By on April 12, 2014

caroline2

Let’s say you opened your e-mail one morning, and, lo and behold, you were offered an all-expenses paid trip to sunny San Diego. Airfare, luxury hotels, gourmet meals…sounds pretty fantastic, doesn’t it?

However, if you’re like most sensible adults, you’d probably assume that there was some sort of catch involved—after all, who’s going to spend around two grand to give you a vacation just because…well, just because?

Well, if you’re a mommyblogger named “Xenia,” you’d probably feel like it was Christmas morning. Or, at the very least, you’d tell the Internet that’s how you felt. How do I know this?

Because that’s exactly what happened. According to her blog at raisedbyculture.com, Xenia, who is, sadly, not a Warrior Princess, but simply a woman who “leads a blended family” and is a “unique social media influencer,” that’s exactly how she felt upon receiving an e-mail from Honda with just such an invitation. All she had to do to accept this swanky invitation was write some nice things on her blog about the newly reimagined Honda Fit.

How did Honda know that she would write nice things about the Fit? Because her blogs says she will.

From her “Review and Gifting policy” on her site:

In addition, If I like the product, I will happily write about it, however, if I do not like the product then chances are I will not feature nor write about it, adhering to “If you have nothing nice to say…

So, in other words, Honda was guaranteed that, in return for a four-figure vacay, Xenia would not write anything negative about the Fit. So much for journalistic integrity.

So why did Honda select Xenia to receive this boondoggle? It must be because she’s a well-regarded car reviewer, right?

Not so much. She has exactly one car review posted on her site. It’s of a 2014 Kia Sorento from September 13, 2013. In this review, she admits to being befuddled by an Engine Start/Stop button and posts three separate photos of the nav system. The review garnered eight comments, two +1s on Google Plus, and no Facebook shares.

However, she has tweeted an amazing 91,000-plus times, and somehow managed to write a post that compared her decision to take early maternity leave to unusually strong and soft toilet paper. Somebody at Honda must have found this to be a relevant comparison, because the invite went out, and Xenia happily accepted.

Xenia managed to tweet no fewer than thirteen times with the hashtag #FitForYou from the event, including the tweet at the top of this article where she mentions how baller the hotel, free gifts, and drinks are.

Then, yesterday, her review of the Fit hit her blog. The review contained such insights as “I’m not a professional car reviewer” but proclaimed that the Fit was “super techy” and “smooth.” As per her policy, there was nary a single comment that could interpreted as negative. The review garnered a total of three comments, including one from a friend that she met at the event.

I retweeted her link on Twitter yesterday, proclaiming my total lack of surprise about her positive review of the car. That led to this exchange (note: her bio used to say, “changing the way you think about #mommybloggers” before she edited it):

caro1

caro4

caro6

As you can see at the end of our exchange, she resorted to tagging the TTAC account, hoping they would admonish me for calling attention to her sponsored content blog post. Also, she wants to make it very clear that she is NOT a mommyblogger, despite this list of mommyblogger networks to which she belongs and events which she has attended.

However, the issue here isn’t Xenia in particular, or mommybloggers in general. It’s the total misunderstanding that car manufacturers seem to have about digital marketing and the blogosphere. It would be hard to think of a worse way for Honda to spend the money they spent on this event. Even if Xenia and every one of her commenters had immediately purchased a Fit as a consequence of reading her review, Honda would still have wound up in the hole. What percentage of readers of her blog, or any non-automotive blog, are in-market car shoppers?

And at what point does it become unethical to accept plush hotels, swag, drinks in exchange for a review? If OEMs sent the cash equivalent of a junket and a car to a reviewer’s front door, we’d all be howling. Why is this sort of behavior any different?

I will be spending my own money to drive my own car to NYC next week and paying for my own hotel so that I can provide my own, independent observations to you about what I see at the New York International Auto Show. Somehow, I don’t think I will see Xenia there.

(Note: Many of the B&B took a shot at our own Jo Borras for his frothy review of the Fit published here the other day. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to keep the discussion open despite the fact that we are in this case open to some criticism ourselves, and the fact that we’ve covered this ground before— JB)

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179 Comments on “The Truth About Caroline: Ethics, Marketing, ROI, and the Sad State of (Non-Mommy) Blogging...”


  • avatar
    Kenmore

    So.. social media empower venal halfwits and Honda exploits that.

    Got it.

  • avatar
    bfisch81

    What a convenient scam for the non-mommy blogger, mommy blogger. No negative reviews just free swag and hotels!

    Sadly, the masses will still put more stock in reviews from people like Xenia but in the end, as long as those with integrity put their pens to paper (hands to keyboards?) there will be resources out there for the truly savvy to find and utilize.

    Stick to your guns, Caroline and we’ll keep reading.

  • avatar

    “Mommybloggers calling themselves mommybloggers and getting offended when other people call them mommybloggers (only we can call each other that!), film at 11.”

    Also, assuming people who comment on your blog haven’t seen and aren’t referencing your twitter feed from the event? Priceless.

    I do feel like TTAC’s recent coverage of the ALL NEW FIT*TM has been a bit rosy, considering I don’t even know if you can purchase a 2015 yet. The review, and later the FIT DEEP DIVE post (especially) came across as a bit…advertorial. Not to mince words, it read like a press package/press release.

    Now maybe it’s the new TTAC writers’ styles? Maybe it’s that they haven’t found their TTAC voice yet. But, I for one, would like a little bit of an introductory post about all these new bylines that are cropping up here suddenly. New writers are great! If they have something new to say, that is. How about a post or two to let us get to know the new guys (Joe is a mid-30s house-husband who changes his own oil and whose father sold Honda’s for years while he was growing up).

    They don’t have to tear everything down, and it was informative pointing out that you can’t really do 80 in a FIT unless you’re a masochist, but why are the new guys/gals excited about cars and writing about them?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Something lost in the mini-blowup over Derek’s old Fusion “game changer” story is that many of the critics didn’t hate the Ford or think it wouldn’t find success, we just didn’t like a new TTAC writer going so breathless over a still unreleased car.

    • 0 avatar

      My introduction happened two years ago on Tax Day, but in short: I, a small-time fashion blogger looking to expand her writing elsewhere, asked JB if I could be of service to the TTAC Zaibatsu. He drove down to my then-home in Louisville, we set the stage, I wrote for a while, then drifted away.

      Several months and one one-way bus ride from Louisville to Seattle later, JB, now the new EIC, asks if I’m in a better place in my life where I could begin writing again. I came back with Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Porsche 935, and have been guided by DK and JB towards my destiny with the zaibatsu ever since.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        While we appreciate your (re)introduction in the comments, what everyone is looking for is an updated Staff section on the homepage. Right now only long-time editors have Bios, while some of the authors listed without bios haven’t published anything in forever. In addition, new contributors such as yourself, Jo Borros, and Vojta Dobes are not mentioned.

        Readers aren’t going to be able to find your bio buried in the comments of a story on the integrity of mommybloggers and a manufacturer’s ROI in employing them.

    • 0 avatar
      paulinvegas

      I agree it would be nice to get a short bio on the new writers. But what’s happening to all the old ones? I haven’t seen Alex Dykes on the sight for quite a while. That guy did really informative reviews.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    I’m liking Caroline more with every post. She’s really finding her voice after a rough start.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      She’s the Truth!

