know the author was monetizing the blog in various ways (affiliate links, sponsored posts, PR samples, etc.) and I know the author always discloses. The content of the blog is well-written, detail-oriented, albeit heavy on swatches (and to be honest, I only go there to see swatches). One post did it for me, sadly. It featured a product that is not "in the DNA" of the blog. The author wrote, "I've always been a fan of..." when a simple search through the blog returns one other post featuring products from this particular brand. It was a sponsored post, and disclosed as such. Writing a sponsored post for a product that has been true staples (this would be if Wondegondigo, my old friend Belly and her love for Suqqu, were to write a sponsored post for Suqqu, for example) will only be natural -- in fact, a Brand would be nuts not to take on such opportunity to compensate such blog! But taking on a sponsored post for a product that one has not really blogged in the past (well, does one post count?) or does not really believe in, or not in-line with the rest of the products featured (say.. posting a drug-store fragrance as "I've always been a fan of.." when most of the coverage on the fragrance posts are those sold at exclusive Barney's) only screams (or whispers) money.

All I can say is that, the line between commercial and true un-commercialized posts is getting blurrier and blurrier. In some cases, it is no better than a beauty magazine. Let's talk and open the mic! What have your experiences been with bblogs? Whom would you follow and for what (no need to name names if you don't want to)? Educate me about all these stuffs, please, are there things that I misunderstood?


Birthday Suit

The Tod recently celebrated his birthday and I thought that I'd start a tradition for him to sew him a birthday (suit)set for him.

I remember growing up with my Oma sewing me dresses for my birthdays. It was the most special gift that I treasure. She would start a week before by taking my measurements, then she would hand-draw the pattern out of proper Swedish parchment -- not newspapers as she would normally do for "regular" clothes. After she finished sewing, she would sign my name and the date on each of the patterns and put them all in an envelope. It was as close to a couture as I could ever get.

My Oma managed to sew me a set for the Tod long before he was born; a shirt and a matching pants. It was to me, a perfection. She sew the button holes by hand, each one of them. She did a few piped pockets, from a bias tape that she would, no doubt, made herself. The inside is all French-seamed -- a kind of invisible seam, the best there is and the most time-consuming. I will treasure this piece forever.

This amount of detail is probably rarely done anymore. The buttonholes were hand-sewn one by one, so was the seam around the arm and the bias tape. French seams were used on this shirt and the matching pants.

The pattern I use for this set is from Sew Chic Kids, the Japanese book I used to make the Tod's hoodie here. Japanese pattern books are, in general, very diagrammatic with a few written directions. This means one must pay keen attention to every symbols, arrows, and sequences -- they are there for a reason and not by mistake.

The pants feature an elasticized waist, a mock fly and functional front and back pockets. Functional for little people and cute, too!

For example, the waistband for the pants were drawn using dashed lines on two of the four sides. This means one needs to fold the tracing paper into quarter (half, and half again) and line each folded side on the dashed line before tracing the pattern. The result should be twice the length and twice the width of the pattern drawn on the diagram. Pretty confusing -- this is where experience will help you decipher things that are otherwise not mentioned.

Fold tracing paper in quarter, place each fold on the dashed lines (see arrows above) and trace pattern.

It has been a while since I sew a proper shirt, but this one I found to be a breeze to follow. It features fully-finished yoke. Instead of following their direction, I found this nifty YouTube tutorial of sewing finished yoke featuring a "jelly-roll" maneuver. Again, this is where experience will help decide whether to follow direction verbatim or go with easier technique.

Sewing the collar to the perfect rounded shape was quite a challenge. I'm sure with practice I can perfect this... or maybe with just a change of a fresh, sharp needle.

The shirt features fully-seamed yoke, shirt tail and Mandarin collar, draper enough for a man.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the project. It took me almost a month to complete this from start-to-finish, but I really like the challenge and the patterns are just super cute for a little boy. The shirt is made from a quilting-weight cotton for that extra crisp look. The pants are from medium-weight cotton chino. These fabrics were found in my own stash.

I hope your Summer has been great! Blogging will continue to be quite slow until I've got a regularly scheduled child care (i.e. the Tod is back in school!).


Summer Songs

Every summer inevitably discussions of "the" summer song arise. I can think of a few seasonal/trendy ones, like Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl," or ones I'd like to forget, like Nelly's "Hot in Here." Or ones from High School, like like Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love" from the "Pretty Woman" era.

My earliest memories of music were oddly those of ABBA and The Beatles. Oh yeah, I was belting out, "Gimme gimme gimme a man after midnight" when I was five not knowing what it all means, to the delight of everyone in my family (ah, a budding superstar!), but those songs are memories of endless hours in the beach or swimming pool, sands in between my toes and swimsuit, getting the skin crispy tan, and chasing them all with a tall glass of cold drink (sans-alcohol, obvi).

Then there were endless bossa nova and samba from the likes of Astrud Gilberto and Jobim. The bossa nova is my gateway music-drug to some of the modern artists like Diana Krall. Oddly enough, I listened to Diana Krall when I was in Paris, and when I came back to the U.S., I craved that melancholy French-Gypsy-"Hot Club de France" that actually was rarely played in any Parisian cafes.

Lately, my summer music is whatever the Tod likes to hear -- we listen to all genre of music from many different countries: classical, popular, jazz, African folk/storytelling, hymns, etc. This week, we are talking about fireworks and Tanabata festival comes to mind. I'm hoping that he'll go to create his own list of summer songs someday -- and maybe some of my favorite songs will be his, too.

What is your summer song?