(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
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
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 PureRomance
4U. 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
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.