A few months ago Pam Penick Emailed the past organizers of the garden bloggers flings asking for our opinions of where we thought garden blogging was heading as she prepared to give a
This week Proven Winners announced a new project where they hired a few garden bloggers to write for a new blog of theirs. Almost immediately I started to hear grumbles about it and who was chosen. Then I jumped on Facebook and saw a conversation there by independent garden center owners. Now, you should know a bit of back story here. Proven Winners used to be the brand of the IGCs, but has now expanded and can be found at big box retailers and this doesn’t sit well with some IGC owners who feel that PWs isn’t dancing with the ones who brought them. So whenever PW comes up in situations like the Garden2Blog event some of the IGC guys are never happy. The conversation was playing out like it did last time, IGC thought that garden bloggers shouldn’t be aligning themselves with a big box brand and it was all kind of boring. Then Anna “Flower Garden Girl” Looper joined the group and dropped a bomb that was sending shockwaves out for a couple of days.
According to Anna, a year ago she wrote a negative review of a PW plant. This summer the post with her review started getting a lot of contrarian comments by “prominent” garden bloggers. Anna says she was surprised that so many prominent bloggers, who never comment on her blog, were showing up on a year-old post so she did some investigating. Again, according to Anna, the comments that showed up were orchestrated by Danielle, whom you may recognize if you’re on Twitter, Facebook or get plant samples from PW like I did last year, at Proven Winners after she Email some garden bloggers asking them to go comment on Anna’s post and apparently some did. Furthermore, she feels like she was asked to remove the post and that she was threatened with being removed from the free plant samples because of her negative review. As proof of her claims she provided the group with a screen grab of an Email between her and Danielle and of a garden blogger who lends credit to her claim that they were sent there to comment by Danielle. Because the conversation is so long on Facebook I’ll give you screen grabs of her initial comment that started it all and the two Emails she provided, but you can read her original negative plant review here and the follow-up both of which tell the story she's been sharing on Facebook. She has redacted the name of the blogger who Emailed her and says she unpublished the astroturfing comments to "protect" the bloggers. Proven Winners or Danielle haven’t replied directly to Anna on the Facebook group, but in a message exchange on Twitter Danielle told me that it is all a big misunderstanding. I’ll provide what I’ve seen and let you all be the judge.
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That a company was using garden bloggers to troll another blogger is a very disturbing allegation, but not really all that surprising. This latest example of garden blogger “drama” just lends credence to my beliefs that garden blogging is circling the drain of mommy blogs and the thoughts I shared earlier with Pam. I’m not surprised, not even disappointed in PWs. What is surprising about all of this is that garden bloggers, out of some sense of misplaced loyalty went and commented on the negative review after being asked. It’s one thing to counter a negative comment on a blog if you are an employee of a company, but garden bloggers aren’t employees of companies just because they get free stuff from them.
Several people online have asked Anna to republish the comments by the astroturfers, but she has refused. I don’t agree with her decision to protect garden bloggers from their own stupidity and hope she reconsiders in a sign of transparency since she’s so willing to talk about her interaction with PWs and even provide Emails. Fair is fair. Lots of people online are trying to figure out who these hacks are and many of us have our theories considering that the issue of Garden2Blog was brought up and there are questions of whether or not Anna is acting out because of hurt feelings of not being invited on the all-expense-paid junket. Out of curiosity I asked Anna on Twitter if any of the recently hired garden bloggers who are now working for Proven Winners were among the astroturfers on her blog. She tweeted back: “there is at least one maybe two. i probably will not rat them out as that would cause war on the garden scene front.”
She’s basically responded the same way on Facebook to similar requests. Anna seems to be afraid of retaliation which I think is silly. If people who never commented on your blog went there to discredit you because they were asked by a company what are you really losing? What can they do, take you off of a free plant sample list? Not read your blog? Not invite you on junkets and dinners? This is a mentality of garden bloggers that needs to end. Keeping quiet about what happens to you because you’re “afraid” or don’t want to rock the boat, lose what social standing you think you have does nobody in this niche (profession?) any good. Tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may.
Silence is complacency and by remaining quiet you give people like this power over you and power to behave in the same manner in the future because they know the next person will stay quiet too.
Garden blogging has been inundated these past few years by attention hoes, social media "gurus" and "savants", sycophants, and greed. It has taken a turn for the worst-at least on social media. What used to be about gardening and connecting with fellow gardeners is now about who is the most popular and who is getting paid to pretend like they’re popular. Companies are desperate to connect with influencers in gardening and it seems like some are failing. I have thoughts on this too which I may blog about later or just use to develop a presentation on the subject.
I’ve been struggling with the idea of shutting down my own garden blog because of a lot of this. While my blog isn’t written for other garden bloggers, I need to spend time on social media sites to reach the non-gardeners that I want to reach and connect with. The more time I spend on social media sites watching the parade of the ridiculousness that garden blogging is morphing into, the less time I want to spend actually writing about my gardening endeavors. I think I’ve decided that the biggest problem for me is trying to keep tabs on what’s going on in the garden blogging world in an effort to add content to this blog. So, I’m officially announcing that this domain, www.GardenBloggers.com, is up for sale. Unlike so many garden bloggers, social media gurus, and professional writers in this niche the domain won’t come cheap. Being the trend spotter that I am I registered this domain back in ‘07 before there was a garden blogger bandwagon to jump on. At the time I had a grand vision for its use that I’ve not been able to fulfill because I lack the time and resources. A large company could certainly pull it off as part of their swallowing up garden bloggers as “brand ambassadors.” Buy the domain and I’ll give you the idea at no extra cost. So, how about it Proven Winners? P. Allen Smith? Fiskars? Maybe Martha Stewart? A site devoted to garden bloggers would compliment many of your existing outreach campaigns. I’ll even sell out to Scott’s or Kraft. Leave me a message on my about page over at my garden blog.
1)In case you missed my disclosure above this year I got a box of plant samples from Proven Winners. If they officially in the thread on Facebook where this is all happening I'll add their reply here too.
2)Colleen has written a wonderful post about garden bloggers and freebies that garden bloggers and companies would benefit from reading.
3)It was SXSWi not TED.
4)*Not words that can actually be found in Pam's mouth.
5)LOL. I just saw this article come across my Twitter feed. "Why ratting out may be a good thing." See, even rats know to help each other out.
6) For those who can understand the point of the post: It's sad that the issues I've raised here, about the where garden blogging is headed, leads to people quitting their blog. But it is happening. Don't believe me? See Jenn's reaction to the post.
7) ZanthanGardens thinks the root of competitive garden blogging go back to Blotanical. I don't use the site so I'm not sure what about it engenders competition, but I trust the instinct of this garden blogger.
8)See the comment by Colleen in response to the Tweet by ZanthanGardens where she talks about The Mouse and Trowel Awards.