      Nice article and I can’t wait until the Sonic review!

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Mr. Piss & Vinegar here to give a major shout out to & big-up-yourself to Caroline.

        Caroline, you’ve gained more real journalistic credibility via highlighting this one, clear cut case of Honda’s ridiculous promotion of its products using an automotive know-nothing than many “seasoned journalists” manage to do in their entire career.

        Everything you rightly point out about this compromised & tainted relationship between Honda providing SWAG and a “mommy blogger” providing a puff piece advertisement poorly & thinly disguised as some sort of “review” is absolutely true.

        Both Honda & “Xenia” should be very ashamed of their lack of scruples, and they should in fact be shamed for said lack if scruples.

        I piss in your direction, Honda & Xenia.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Agreed. The Baruth brothers knew who they were bringing well before the rest of us saw her potential. Caroline, please keep them coming.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      Agreed. I’ve been skeptical (and a bit vocal) in the past, but if this is indicative of what’s to come, I’m getting the popcorn!

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    It’s a cheap price for Honda for some brainwashing. Blame the morons who spent time on twitter following mommy bloggers. X is just using the system, with full disclosure.

  • avatar
    MK

    I thought the blogger vs blogger sniping and callouts went away with Bertel?

    Trying to look behind the curtain on what was the point of this post? honda spends its marketing budget poorly? Bloggers should stay at the Super8 to keep their integrity intact? caroline’s personal brand is stronger than xenas on cars? TTAC writers proudly wear hair shirts at industry events so theyre automatically less biased?

    Given the low numbers on her retweets and facebook likes, Honda certainly could’ve spent the money better but they had the budget and prob took the shotgun approach to see what would stick. Hell they probably got farther with you mentioning xena here than they would have otherwise.

    Come to think of it, maybe that’s the whole point? Compare and contrast the dollars spent vs response rate from TTAC with the same at xenas blog, present data to manufacturer marketing, profit???

    Too cynical? Not cynical enough?

    The world wonders.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      Let me help you “look behind the curtain on what was the point of this post.”

      A) Honda chose a writer who would write only positive things or remain silent.
      B) Ms Xena’s policy:
      “In addition, If I like the product, I will happily write about it, however, if I do not like the product then chances are I will not feature nor write about it, adhering to “If you have nothing nice to say…”

      To me, the above are slime ball (ish). Of course, you may have a different set of values and think they’re nothing. Feel free to explain why…

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Are there “Daddybloggers” out there?

  • avatar
    ajla

    I personally preferred the days when TTAC refused to do press events, but that is another battle I lost.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    See also the Amazon program. When NPR did a recent piece questioning the objectivity of Vine reviewers, they arose en masses to defend their gravy train… All the while defending the objectivity of their reviews. The catch? Vine reviewers tend to be more *negative* than the average person posting a review on Amazon. In other words, there’s some self-consciousness on the part of Vine reviewers, hence they don’t want to appear to be too positive.

    Also, as somebody who runs his own side-blog, I can honestly say that affiliate marketing has changed the nature of citizen writing, not always for the best. If you are a teenager and want instant feedback, you post on Tumblr. But if you’ve been blogging on your own, done it for years and receive ad revenues or affiliate income, then it’s a business, mostly a hobby business for the majority of writers.

    As to car blogging. I think the issue with the fitness of the frothy writing is that the car community just doesn’t have enough staid writers for bloggers and new writers to emulate. Colloquial cool is the zeitgeist, but only few do it well.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “As to car blogging. I think the issue with the fitness of the frothy writing is that the car community just doesn’t have enough staid writers for bloggers and new writers to emulate. Colloquial cool is the zeitgeist, but only few do it well.”

      Nice. Now I’ll Ctrl+F stuntmonkey in the big comments threads.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Vine actually seems well run, I’ve seen quite a few pretty negative reviews so it more or less just seems like Amazons way of getting reviews for items that either haven’t had any reviews or to try and get an objective review done. Amazon doesn’t really care if you trash an item on vine anyway since the manufacturer is the one that gets butthurt, for amazon the increased sales from there being what is perceived to be objective reviews is more important. I’ve seen items where Amazon apparently gave a few out so there would be a review and then the only review ended up being terrible. I’m sure the manufacturer of the item probably hated it but the reviewer was still in vine.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      I’m on Vine myself. To preserve the integrity of the program, Amazon does not tie your ability to receive products to the number of stars you put in your reviews. If I don’t like something, I feel perfectly free to trash it and there are no consequences to my continued participation in the program. There’s no need for me to write differently from any other product review.

      Your average blogger writing reviews of free schwag can’t be too negative lest he/she end up getting taken off the list of “influencers”; Vine has no such problem.

      I’ve written some glowing reviews, some scathing ones, and most, as you might expect, are in the middle.

    • 0 avatar

      > I think the issue with the fitness of the frothy writing is that the car community just doesn’t have enough staid writers for bloggers and new writers to emulate. Colloquial cool is the zeitgeist

      Comments through this thread like this misunderstand the game.

      The audience for traditional car pubs & their reviews is the enthusiast: someone who cares enough to read specifically about cars and whose peculiar “buying” habits are well worn on this site. These really aren’t the people who matter when it comes to the bottom line.

      With the explosion of new online options, it’s only smart for manufacturers to reach out to new venues for promotion. The new promoters are often “cool”, at least within their own domain. Enthusiast types like to belittle this out of their own self-importance; they just fail to understand their place in the world.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Well, how different is this from Honda wining and dining the reviewers at Motor Trend, Car and Driver, Automobile, Road and Track, etc.? They may not automatically write a positive review, but we’ve heard enough behind the scenes tales to know that it’s an, um, unnatural relationship between the manufacturer and the automotive press with more than a little winking and nodding and quid quo pro. It strikes me that Honda is attempting non-traditional methods of spreading word of mouth (remember Ford’s rollout of the Fiesta?) and getting into the mommy blogosphere is an interesting approach. We are told that women influence 80% of car purchases by the men in their lives, so getting some positive press here has a little intelligence in it. OF COURSE Xenia is going to wax rhapsodic about the Fit. She got a nice view ofSan Diego Bay from her hotel room and in between stuffing herself with canapés, the nice people from Honda gently chatted her up. This is no different than what I see each Sunday in my newspaper’s Wheels section.

    It’s capitalism in action.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “Well, how different is this from Honda wining and dining the reviewers at Motor Trend, Car and Driver, Automobile, Road and Track, etc.?”

      It is not any different. Participation in launch events with manufacturer provided competitive sets and the resultant fluffy, worthless “First Drive” reviews are some of the worst things in automotive writing.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        I’ve always hated how a car that was glowingly reviewed in a “first drive” subsequently gets trashed in the “comparison of 5 sedans with bluetooth” sort of article. The really despicable part is how the inevitable “glaring fault” somehow got edited out of the first drive piece.

        The net result is that my current standard is to judge for myself. It’s the only really valid “review”.

    • 0 avatar
      Turkina

      I think the reward for most auto reviewers is to have a close look at a new product, with the side benefit of wining and dining. If you are in the business to get wined and dined, you probably won’t get far, until you’ve built up enough cred and then decide to sell out and go full-whore.
      Satan has probably built a new circle of hell for Mommybloggers. The stereotypical business plan is to sell out from the start, using the disingenuous battle cry of “Trust me, I’m a MOM” to collect free swag and compensation. The goal is to get free stuff and stroke their attention-whore egos. Most other product reviewers want to give a product a good run-down and perhaps keep it at the end.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Oh, get off your high horse. She gushes about the swag she got. That reduces her credibility. Good. That’s called full disclosure and I appreciate it. She also says that if she doesn’t like the car she won’t write about it. In other words, she won’t lie. That’s plausible, fair and realistic.

