I'm sorry, Mumsnet charges writers and actors or their publishers and producers for the privilege of providing content for its website? I shouldn't have been shocked. The logical next step after asking writers to write for nothing because they get valuable 'exposure' is to demand that they pay for their valuable exposure.
This story of how a writer discovered that one of the UK's biggest websites is blurring the line between editorial and commercial content so thoughrly that there is, essentially, no difference is eye-opening:
I have to say that when I visited her site it was not immediately clear to me what features Mumsnet was puffing because writers or publishers had paid Roberts to puff. Even if Mumsnet openly admitted that it was promoting a film or book, not because they thought it was worthwhile, but because Roberts had been paid to promote it, a deeper problem would remain. If it gives prominence to people who can afford to work for nothing or to pay for space, it will deny prominence to those who cannot. If others follow suit, and I am sure they will, writing in Britain will become a self-indulgent racket run by and for the wealthy.
There are some parts of traditional media's working practices that deserve to die in the digital transition. Its sense of ethics around paid, commercial content is most certainly not one of them.
UPDATE: That said, is it as bad as that?
Here's Mumsnet's response:
I'm struggling to see how you can accurately and fairly headline your piece as Mumsnet Racketeers? What kind of illegal business is going on here? We didn't offer you a fee to have an online chat with our users (who don't pay to come on the site). I don't remember the Spectator or Guardian ever offering to pay me for an interview. It's a hugely misleading, horribly unfair and damaging headline - plus it's being retweeted everywhere by outraged journalists believing we are charging our online interviewees. Would you have another look at it, please?
You can read the whole thing in this thread about the original article.