Mumsnet

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Not to be confused with the similar Netmums.
Mumsnet
logo
Web address mumsnet.com
Slogan By parents for parents
Registration Optional
Available in English
Owner Mumsnet Limited
Launched January 2000
Current status Online

Mumsnet is the UK's largest website for parents, offering brands the chance to influence women via high-profile sponsored discussions and other forms of interaction. It has 4.8 million monthly unique visitors and 60 million monthly page views.[citation needed] It hosts discussion forums where users share peer-to-peer advice and information on parenting, products and many other issues. Mumsnet also has a Bloggers Network with 5,000 registered bloggers and a network of 180 local sites run in partnership with local editors.

History[edit]

Mumsnet was the brainchild of Justine Roberts who came up with the idea of a website to help parents pool information and advice following a disastrous first family holiday with her one-year old twins. Once back in the UK, Roberts persuaded friends Carrie Longton and Steven Cassidy to help her build the site that is now regarded as one of the most influential women's sites in the UK.[1] In November 2009, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, opposition leader David Cameron and many leading ministers took part in live webchats with Mumsnet users.

Mumsnet's 10th birthday party was hosted by Google UK at their London headquarters in March 2010. Guests included Ed Miliband and Steve Hilton, and both the then-Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and his wife Sarah Brown gave speeches. Gordon Brown referred to Mumsnet as one of the great British institutions.[2] Mumsnet launched a site aimed at grandparents, Gransnet, on 5 May 2011.[3]

Roberts, CEO, was named in the Media Guardian's 2010 power 100.[4] In February 2013 Roberts and Co-founder, Carrie Longton, were assessed as the 7th most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.[4]

In May 2011 Roberts founded Gransnet,[5] a sister site to Mumsnet for the over-50s.

Media[edit]

In November 2009 newspaper articles spoke of the forthcoming UK general election as "the Mumsnet election",[6][7][8] in part because mothers were regarded by politicians as key floating voters and online forums were seen as arenas in which their votes could be courted.[9] The then prime minister[10][11] and the leader of the opposition [12][13] appeared on the website's webchats in quick succession, and this was widely reported. The site faced a barrage of publicity, not all of it favourable.[14][15] Others have been dismissive of the importance of the site to politicians, suggesting Mumsnet users comprise a relatively narrow demographic. Toby Young argued that the site is full of Guardian readers and "peopled exclusively by university-educated, upper-middle-class women who are only "swing voters" in the sense that they swing between voting Labour, Lib Dem and Green".[16]

Mumsnet has become a popular resource for journalists, and discussions on the message boards have been cited in the press. Users of the site have sometimes felt that reproduction of Mumsnet discussions in the press is unwelcome, and the Daily Mail's regular "This Week on Mumsnet" column generated controversy on the site in September 2009.[17]

[edit]

As well as traditional advertising space around the edges of the talkboard, Mumsnet sells to advertisers the opportunity to populate the talkboard with discussions that act as product placement. Some of these are sponsored "Q&A" threads relevant to products being marketed; others are "product tests" where site users offer feedback about a product after being given free samples.Very often, though, sponsored threads just offer a lighthearted or humourous question to provoke chat that is related to a product and which keeps the product name prominent in the site's list of conversations. This kind of advertorial content makes the site function in much the same way as the old-style "Tupperware party": women's social networks and conversation spaces are adapted to become a marketplace in which social bonds serve economic purposes.

Webchats[edit]

The site has hosted webchats with celebrities and politicians, including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose apparent failure under persistent (if ironic) questioning to reveal his favourite biscuit[10] was cited in some quarters as evidence of a perceived indecisiveness.[18] Roberts later explained that the question had not in fact been put to him.[19] Prime Minister David Cameron was challenged over the provision of free nappies for disabled children[20] and UKIP leader Nigel Farage told Mumsnetters that a UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom was "100% right" to say that "no self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age."[21]

Jamie Oliver, Dawn French, Gok Wan and Clare Balding have all also taken part in Mumsnet webchats.[22]

Mumsnet books[edit]

Mumsnet has published several parenting books, based largely on the advice posted by the site's users since its launch in June 2000. These are Pregnancy: The Mumsnet Guide (2009),[23] Toddlers: The Mumsnet Guide (2009)[24] and Babies: The Mumsnet Guide (2010).[25] Their latest publication is The Mumsnet Rules[26] which was published in 2011.