    She’s a mommy blogger. Her readership represents the target demographic better than yours.

    This blog is pretty truthful about the cars which is why I read it, but you notice you end up reviewing a lot of rental cars. That’s also not the norm with the automotive press. I would say the overall ethical bar is below both yours and Xenia’s.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      >>She gushes about the swag she got. That reduces her credibility. Good. That’s called full disclosure and I appreciate it

      I had the same thoughts. It would have been dishonest had she failed to mention the swag and pretend to be a real journalist. I think Caroline was a little bit too hard on this mommy blogger. Honda wasn’t seeking a professional or impartial review from her. They were trying to create buzz.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Agreed. I think to some extent Caroline was trolling and it was not necessary to retweet or engage in any way.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      I’ve known for decades that major car magazine reviews might as well be printed on toilet paper. Car blogs aren’t much different, TTAC excepted of course, haha. Even Bring a Trailer will ban you if you say too many “negative” things about the posted cars they’re trying to shill. It’s all about the money for all too many.

    • 0 avatar

      Keep in mind—there was no mention of the swag or the hotel on her blog. I called her out on it because she referenced it on her twitter feed. Totally opaque.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        >>Keep in mind—there was no mention of the swag or the hotel on her blog.

        Ah, I went to her site and see what you mean. Now I need to take a shower.

      • 0 avatar
        WildcatMatt

        Caroline, thanks for emphasizing that point because I missed it during my initial reading and that’s clearly the crux of the issue.

        If someone wants to be a shill, I have no problem with that — we’ve all gotta make a living somehow — provided there’s reasonable contextualization and/or disclosure of compensation.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    What a bizarre way to start my weekend. There goes 10 minutes I’ll never get back. It’s on me. I should have known better after three sentences.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “Oldsomeone” said, “I wasted 10 minutes of my time reading this”

      (then removed his post after I commented)

      Oh, you just would have wasted those minutes on some Yahoo drivel

      • 0 avatar
        olddavid

        Probably. If I remembered.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Why did you remove your post,
          then put it back?

          • 0 avatar
            olddavid

            I was being too harsh and critical to a new writer. The only way to get better is to keep practicing. With cranky old assholes like me throwing rocks, that is very difficult. Since this is one of the few places you usually are able to retract after second consideration, I attempted just that. Good thing you’re on the case. This is where I would normally make some obscure reference to Lew Archer or Philip Marlowe, but I forget the demo sometimes.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “Good thing you’re on the case. This is where I would normally make some obscure reference to Lew Archer or Philip Marlowe, but I forget the demo sometimes.”

            Hey, I enjoy a good mindf*ck now and then

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          ” You’re so clever and ironic.”

          Well, you kind of left me hangin’ out there

          • 0 avatar
            olddavid

            It has been a long day. At my age, when the day starts with a double dose so I can walk, I am generally a very sorry human with which to interact. I apologize. You are normally a very cogent commentator with clever insight.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            You’re OK, your comment was as credible as any other

  • avatar
    izzy

    Nice article, keep up the good work. At least, Xenia describes herself well. The kind of culture I can use less of…

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Caroline your writing style has even further evolved and I am really enjoying your articles. Kudos.

    Regarding the “mommyblogger” Xenia, the wannabe warrior princess, who to quote your piece “leads a blended family” and is a “unique social media influencer” represents a disgusting person not raised by any real culture. I do wonder what culture she refers too; the culture of ignorance? Unintelligence? Drugs? Broken families? Meaningless sexual congress? If I had the authority I would take a page from Henry VIII and lop off her head, then and stick it on a pike above a major public center as a warning to the populace. Oh but an equally ignorant person in the corporatocracy wants to reward such poor behavior? I’ve got another pike in the shed.

    Keeping sticking to your convictions Caroline, always to thine own self be true.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I think you might be overreacting just a little…

    • 0 avatar
      SayMyName

      Amen, 28. Jesus, when did we decide as a society to grant any forum at all for the opinions of such banal and underwhelming individuals like this little precious mommyblogger?

      Xenia seems a shining example of all that is wrong with our society – an insipid embodiment of the “everyone’s special, everyone deserves a voice and a trophy, let’s celebrate the mediocre among us and pander to the lowest common denominator” attitude that’s brought us to the mess we’re in. I’d bet my next paycheck she voted for Barry O, too. All the more reason to lob off her head.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m not sure I think I was out the day it happened, SayMyName.

        “an insipid embodiment of the “everyone’s special, everyone deserves a voice and a trophy, let’s celebrate the mediocre among us and pander to the lowest common denominator””

        You echo my thoughts, its akin to when I was a kid and everyone was given a trophy no matter they won or lost.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Hey, I busted my butt to be Scrabble champ in the 6th grade… I also picked the smartest kid in the class as my teammate. We learn what we need to win through healthy competition

      • 0 avatar

        “Amen, 28. Jesus, when did we decide as a society to grant any forum at all for the opinions of such banal and underwhelming individuals like this little precious mommyblogger?”

        Since you asked, the Constitution of the United States, Amendment One. Xenia has a right to express her opinion and Caroline has the right to critique her. Constitutional rights apply to banal and underwhelming individuals too.

        • 0 avatar
          SayMyName

          Perhaps they shouldn’t. Just throwing that out there.

          Or, maybe we should acknowledge that the Founders were thinking more along the lines of street corner soapboxes when crafting the 1st Amendment, and not immediate access to worldwide audiences through the Internet.

          • 0 avatar

            The Founders understood well that they were saying that the guy with his soapbox on the corner doesn’t lose his rights when he can afford to buy newsprint and ink by the ton. The founders knew exactly how revolutionary they were.

            I’m opposed to things like journalist shield laws that try to determine who has First Amendment rights and who doesn’t. The internet has equalized publishers, whether they’re bloggers with small audiences or the New York Times.

            I like things that lower barriers to competition.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “Perhaps they shouldn’t. Just throwing that out there”

            Well I’m glad you did throw that out there because it gives me the opportunity to ask what makes you think your ability to post here would escape your proposed free-speech nullification? Nothing I’ve ever read from you here suggests you are not just another “banal and underwhelming individual”. If Xenia goes, you and I and most of the internet go with her.

          • 0 avatar
            bunkie

            The First Amendment says nothing about judgement.

            I find it kind of ironic to suggest that others shut up while reserving to oneself the right the freedom to speak freely.

            I do agree that the net result is an incredibly amount of banal pap being spewed everywhere but, as others have pointed out, I value knowing what sort of person someone is by right of their ability to speak freely.

            To sum up, it’s easier to tell who the idiots are which is, in my opinion, the greatest advantage of freedom of speech.

          • 0 avatar
            olddavid

            Unfortunately, Ronnie, it also lowers the bar to quality. A disagreeable byproduct. But, I’ll accept what we have – warts and all – over the alternative.

      • 0 avatar
        Signal11

        You know what’s underwhelming?

        This article.

