Who Needs Money When You Can Work for "Prizes and Rewards"?

I was so excited to see Beth Harte's post about Nestle's "special offer" to join their digital think tank because it confirmed that I'm not crazy thinking mom bloggers are getting shafted. For a while now I've wondered if I'm just bitter or crazy for thinking that mom bloggers are being totally exploited by big brands and agencies. As far as I can tell, this is the dynamic: the new gospel for brands is that moms are the new influencers and the ultimate marketing coup is to get mom bloggers to work their magic for your brand. So brands spend thousands on third-parties in charge of wrangling the mom bloggers to do the actual work: spreading the word throughout the mom-o-sphere that brand X is great and everyone should buy it. What do mom bloggers get out of it? A chance to win a gift card. A free product to review. A coupon. Anything but actual money.

So back to Beth's post--what I loved about it was that here was basically the exact same pitch mom bloggers are being fed every day--and finally someone is pointing out just how ridiculous it is for companies to expect something of value for nothing. Here is part of Nestle's pitch:
Next week, we are a launching a unique, invitation-only online community called The Digital Think Tank and would love you to be part of it. It is an online collaborative space in which you will be able to shape the future digital communications strategy of one of the world’s leading organisations; Nestlé.
Participants will have a unique chance to create the perfect brand for our new digital world, exchange knowledge and expertise with peers.
And of course the clincher--because it works with mom bloggers:
Receive prizes and rewards: our way of saying thanks for joining in!
Hey--can't blame Nestle for trying, right? I mean, you've got millions of mom bloggers out there willing to work for "prizes and rewards"--why not assume that others may well be willing to work for the same level of compensation?

Just in case you're wondering how I know this stuff--it's because while I would never call myself a mom blogger because I think the term is demeaning, I am a mom and a blogger. I belong to mom blogger networks. I receive pitches. I read mom blogs and recoil at all the meanness and the competition. I belong to BlogHer's ad network (hence the lucrative ad in the sidebar of this blog; I've earned almost $30 running those ads for 7 months now). I know that lots of money is changing hands in the name of mom blogging--and that the mom bloggers are barely receiving any of it. Companies pay tens of thousands of dollars to agencies to do "mom blogger outreach." The agencies partner with high-profile mom bloggers, who in turn, present the "opportunities" to their eager networks of bloggers. Write a post about X and you'll be entered to win a drawing for a gift card. You can receive a FREE product if you'll blog about it, take photos of it and share on Flickr and Facebook, tweet about it--all by 5 pm tomorrow--and be sure to mention x, y and z about the product. Or my favorite--giveaways. Brand X will give you this product and you write a post about it, run an elaborate contest on your own time, then mail it to the winner--on your own dime, of course. If you're lucky maybe they'll give you one to keep for yourself and one to give.

Here's the good news: more and more women seem to be speaking up about this issue lately, both as it applies to mom blogging and just business in general: