Saturday, May 19, 2007

CincyMoms

(Note: When first posted, this item did not allow comments. That was inadvertent and has been corrected. Also, you might need to register at CincyMoms to view some of that content.)

Let me say from the outset that I have no philosophical disagreement with CincyMoms.com. It's a legitimate idea for a web site, and if it helps parents raise their kids, that's fine.

I just don't think that under the Enquirer's leadership, it's going to be very good. I received this email last week:

Have you heard the Enquirer paid a group of "conversation starters" to post regularly to the site, then failed to mention that to readers? It was brought up -- by a photographer -- at a recent staff meeting when (the photographer) asked, innocently: "Shouldn't we tell people that?"

The response was essentially, no. "People don't like to be led in conversations," I believe is a direct quote from Hollis.

That's troubling if true. I looked all over the CincyMoms site for any mention of this practice. It's not in the FAQ (the Enquirer doesn't seem to understand that the FA in FAQ stands for "frequently asked," which means these should be real questions from real people). Nor is there any mention of this practice in the blog maintained by Karen Gutierrez, who leads the CincyMoms effort for the Enquirer. And I couldn't find anything in the boards about CincyMoms. I tried to search the discussion boards for talk of this practice, but the CincyMoms search function hasn't worked in days.

On the other hand, so what if it is true? Sure it's dishonest; ethics isn't a strong suit at the Enquirer. Inserting paid talkers into online discussions to boost traffic is easier said than done. Take a look at this clumsy effort by Gutierrez, who goes by the online name "cincymom". It's a Valentine's Day thread called "Tell us why your man is special":

Did he scrape the ice off your car this morning? Take your turn with the baby last night? Does he just GET you? For Valentines Day, tell us why your man is special.
This got 28 responses, not a huge amount. But this just reflects the Enquirer's uneasiness with public discussion. The Enquirer has killed off all discussion on its web site, because the discussions were being hijacked by a few insane users. The editorial board is pushing "community conversations," and this week produced this masterpiece about high gas prices, where readers suggested such brilliant and original ideas to save money on gas by driving less and driving smaller cars.

If, through CincyMoms, the Enquirer is trying to appeal to West Chester soccer moms, then they're missing the target. You don't make money on the web by appealing to people who inhabit Norman Rockwell paintings, and Gutierrez's lame discussion idea suggests. You just don't find many well-adjusted people posting on discussion boards like this. People who join these discussions range from merely insecure and pissed-off (like me) to those who are desperately lonely and scared and have low self esteem, or are just apeshit crazy.

Doubt me? Read "Drunken night, big mistake" about a woman in a bad marriage who gets drunk and wakes up the next morning to realize she participated in a three-way. Or this thread about a woman in a loveless marriage.

Remember the Enquirer's clumsy Mother's Day front page pulled from CincyMoms? This is better reading: women writing about how their kids and husbands ignored them on Mother's Day.

That's the real world of parenting. Frankly, of all the families I know, I can only think of one I'd consider normal, and even there, the overachieving daughter hates her father. The rest of the families I know, there are divorces, kids in wheelchairs, kids on drugs, kids on Ritalin, kids on antidepressants, mothers on antidepressants, kids and mothers on antidepressants. The "normal" family is a myth, but the Enquirer only wants to write about kids who get perfect scores on their ACTs. That's great, but it goes without saying that many of us are just average, and by definition, about half of us are below average.

The sad stories of bad marriages and pathetic Mother's Days, the Enquirer can't make that stuff up. That's real, and certainly the Enquirer doesn't pay enough to hire people smart enough make that up.

What might be more insidious is letting advertisers interfere. Note that this discussion, "Weirdest place you've done it?", was started by user PureRomance4U. Pure Romance is the name of a Cincinnati company that sells vibrators and other bedroom apparatus through Tupperware-like parties, and which, if I'm not mistaken, is a CincyMoms advertiser.

What kind of traffic is CincyMoms getting? I don't know, but the site this morning claims 5,732 members and 52,000 message posts on its bulletin board, but the posts are from only 3,550 users. That means only about 60 percent of CincyMoms users have posted messages.

My guess is that CincyMoms traffic is subject to a 90-10 rule, which says 90 percent of your traffic comes from just 10 percent of your users. Read this discussion started by a woman wondering why some users post so often. There are women in this discussion who have up to 900 posts, and they're not please with the insinuation that they don't have anything better to do than hang out on CincyMoms.

(I think I'm in love with Lucky1. She has over 700 posts and a screw loose. She had this to say to a question about anal sex. "Let me see if I can word this delicately... It is AWESOME ...." I'm glad she was able to put it so delicately, since I probably couldn't handle her more-vivid description.)

A generous estimate would mean CincyMoms only has 500, maybe 1,000 active users, people who come to the site every day and participate. In a city of 2 million, that's a small number. Are advertisers willing to pay for that?

I don't have any issues with CincyMoms. There are obviously people who participate here who need help, and if they can get it there, that's great. My problem is with the clumsy way the Enquirer promotes it, especially using valuable front-page real estate to do so, and assigning a reporter (John Johnston) to do CincyMoms-themed stories. Those stories were of the quick and dirty variety, about how to get your kids to eat vegetables or behave in restaurants, and rarely dealt with the meaty issues around raising kids.

One last note: This discussion thread says a freelancer for Wired magazine is working on a story about CincyMoms. Let's hope he can get some answers out of the Enquirer about paying people to boost traffic on the boards.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But this just reflects the Enquirer's uneasiness with public discussion. The Enquirer has killed off all discussion on its web site..."

I heard that the reason the Enquirer killed off their discussion boards was that too many people were pointing out the ineptitude of Peter Bronson's columns. Word has it that Bronson couldn't take the criticism. Is his skin really that thin?