      • 0 avatar

        > an insipid embodiment of the “everyone’s special, everyone deserves a voice and a trophy, let’s celebrate the mediocre among us and pander to the lowest common denominator” attitude that’s brought us to the mess we’re in. I’d bet my next paycheck she voted for Barry O, too.

        I wonder what results when these wannabe elitists hardly better than the lowest denominators turn the lens on themselves.

        I mean, it’s not really special to bitch about obama in every single comment; AM radio callers already have that market covered.

  • avatar
    Blue-S

    I thought that Xenia was a town in Ohio. A big tornado tore through there 40 years ago.

  • avatar
    RHD

    This sort of drivel is exactly why I, among many others, intentionally avoid Twitter, Myspace, Facebook and similar “social media”. They have replaced daytime TV as the bastion of the undereducated, lazy, entitled and self-centered of our population.

    Meanwhile, Honda sincerely regrets its decision to grant freebies to a non-journalist with the marketing influence of a slug.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      RHD, I think you sell Ms Ellis short.

      While I, like you, have no accounts on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, et al, each is an important part of the new social networking, the things that people used to do in bars, clubs, etc before electronic networking existed.

      The point here is that ALL manufacturers are trying to reach their potential audience and customers through all possible venues and media in the hopes that they will become buyers, repeat buyers, and loyal customers.

      Just today I received a personalized ad via email to evaluate a 2014 Silverado. And it is not the first such an invitation I have received.

      If this reaching out and touching someone doesn’t pay off, it will stop. Big thing in my younger years was getting an invitation for an all-expense weekend at some resort in the hopes that I would buy into a time-share. My wife and I went on every single one of them. Really enjoyed ourselves, and all the free food and alcohol.

      We never bought anything.

    • 0 avatar
      wumpus

      While social media might be filled with vapid whores trying to pile up the attention from views and money/swag from sponsers, this differs from traditional media how? Go back and read some Jack Barath rants, and then consider Jeff Gerstmann: fired from gamespot after giving a game that paid to cover the website with adds a “fair” (i.e. bad) rating.

      There are multiple problems here:

      First, when Sturgeon said “90% of everything” was crap, he meant “90% of everything that somebody got an editor to pay money to publish” is crap. Gods only know how high the percentage is now that anybody can tweet thier crap. Second, marketing spoils everything it can touch, and will continue to try to spew BS anywhere it thinks somebody might read it. Once a marketer finds a source of information, the goal is to fill it with bs (ideally to trick the viewer into taking the bs at face value in a previously bs-free source, but simply removing a bs-free source means they “control the message” better. “Controlling the message” being the overall goal of marketing.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        When done correctly, traditional media had more useful checks and balances, which could lead to better quality. It was also slower, which helped to sort the wheat from the chaff.

        Blogging usually lacks most of the things that hands the quality edge to traditional journalism, such as decent factchecking. But it does lend itself to quantity and speed, which are rewarded on the internet.

        • 0 avatar
          wumpus

          Ever read any “traditional media” on a subject you know a little more about than the typical reader? They don’t fact check now where all it takes is a few cuts&paste into google, do you think they ever checked in the past? Besides, why pay fact checkers when they can’t afford to pay for writers.

          Give me a medium with a reasonably sane community (like the B&B) and you will see real fact checking. Otherwise exepect to see rewritten press releases.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The important stories would get factchecked reasonably well. The filler has always been just filler, and those parts of the newspaper that cater to filler were always about filling column inches with minimal effort.

            Blogging is much worse for accuracy, as there is little editorial management over content. That has the dual effect of allowing mistakes to slide by and of writers who don’t try as hard because there’s no need.

            Most of what one finds in the automotive press is rewritten press releases. That isn’t entirely surprising or necessarily even a bad thing, as most industry news originates from the companies themselves and their trade organizations. There just isn’t much need for investigative journalism for car porn; cars are a consumer product, and most of the “news” is merely related to product updates and changes, which ultimately comes from the automakers.

    • 0 avatar

      I use Twitter and Tumblr, and I don’t really understand this sort of attitude. Yes, there tons of morons on both of those services. But there are also tons of smart, fun, interesting people. And both sites are all about who you decide to follow. And if you’re looking at a lot of posts from idiots then you can just…unfollow them. It isn’t an all or nothing approach.

      And there are some neat things out there for car-minded people. Like this: http://howwerollin.tumblr.com/ It’s a Tumblr by a local here in Richmond about all of the interesting vehicles he comes across. Though, he tends to have more than a few Wagoneers, Scouts, and Broncos on there.

      Though I COMPLETELY understand the dislike of Facebook. I avoid it like the plague. It has horrible site design, wants you to put everything on it, and anybody can bug you at all times on it. I also notice that Facebook is where the corporate social media campaigns seem to be strongest, even though I’m pretty sure that 99.9% of all people who are involved in those things never actually by any product from those companies. Which was why I was glad when GM pulled out of Facebook awhile back…but then they went back in.

  • avatar

    A woman that I’ve gotten to know from seeing her at automotive events around town is transitioning from the marketing world to writing. She writes for a publication aimed at women and their explicit policy regarding reviews is “no negative reviews”. All reviews have to be either positive or neutral. That applies to everything they review, cars included.

    It’s not simply a factor of trying to suck up to manufacturers to get access to swag and 5 star hotels. Apparently, it’s what publishers think that women readers want to see, or rather, don’t want to see.

    I’ve heard the same thing from women who write about cosmetics and other goods that women buy. The publishers are convinced that women are turned off by negative reviews. That it happens to dovetail with what marketers want is fortuitous for the companies.

    Still, in addition to soliciting positive reviews, smart marketers, and their bosses, pay heed to negative reviews. There are people within the industry that have told me that as long as I’m fair, they don’t particularly care if the review isn’t 100% glowing.

    • 0 avatar
      jim brewer

      I don’t believe “women only want to read positive things.” Those guys are shills and they can get away with it.

      Sure Ronnie they tell you they will accept a “non-glowing” review. Be aware that’s not out of the goodness of their hearts. Its because a more balanced review has a wider audience and more credibility. The manufacturers also have enough confidence in their product to believe its good points will shine through.

    • 0 avatar

      >>>The publishers are convinced that women are turned off by negative reviews.

      I doubt it. the publishers want the ad $$

    • 0 avatar

      Holy crap, that excuse for all-fluff-all-the-time is BEYOND offensive.

      If something’s mierda, tell me it’s mierda instead of just not reviewing it. No negative reviews? Ain’t got time fo’ dat. Part of the point of reading reviews in the first place is to get a decent idea of what’s out there.

  • avatar
    catachanninja

    Caroline were you able to confirm that it was in fact xenias son who started calling us assholes on twitter?

  • avatar
    April

    Caroline, you come off a bit jealous.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “Xenia managed to tweet no fewer than thirteen times with the hashtag #FitForYou”

    Here I was assuming that FitForYou was some sort of mail-order exercise equipment sold on one of those cable channels. #CallNow

    “Even if Xenia and every one of her commenters had immediately purchased a Fit as a consequence of reading her review, Honda would still have wound up in the hole.”

    I can’t agree with that. On the contrary, this is very cheap advertising for Honda, and probably more effective.

    The most effective advertising is word-of-mouth from a friend, and there are probably a few people who consider her to be an online friend (of sorts.)