Lawsuit[edit]

In April 2006, lawyers acting for "childcare guru" and former maternity nurse Gina Ford contacted Mumsnet, when some of the bulletins shifted from discussing Gina Ford's methods and advice to making personal attacks on her and her family. Her lawyers claimed that she was being libelled on a regular basis and requested immediate removal of the posts in question. After 12 months of discussion Mumsnet settled the dispute by apologising publicly to Gina Ford and making a contribution to her legal costs.[27] In November 2010, Mumsnet co-founder Justine Roberts wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron, urging reform of the draft Defamation Bill to address the rise of online publication.[28][29]

Campaigns[edit]

Mumsnet has initiated several national campaigns, and publicly supports a number of causes related to parenting.

In response to forum users' experience with care and support in the NHS for miscarried pregnancies, Mumsnet launched its Campaign for Better Miscarriage Care;[30] the campaign proposes a series of recommendations for improvement of the treatment of miscarrying parents in the Mumsnet Miscarriage Code of Care,[31] which was drawn up in consultation with its users.

In January 2010, the site launched its Let Girls Be Girls campaign. The campaign challenged retailers to ensure that they did not contribute to the premature sexualisation of children through their products and marketing.[32] In December 2010 Let Girls Be Girls was extended, and called for an end to the display of 'Lads' Mags' in children's view. This received the support of the main UK magazine retailers, with the exception of WHSmith.[33]

In January 2011 Riven Vincent, a regular Mumsnet user with a severely disabled child, received widespread media attention after posting on the site about her despair in the face of local budget cuts.[34][35][36] In response to Ms Vincent's plight, Mumsnet launched its Respite Care campaign, which calls on local authorities to provide adequate short breaks for families with disabled children.[37]

In June 2013 the site launched a campaign to end sales representatives on maternity wards,[38] following numerous complaints of bad practice and a user survey which found that 82% found it unacceptable for commercial companies to access new mothers on hospital wards. The campaign called on members to write to their local NHS Trusts and MPs, as well as to share their stories of run-ins with sales reps. In response a number of NHS Trusts across the UK cancelled or revised their contracts with commercial companies and over 75 MPs signed an Early Day Motion calling for a ban on sales reps in wards.[39]

In August 2013 the site launched an awareness-raising campaign This Is My Child,[40] which aimed to support parents of children with additional needs by opening up a conversation about how the general public can help to make the lives of those caring for children with additional needs easier. The site produced a myth-busting guide to additional needs for the public; supporting material produced by its users and partner organisations (Mencap, Contact A Family and Every Disabled Child Matters); and hosted a series of blogs and webchats on parenting a child with additional needs.

Criticisms[edit]