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The comments and the cincymoms discussions (from the links you provided) prove just how useless most online forums are. The same few people with too much time on their hands are liberated by the anonymity to post angry, rude comments and hijack every post. I moderated discussion forums for a little while and there's nothing good that comes from them.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous A Concerned Reader said...

This was written about in-depth on City Beat's blog back in February, with The Enquirer's response on the practice.

http://citybeat.wordpress.com/2007/02/15/paid-to-stir-it-up/

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Enquirer's reasoning, in part: "They also let us know about other possible objectionable material.”

Guess these moderators missed the anal sex string, and the threesome string, and the wierdest place you ever "did it" string.

That, or the Inky thinks these are fine topics being discussed under their banner.

It's not a problem for the Enquirer to hire these people. The problem is they do not disclose it.

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New Enquirer advertising slogan:
"Miss a Day, Miss some SERIOUS HARDCORE ANAL ACTION."

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And here is what "we" cincyMOMS have to say.

http://www.cincymoms.com/f/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=11042&n=cincyMOMS

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm actually quite flattered. Thank you for taking the time to read my posts as well as the posts of my online friends! I very much enjoy the break from life that is CincyMoms, and I'm glad that we have entertained you sufficiently to write about us. I do have one small disappointing thing to point out about your work... Have you not read my "Thread about nothing?" I can't take full credit, as I got the idea from Seinfeld, but it has to be a site record. I think we're up to 120 pages! Come visit us regularly! Much love -- Lucky1

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry...BUT WHO CARES IF THEY HAVE SOME MOM MAKING A FEW EXTRA BUCKS BY POSING SOME QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION??????

Seriously...is there nothing more important going on in the United States that we are so concerned with a mom to mom website?

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh - and it's high time someone noticed and said something about my screw being loose! Here I've been posting to the site for all this time, putting up the big numbers, and no one has had the guts to tell me that yet. Thanks for being a true friend. -- Lucky1

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone is on their period~
Congratulations on finding something completely pointless to gripe about. You must have lots of time on your hands too. Try finding a blog about something that interests you... it's good therapy.
JLYNO 823 posts and counting.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This Newsache is either a p-d off employee of the newspaper or a stuffy old-time news guy living in the past and wishing for the old days. He does not understand that the world has changed and the Cincinnati media ...including The Enquirer and Scripps...is ahead of the times. He should be proud of that instead of being so negative. I bet he snickers at goetta too.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CincyMOMS is a great site. If they hired people to start convos when it first started, who cares? It is clear the members have taken over by this point. We laugh together, cry together and royaly piss each other off. It's awsome, and a lot of fun. At the same time we give support, answer questions, and help each other raise the next generation.

One of the links you provided is to a topic about people with over 400 posts. The person who started that topic, did so not because of people who post, it was an attempt to bash another poster. The poster she tried to bash didn't share her political view. And that was the only thing she could find to bash her on. It had nothing to do with her post count or people who do post. But you wouln't know a thing about that. The original, unedited post, had a ton of the posters personal info.

For me, I post at that forum when I am at work and am bored. Also sometimes at night when my DD is sleeeping and I need help. I could go out, but that is called neglect, as I would be leaving my child alone. And sorry my house doesn't need to be scrubbed every night. So if you think that by posting on a forum, I am scared, insecure, crazy or whatever than that is your opinion. I do have a life, please go find yours. Since you yourself had nothing better to do than be pissed off at a site for moms who want a little help. And would like to meet other moms who go through what they do on a daily basis.

I have met some great moms on that site, not just online, but in person also. Great playgroups were created because of cincyMOMS.

Another thing is about the topic where a woman got drunk and woke up in bed. Ever heard of a troll? Some people think it is funny to start bullshit topics just to get a rise out of people. Quite amusing to read.

Instead of being angry at The Enquirer and cincyMOMS. Maybe go looking for some new freinds and family. Since the example you gave is pretty sad.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too worry about your selection of friends and family. It's a little pathetic and scary - maybe you should join cincymoms to ask advice for all the clearly messed up families you know!
The women on the site are smart, funny and caring - something most of this blog lacked any semblance of. Seriously, find something better to do than bash a bunch of moms getting together online to share in ups and downs of being a parent (something you so clearly know nothing about).
btw, I AM a West Chester Soccer mom and proud member of Cincymoms.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dang it! How'd I miss getting paid for my point of view- I missed the train this time, but next time sign me up! We are independent consultants at Pure Romance- so technically I work for myself, as most moms here do. Direct Sales lets me work a couple of nights a week, while leaving me time for my family. I care about raising my child, which every mom that posts on Cincymoms does too. Thanks for the free publicity- I was wondering why we had over 6,000 views on "Weirdest Place You've Done It"....you're welcome. By the way, you could apparently could use some of my products to loosen up a bit... go to www.shelliphelps.pureromance.com ...I'll give you a deal on Superstretch Lips. Then that MIGHT be "the weirdest place you've done it"....but maybe not......

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think you're right.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they advertised in the paper for moderators, I mean, "conversation starters" (more than once) how was it a secret? You might want to look into your facts instead of just snooping the site.

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading your blog, I thought I should become more informed about Cincymoms. I now know more, so thank you.
I will not be posting in cincymoms any information that I do not want sold, modified or exploited.

Not that I post anything that is very interesting or could make news but would I want cincymoms or anyone they are affiliated with to modify a topic, sell my information, or to identify me by my email address? NO.
This is in their terms of service agreement, which I should have read throughly before joining.
As for hiring people to post topics, many business message boards do this to get started. Cincymoms is after all a business adventure. Google Cincymoms and The Enquirer has an article about how and why cincymoms was started.
This article is in the BUSINESS section.

11:31 PM  

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