    Buying airfare, meals and hotel rooms in bulk for a large group of bloggers is probably cheaper than the cost of filming one car ad. Plus, it’s good for Google to find “Honda Fit” coming from a lot of different bona fide URLs.

    Which is to say that a lot of this Google’s fault for placing high value on crowdsourced opinions. The theory isn’t entirely wrong, but everyone who understands the algorithm will naturally try to game it.

  • avatar
    quiksilver180

    Good for you, Caroline. I hope you keep writing articles here at TTAC.

    Negative reviews, as long as they are accurate (not done out of spite or biased), they are very necessary. Many companies today get offended when someone calls them out of doing a poor job. But with negative reviews, this informs consumers for potential issues, and with enough publicity, can make manufacturers address issues. Selling out, like Xenia, is beyond irritating and not needed.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Never would have thought Honda would resort to paid shills. What would CJ say??

  • avatar
    Ion

    I haven’t driven the new fit. My impressions of the old one were that it’s was a good point a to b car that occasionally can be used as a large object carrier. It was not generally a enthusiast or performance car by any stretch of the imagination.

    I think that’s why a mommy blogger was chosen instead of someone like Caroline. Honda knows a automotive journalist or blogger might prefer something along the lines of a Mazda 2 or Fiesta for their “sportiness”. A mommy blogger will be wowed by how the seats fold in a fit. Ignorance is bliss.

    • 0 avatar

      Not for nothing, but that is an impacting feature to the ‘great unwashed masses’ of non-enthusiasts who actually purchase cars.

      Let’s not forget that auto journos have their own perception bias and high horses as well.

      Thanks in part to their consolidated efforts, 95% of sedans today have ‘European’ handling i.e. rides like garbage on most urban infrastructure.

      Also, the whining from the auto journos are just as bad – we want cars with no-frills, something pure of heart and fun to drive = an automobile that does nothing but occupy valuable floorplan that could’ve been better used to acquire a ‘sloppy handling’ crossover that would actually retail.

    • 0 avatar
      jim brewer

      Well, you know, stuff like that is important is it not? I respect the writing on this forum, but its pretty uneven and often incomplete.

      Her web site is kind of pitiful. Sort of a freelance infomercial type site. In an earlier time she might have earned money walking from house to house distributing flyers. I suppose the goal is to get mentioned and moved up on Google rankings by Honda. Kind of an expensive proposition, but maybe they had a couple of extra spaces. It has nothing to do with journalism, automotive or otherwise.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    @Caroline
    I’ve done some research into the activity of on-line marketing.

    If you find a person marketing on line, then troll them out!

    Judging by her response she felt quite uncomfortable with the position you placed here in, great work, love it.

    If she calls you a Mommyblogger again maybe your retort should be “well are you jealous of my cute ass? Not a bad looking ass for a mommy is it?”

  • avatar
    CapVandal

    Advertorials have been around in one form or another more or less forever.

    Xenia displays a level of cluelessness that would seem unbelievable, except that it is common. A few years ago I actually met a meta mommy blogger. She went to conferences of mommy bloggers and gave talks, workshops, etc. There are whole worlds of things you couldn’t make up if you didn’t see them.

    The news here is that Honda would go for this … because it looks so clearly ineffective. Whatever ad agency or social media firm or however it is done — they should have metrics on bloggers. One of the major benefits of internet based advertising is that it is supposed to be measurable. Not perfect, but there are huge amounts of data associated with it. Google analytics is both free and pretty amazing. Maybe Honda’s pr people had a few extra slots that had been paid for. And as cool as a free vacation and swag sounds, people with kids or jobs can’t just take off for a few days without a lot of preparation.

    Fascinating post, Caroline. It is impossible to keep up with this stuff, even if I wanted to. I especially like the exchanged where Xenia called you a Troll — and even more laughably, had any belief that TTAC would take any action based on her accusation.

    • 0 avatar
      CapVandal

      “Professional Eco-Organizer Julie Naylon gave me two demonstrations of how to pack in the 2015 Honda Fit. I was most impressed with the whole beach setup for 3 passengers (one of the rear seats folded down) – one surfboard, 2 beach chairs, umbrella, cooler, beach ball and towels…”

      How come TTAC didn’t have a professional organizer show how to get 3 passengers, a surfboard, beach chairs, umbrella, cooler, beach ball and towels in one of these things. This isn’t just some subjective comment (its pretty big) or a simple metric (100 cubic feet) — This is the test-drive equivalent of usable space.

      True, I would prefer to see Julie Naylon pack it with 2×4’s, mulch, mountain bike, a couple of cases of beer, &c.

      Cause I gotta be more than organized …. ECO organized.

  • avatar
    EchoChamberJDM

    Anyone realize how expensive new cars are nowadays? Yup, its because of crap like this. Marketing department pays for junkets like this, and increases the price of the car to cover the budget. On a Honda Fit, the budget can’t be too much, but does anyone really tell the marketing department at Honda “uhh, no, you can’s spend all that money on the mommy bloggers?” Hell no, somehow someone convinced the higher ups at Honda’s Torrance HQ to get the budget to put up mommy bloggers in swank hotels, for “social medial viral postings”, and in turn increase the price of the car to cover the cost. Anyone who buys a new Honda Fit is subsidizing this.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Because no other auto manufacturers have marketing departments, right?

      This sounds expensive because a nice hotel in San Diego is an expensive vacation for many wage earners; however, I bet it is pocket lint in terms of marketing a car. How much do you think filming a commercial and buying ad time during a popular tv show costs? I don’t have that number, but I am confident it is a lot more than a few nights in a nice hotel.

      • 0 avatar
        EchoChamberJDM

        Its one thing to have your traditional buff book journalists attend an event like this, at least they have some credible chops to assess a vehicle vs its competitors and make a recommendation based on (we hope) some base level of expertise. No issue there. No issue with advertising, that’s been around since the beginning of the automobile. However, the latest trend is for the automakers to invite everyone and their sister along, including those who don’t know d8&^k about cars. There is no free lunch, not saying Honda is doing it too excess, but someone is paying for this. Same with any other manufacturer. Its all coming our of your pocket.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The cost of not selling cars is greater than the cost of selling them.

          A business is not a household. If spending a buck produces $1.08, then you will probably spend the dollar.

          • 0 avatar
            EchoChamberJDM

            But for me as a consumer, I don’t want to pay the $1.08. GM went bankrupt doing stupid stuff like this, adding in all kinds of costs, didn’t cut any advertising, the cars were crap, the prices weren’t realistic, and it was game over. The effects continue today. I see Honda and Toyota heading down the same path. Do you think the Chinese will do this sort of thing when they come into the US? Hell no, they will price their Camry competitor at $14,999 and sell the hell out of it. Bye Bye US auto industry, and bye bye Honda, Toyota, Mazda, and Subaru. Take a look at the TV industry. When was the last time anyone bought a Zenith, Sony or Panasonic TV?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If companies don’t sell products, then they go out of business.

            Marketing helps them to stay in business.

            If companies sell fewer units, then they need to charge higher prices to make up for the lack of volume. Marketing helps them to sell more units. You’re saving money because of it.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Cars become financial losers if nobody buys them. It’s cheaper to market them than not.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      All car makers market, more or less.

      If there was a lot to be saved by zero or reduced marketing, some firm would have tried it. (Actually, manufacturers probably have proprietary research that shows how sales move by model as marketing is increased / cut)

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I think Caroline might be using the wrong metrics when judging how effective Xenia is as a marketing tool. The handful of comments for the review posted to her blog is likely not the goal. Honda is more interested in her twitter followers.

    And as far as the percentage of her readers shopping for a new car? It might be low, but I don’t think the percentage is much higher on automotive blogs. Enthusiasts not putting their money where their mouths are has been a long running theme at TTAC. It isn’t necessarily about marketing directly to a site’s readers, it is putting it on their radar so when their friends or family go car shopping, the readers can spread the word.

    Marketing is an easy punching bag for people with a more technical bias, a bias that I suspect many readers of a car blog have. Remember though, all the engineering work that went into the “magic seats” is for nothing if no one knows about it.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      It would also help the author and the readers here to understand how Google works.

      For example, I just typed into Google [subcompact car]

      The first hit is to Wikipedia’s article about subcompact cars.

      The second hit is to a US News comparison of subcompact cars. That includes this bit of text: “See how the Honda Fit, Kia Rio and Ford Fiesta compare with the rest.”

      Then there is a grouping of three news articles that match the topic.

      All of those news articles are about the Honda Fit. Presumably, this is because of this junket and all of the articles about the Fit that are hitting the internet within a short period of time.

      When typing [best subcompact car] into Google, I get similar results.

      Notice how I didn’t enter either “honda” or “fit”, yet it shows up there at the top of the first page. That’s a good thing for Honda.

      No one outside of Google quite knows exactly how the algorithm works, but everyone knows that there is a crowdsourcing element to it — more commentary is better than less.

      If Honda is able to pump up the volume of comments about the Fit in a short period, then that helps the Fit to be found in the search process. Inviting Xenia et. al. is part of an SEO plan; it has little to do with her individually, and much more to do with the role that she plays within the larger crowd.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m quite familiar with search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Honda would be better off by spending the money they spent on Xenia’s vacay on providing co-op dollars for dealers to use on third-party sites like cars.com and autotrader.com that spends millions of dollars on their own SEO. However, for some reason, Honda is anti-third party when it comes to new car advertising, even though they support it for certified and used.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The best advertising is stuff that doesn’t look like advertising. Getting the crowd to talk about your product is more effective than just buying ad space.

        • 0 avatar
          EchoChamberJDM

          perhaps that would be more effective, but its just another cost they had to be baked into the price of the car. Anyone price our google adworks lately? You will then realize why Google is worth more than all 3 detroit automakers + Toyota & Honda combined.

        • 0 avatar
          dantes_inferno

          +10

          Well done, Ms. Ellis! Well done!

      • 0 avatar
        CapVandal

        A couple of random thoughts about the effectiveness of this social media approach.

        1. They could have just taken the top 1/3 or 1/4 of the bloggers and simply GIVEN them the car. If the junket cost $3 or $4 thousand,

        2. It seems like an aspect of this that wasn’t immediately obvious to me is that the bloggers socialized. Perhaps part of the strategy was to encourage some sort of social proof regarding the product.

        “During the test drive, I somehow convinced Nicole (funthusiast.com) that we had to ride with Jason (accordguyintake on fitfreak.net) – if you really want to find something out, go with the most enthusiastic of the group and Jason was it. Our ride was (excuse my language) badass because Jason tested it on turns, speed, in parking lots, on the freeway. I may or may not have screamed. ”

        3. If they did this for 100 bloggers at $4,000 per blogger, that would only be $400,000. It doesn’t seem like much of their likely ad budget for the launch.

        Regardless … I found this fascinating. I assumed that the mommy bloggers would be pushing stuff like Huggies and car seats, not cars.

        Like this: http://raisedbyculture.com/2014/04/time-huggies-littleswimmers-pool-party-playdate/

        A blogger huggies little swimmers pool party.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          You’re probably overstating the cost of the junket.

          But in any case, it’s a good thing to have buzz, and buzz online comes from conversation and posting links.

          It almost makes no difference who is doing the talking, just so long as those who are doing the talking have an audience. Expertise about the product isn’t required; it’s “authority” (in the internet sense) that counts.

          • 0 avatar
            EchoChamberJDM

            No difference doing the talking? Are you a shill for the United Union of Mommy Bloggers? Seriously, automakers take JD Power, Consumer Reports, and vetted journalists (Jim Healy at USA Today) as serious opinion leaders because they carry weight with customers. Mommy blogging does not sell cars, and carries no weight, even with other mommy bloggers, period. When was the last time someone walked into a showroom and said “I read Xenias post about the Fit and I want to buy one now!”. It doesn’t happen. This is a classic case of $$ wasted, based on some MBA 6 months out of B school saying “hey, if Procter and Gamble can do this to sell Tide, we should do it at Honda”. Fords “Fiesta Moment” campaign was a similar failure, although that campaign at least made an attempt to get the folks in the cars for an extended period of time to provide true observations about life in a Fiesta.
            If I was a stockholder in Honda Motor company I would be quite upset. Yes, its chump change, but if Honda does this for all cars, I question what other waste like this is going on? So much for their engineering roots.
            Take a look at GM, Joel Ewanik was fired for taking marketing stupidity to a new level. Honda and Acura are following the same path.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I’ve explained elsewhere why it works.

            Learn more about Google. And while you’re looking at Google, type in “search engine optimization” and learn more about building authority online. (Authority on the internet is not quite the same concept as it is in the “real world.”)

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Marketing is an easy punching bag for people with a more MORAL bias.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    If the Honda Fit really is good, I don’t see the problem with taking free loot while writing the good review.

    I’d rather read a review of a 70’s station wagon to be honest.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      The problem is not “taking the free loot while writing the good review.”

      The problem is taking the free stuff while writing a good review after essentially promising that you almost never write bad reviews.

      Subtle difference, but light years apart ethically…

  • avatar
    koreancowboy

    Did anyone even bother to verify whether or not Xenia’s story is actually true? Why would a major corporation throw thousands of dollars at a relatively-unknown mommy blogger to “review” the Fit?

    I would have found a more well-known MB to do it…but if the story’s legit, I can see why they would do it. Mommy bloggers wield a powerful presence on the interwebz…

  • avatar
    dantes_inferno

    On second thought, if mommy-blogging keeps those multitasking, SUV/Crossover/Minivan-driving individuals off the road, I’m all for it. Those aforementioned drivers scare the living $h1t out of me. That’s why I give them a wide path on the roadways as I exhibit a sense of urgency in getting the hell out of their way.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Well, I mean, who cares? All advertising for mass produced goods is lowest-common-denominator drivel. The Bell curve demands it. Mommyblogging is just the modern version of back-fence or stoop chattering from yesteryear after the traveling salesman stopped by.

    What puzzles me is that it’s a Honda as the subject of this “expose” and not, say, the Dodge Dart which sorely needs any help it can get and whose manufacturer is more solidly entrenched with the orange skin and neck-tat crowd.

    Or did I just solve my own puzzle? Honda knows it can’t rely forever on there being so many educated middle-classers.

  • avatar

    Xenia Galaviz reminds me of freeloader.

  • avatar
    LouisaP123

    It seems to me your issue is with Honda, not with this blogger.

    That said, I’m sure she is grateful for all of that traffic you’ve now sent to her blog. So, you know, good job there.

    I’m sorry it was such a slow week that the only think you could think of to write was this tear-down of someone you don’t even know.

    And frankly, the only person who comes across badly in this post is you and any of the subsequent commenters making personal digs at someone they’ve never met.

    This is a very common practice among bloggers and if you’re just now taking issue with it, you are way behind.

    • 0 avatar
      nrcote

      >>> This is a very common practice among bloggers
      >>> and if you’re just now taking issue with it,
      >>> you are way behind.

      Please tell us, are you:
      a) a blogger
      b) a friend of Xenia
      c) a shill for Honda
      d) all of the above

  • avatar
    deandorsey

    I saw all of Xenias tweets when I was looking for info from the first drives of the Fit. (searching with the “fitforyou” hashtag.) I found more talk about the hotel and the breakfast than the Fit.

    I felt the same way as Caroline, it’s funny seeing this post about it now.

    What made me sad however, was thinking about Jeff Palmer from “The Temple of Vtec” website being at this same event with these “mommy/daddy bloggers” (and sharing a day with Jo Borras apparently).

    Here’s a guy with more Honda knowledge than pretty much anyone, I wonder what goes through his head at these events.

    • 0 avatar

      I haven’t been to many press ride & drives but when I have gone to them, the attendees range from bloggers with a couple hundred pageviews a day to writers for the wire services and major newspapers.

      • 0 avatar
        EchoChamberJDM

        Ronnie – that’s exactly the problem. Dealers want the automaker to drive traffic and help sell cars. Respected journalists and bloggers that have an engaged audience (like TTAC) fit the bill. Mommy bloggers do not. Honda is screwing its dealers and stockholders by doing this. If the factory can’t market the car effectively, by wasting its ad dollars, then the dealer has to pick up the slack and advertise more…and who do you think covers that cost? It comes from the wallets of the people that buy the car.

        • 0 avatar
          LouisaP123

          Fine, but then the issue is with Honda and their agency. Not this blogger. I mean, she’s making fun of her NAME. What a crap thing to do. Just makes the whole thing seem mean, not credible, and catty. The tone is no better than the one she’s accusing the blogger of using.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            You do realize that articles like this are nothing more then click-bait for the benefit of the advertisers and the dollars they generate and will be forgotten about as soon as it slips off the first page.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            This bubblegum story has at least brought forth a young, intelligent *female* commenter I haven’t before seen.

            She’ll inevitably regard this place as a vomit puddle to be avoided, but till then the diversity is nice.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      >> What made me sad however, was thinking about Jeff Palmer from “The Temple of Vtec” website being at this same event with these “mommy/daddy bloggers” (and sharing a day with Jo Borras apparently).

      But “Temple of Vtec” reaches a difference audience than “mommy/daddy Bloggers”, and I can understand Honda trying to maximize spread. But yes, it’s is a sad state of affairs.

  • avatar
    MontereyClassics

    Lets talk about the big elephant in the room which hasn’t been addressed but should be pointed out. The disclosures these kind of bloggers are lacking. Look at their tweets where are the disclosures? FDA clearly points out if a blogger received a free item this includes trips they have to say so in EVERY post in social media. This was required the FDA since 2009 and in 2013 they slapped down and reminded bloggers that every social media mention must have it. See page A-17 http://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/attachments/press-releases/ftc-staff-revises-online-advertising-disclosure-guidelines/130312dotcomdisclosures.pdf. I don’t see any clear disclosures from this blogger and the bloggers who are her obvious friends who attend the same events. Take it further are these bloggers filing their freebies with the IRS I doubt it if they can’t simply follow easy to read FDA booklet of the do’s or don’ts.

    • 0 avatar
      EchoChamberJDM

      Monterey – excellent point, you mention the FDA, is this rule specially for pharma companies? Or did the FTC make it apply to any industry? If it applies to the car biz, who becomes the whistleblower to take on Honda marketing, or Xenia, for being complicit in the “get free schwag while Honda optimizes their SEO due to all the mommy bloggers posts” consipiracy? Methinks there is something nefarious afoot…….

      • 0 avatar
        ihatetrees

        While I consider this Xenia clown ethically challenged, she has every write to pimp her opinions – and to make whatever $$$ she can doing so. Just like a NY Times editor does.

        We do NOT need the G involved.

        Re: The FDA and its regs.
        I’m familiar with FDA regs (and earn a very good living dealing with them). I consider them a largely unnecessary tax on medical care that kill thousands per year.

        • 0 avatar
          EchoChamberJDM

          Trees – good point about the FDA. I took another look at the FTC regs that Monterey posted. Looks like Xenia and Honda (along with several other OEMs, their ad agencies, and fellow mommy bloggers) could be in violation of the required disclosures.
          If the FTC can fine a small used car dealership hundreds of thousands of dollars for disclosing fees in 6 point font, instead of the same font as the rest of the ad, I am certain they can go after Honda Motor and Xenia on this one. Duly warned….

          Guess we will have to wait for the next big investigation from Eric Holder!

  • avatar

    I wonder if there’s a singleblogger market? Offer to shill for free food and 944 parts? Haha, j/k. I couldn’t even FAKE being nice all the time.

    Excellent piece here. Honestly, I see why Honda went for a mommyblogger–it’s just the “no negative reviews” part that makes it so dirty. Either you have confidence in your product or you…find people who will only write nice things and pamper them Accord-ingly. Ugh.

    Mommybloggers speak to that vertical marketing group, though: non-car people who need basic transportation. There are two other “car people” in my department at ze day job, and it’s like we’re speaking a completely foreign language to everybody else when we get off on a car tangent. So, reaching out to people who speak that non-car-person language makes sense, even if that “I don’t ‘get’ cars, but I’m talking about them anyway” commentary usually makes my brain hurt.

    Really, though–selection is key. Find someone who’ll talk more about the subject matter than the pimpin’ press junket.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      >Honestly, I see why Honda went for a mommyblogger–it’s just the “no negative reviews” part that makes it so dirty.

      Exactly; right strategy, wrong execution. If we’ve learned anything from the last two years, it’s the Honda doesn’t have any cachet with the motoring enthusiast communty, and that being unhip does not correlate with a loss of sales. Translation: they’re advertising dollars are better spent outside of places like Jalopnik or Autoblog; from places on the web where people talk about cars to places where people will buy them. However, the execution in this case speaks for itself.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    Really?

    TTAC’s going to publish a call-out post about a Twitter flare-up and then center it on the theme of journalistic ethics and integrity?

    Am I the only one who sees incredible irony in this?

  • avatar

    I would also like to mention that Honda sure got its money worth out of this event because this is most attention its received about the Fit in, like, forever…

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Irrelevant blogger makes irrelevant comments about irrelevant car.

    Manual diesel brown wagon fanboy car website with literally dozens of followers calls her out for being a shallow dimwit.

    If I ever require the opinions of a “mommyblooger” to influence how I am going to spend over twenty thousand dollars of my own money, shoot me.

    BTW, what the hell happened to people having actual jobs to support their damn families? All it takes these days is to be outraged/indignant and an internet connection.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    You really showed her good!

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Face it. Except for Consumer Reports, every single auto review, including those on TTAC, are biased. But, you can’t blame Honda for trying to level the playing field. Detroit is an expert in getting marketing pieces published as car reviews in enthusiast magazines, in blogs, and even in consumer review comment sections. The foreign automakers are trying to perfect this special Detroit grown skill.

    Secondly, Detroit is fortunate the media has decided Detroit is good since Obama says so. Detroit has received a lot of unwarranted favorable press in the left leaning Obama loving media. For example, the so called GM ignition crisis is barely reported on the east coast. During the fake Toyota crisis, it was the top story daily for months.

    Also, Detroit has a hate for Consumer Reports because they can’t use money and relationships to change Consumer Reports into just another marketing arm of Detroit. Worse, CR tells it like it is … while Detroit had a few success, for the most part, Detroit is selling inferior vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      ” Except for Consumer Reports, every single auto review, including those on TTAC, are biased.”

      You’re kidding, right?

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      CR allows you to vote part of the board members in. I think some here and at AB would like to do the same.

      I just completed the annual survey and thought it was unethical to allow being contacted by email from CR without the survey being tainted.

      I’m still waiting for the mythical CR rear world test loop to be revieled. It is must be magical as no one knows what roads they use or the time of day.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      The media has been alive and well with GM recall mania on the East coast, jjjjimy… Maybe Fox is throwing a bone to the good capitalists of the country (whats good for GM is good for the country and all that) and downplaying it but I hear about it all the time…from a variety of sources….

  • avatar
    punkybrewstershubby aka Troy D.

    Have nothing to “ad” except, yawn.

  • avatar
    ThatMom

    Wait until Caroline finds out that half the mom bloggers on automotive junkets are paid.

  • avatar

    Ha! Frothy. :)

    To be fair, I’m ready to love Hondas in much the same, irrational way that I’m predisposed to love old Lancias and dislike Ford Mustangs built after my Fox-body and air-cooled Harleys built after, let’s say 1999. All the same, that 2015 Fit really is quite good- you go drive one. For $15K, it’s froth-worthy.

    :)

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    This is why I’m here.

    Seriously….. I remember a similar dust up from a few years ago with the Dodge Dart launch. Dodge did the same exact thing as Honda did here; they got bloggers to do “reviews” on the Dart using the same tactics employed here. One was a “sex blogger” and to be civil, but honest nonetheless, was a gal who would sleep with anybody just for the sake of her blog. That was one example. I remember it because legitimate automotive journalists were denied. Did it help the Dart, I think not….. true this type of stuff creates buzz; yes. Then it wears off. Then reality sets in. Again, witness the Dart launch.

    I get the fact that most people don’t really read magazines like we used to in the past when we buy cars….. BUT even so most people will still research before signing (I would hope!)or at least go with the “safe” choices such as the Camry, Accord, F150 ect…. even so I often see evidence stating otherwise… case in point the Jeep Wrangler.

    Jeep sells every single one that it makes. Most people see it as a lifestyle or statement vehicle….. without doing their homework…. and as such, it becomes their daily driver. “It looks cool!”,”it’s a convertible!” is often associated. That’s true, BUT the Wrangler IS NOT for everybody. Wranglers have a rough ride that can fatigue you, MPG is not the Wrangler’s forte, the brakes are ‘meh’ at best, it has an extremely high center of gravity…. I can go on….. BUT I did my homework before hand and I knew all of that. I love my ’12 Wrangler for all that it CAN do because I understand what it’s designed to do and use it for that reason. It isn’t hard finding a clean used Jeep around my area (San Diego) because people buy them, then get sick of them and trade them in, usually in 2 years or less. I know, because that’s how I got mine; somebody else took the depreciation hit for me and I took advantage of it. I honestly think I was the first to actually use the transfer case lever on mine.

    An informed opinion would have stated such for the Jeep- it’s not for everybody…. but a blogger- “OMG- it’s red!” or “I look great in it!” or what Caroline took aversion to; “thanks for the vacay!” Such is what you would typically see.

    Getting back on track, I actually am quite looking forward to a review from Caroline herself, as well as future articles. I’m glad somebody had the integrity to call BS…. well done Caroline.

  • avatar
    Xeranar

    I would have loved to have read the general support this post gets and I generally agree on issues of journalist propriety but this feels like a moment where Caroline took it upon herself to create a dust up then write about it. Not that this hasn’t been SOP for decades with any product the difference is now instead of offering Caroline, TTAC, Et al they’re trying to draw in people with social influence and no such propriety to peddle their wares.

    I agree it is shady and underhanded but taking it to a personal level seems pointless. The average car review has far less influence than one of these people promoting a vehicle or your family/friends suggesting it. But hey, you got a cool post about it! I’ll give credit, you know how to drive the eyeballs.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Interesting observation

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      This website has the name that it has because its founder Robert Farago wanted to distinguish it from The PR About Cars, which is what most automotive “journalism” is. He made points of talking directly about what was wrong with the cars (the original Subaru review that launched this place), the industry (his mostly-prescient GM Death Watch), and the faux-journalists who cover it (he was certainly among the first to provide full disclosure about the free junkets and to emphasize the potential for conflict of interest.)

      I suppose that the difference between Mr. Farago and myself in this regard is that he took personal affront to such things, whereas I accept them with the understanding that much of what passes for car journalism is merely a variation of spin. But in any case, this article comes closer to capturing the spirit of the original intent of this website than most.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I agree. This is certainly a “Classic TTAC” editorial. RF would write anti-junket pieces and call folks out for a lack of disclosure nearly every other week.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        I actually knew and understood TTAC shuns these benefits to claim propriety over their writings but the point is to be the complete opposite seems like your agenda is more based on the ideological leanings of your authorship than any semblance of honesty. Rather, if you all you do is decline all the benefits offered at the industry level to prove you’re not a sell out you’ve lost out on sources. It doesn’t mean you need to lie or suckle at the teat of any auto maker for a press car but to pretend you’re ‘above all that’ seems disingenuous because at the end of the day you’re going to be driven to find fault as that is an ascribed characteristic of the black sheep style journalism here.

        But I keep coming back…which says something about me though I read Motortrend and Road and Track as often as I can (though that is increasingly rare due to the workload).

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “if you all you do is decline all the benefits offered at the industry level to prove you’re not a sell out you’ve lost out on sources”

          It’s not a matter of “proving” anything. The contention is that taking gifts necessarily compromises the coverage.

          And it probably does. At the very least, it’s hard to be candid when you’re on the Christmas card lists of those who should be on the receiving end of the criticism.

          We even saw it here with the previous editor, who fawned breathlessly over the LFA, then wrote articles that either sounded like JAMA press releases or else stretched the truth to trash the competition. (And I say that as one who has a lot of respect for Toyota’s business practices and cars.)

          While I doubt that TMC paid him a penny or a yen to suck up, he may have believed (rightly or wrongly) that the aforementioned sucking up helped him to gain access that one might not otherwise have. That wasn’t journalism, that was advertorial and backscratching rolled into one, and there’s already an abundance of that elsewhere online. It’s good for someone to be the iconoclast.

  • avatar
    justacaligirl

    So if bloggers are given a product in exchange for a positive review, do they have to disclose that? Because if you read Raisedbyculture’s latest piece, its obvious she was given a free carseat from Evenflo in exchange for a positive review but her only disclaimer is a sentence saying “this is a paid campaign”. And as far as her credibility, she says safety is her number one priority yet her son who is under 2, is sitting in a forward facing carseat. She would have more credibility and I would take her review series if she followed the AAP recommendation of rearfacing until age 2.


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