In March 2012 Fathers4Justice launched a campaign highlighting Mumsnet's alleged anti-male agenda. The campaign included a naked protest at Marks and Spencer, one of Mumsnet's advertisers, with the protestors stating it was an attempt to draw attention to the "naked truth" that Mumsnet promotes gender hatred. Matt O'Connor from the organisation argued "When you look at the language being used in some of these forums, you can see how unacceptable it would be if it was aimed towards other races or sexualities, but it seems to be widely accepted against men."[41] Mumsnet's founder Justine Roberts rejected the criticism, stating "The central aim of Mumsnet is to make parents' (mothers' and fathers') lives easier. There are many and varied opinions on the site and no one Mumsnet party line prevails, save for the view that we respect diverse opinion."[42]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "When Mumsnet Speaks Politicians Listen". The BBC. 20 January 2011. 
  2. ^ "Power of Mumsnet grows as Gordon Brown hails it as a 'great British institution'". The Telegraph. 12 April 2011. 
  3. ^ "Wake up to a new dawn of Grey Power'". The Telegraph. 5 May 2011. 
  4. ^ a b BBC Radio 4, Woman's Hour Power list
  5. ^ Metro, Mumsnet Goes Grey As It Launches Gransnet
  6. ^ "Politicians woo 'Mumsnet' generation". BBC London News. 18 February 2010. 
  7. ^ "Parties set sights on mums in the Mumsnet election". The Times. 3 April 2010. 
  8. ^ "Mumsnet set to wield real clout in the election campaign". The Scotsman. 9 March 2010. 
  9. ^ Pidd, Helen (18 November 2009). "Queen's Speech gets the Mumsnet treatment: Mumsnetters are being described as the next election's swing voters. So what did they make of the Queen's Speech?". The Observer (London). 
  10. ^ a b "Brown takes break in biscuit quiz". BBC News website. 17 October 2009. 
  11. ^ "Prime Minister is scraping the barrel with biscuit silence, claim mothers". The Times. 17 October 2009. 
  12. ^ "David Cameron answers questions on Mumsnet - live". The Guardian. 19 November 2009. 
  13. ^ "David Cameron blames Mumsnet webchat delays on laptop". BBC News website. 19 November 2009. 
  14. ^ Lewis, Jemima (12 May 2009). "Mumsnet knows no mercy - and not just for Ed Miliband". London: Telegraph. 
  15. ^ Chalmers, Sarah (27 November 2009). "I hate Mumsnet: Why one mum thinks the parenting website is smug, patronising and vicious". Daily Mail (London). 
  16. ^ "Mumsnet isn't representative of the 'squeezed middle'. It's just a bunch of Guardian-reading, laptop-wielding harpies". The Daily Telegraph (London). 17 March 2011. 
  17. ^ Mumsnet Talk - Please vote in our "What do you think about the On Mumsnet This Week column in the Daily Mail?" poll Mumsnet
  18. ^ Lewis, Jason (18 October 2009). "Biscuitgate: After 24 hours of dithering Gordon Brown finally confesses his favourite dunk". The Daily Mail (London). 
  19. ^ Biscuitgate and what it really tells us about the Gordon Brown and more importantly, the meedja Mumsnet
  20. ^ David Cameron fails to impress as he braves Mumsnet questioning
  21. ^ "UKIP leader Nigel Farage undergoes Mumsnet grilling". BBC News website. 24 February 2011. 
  22. ^ Mumsnet live webchats | Mumsnet Discussion
  23. ^ Pregnancy: The Mumsnet Guide
  24. ^ Toddlers: The Mumsnet Guide
  25. ^ Babies: The Mumsnet Guide
  26. ^ The Mumsnet Rules
  27. ^ "Gina Ford accepts five-figure sum over libel claim on Mumsnet site". The Times. 10 May 2007. 
  28. ^ "Mumsnet founders demand libel law reform". The Telegraph. 19 November 2010. 
  29. ^ Open letter to David Cameron Mumsnet
  30. ^ [1] Mumsnet
  31. ^ [2] Mumsnet
  32. ^ Let Girls Be Girls Mumsnet
  33. ^ Lads' mags campaign Mumsnet
  34. ^ "'David Cameron has let parents of disabled kids down'". BBC News website. 2 March 2011. 
  35. ^ "When Mumsnet speaks, politicians listen". BBC News website. 20 January 2011. 
  36. ^ "Riven Vincent's despair over social care cuts signals depth of misery ahead". The Guardian. 23 January 2011. 
  37. ^ Respite Campaign Mumsnet
  38. ^ Mumsnet: Bounty campaign homepage http://www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/bounty-reps-campaign-index
  39. ^ EDM 319 - sales reps on marketing wards. 79 signatures (11 September 2013) http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/319
  40. ^ Mumsnet: This Is My Child campaign homepage http://www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/this-is-my-child
  41. ^ Fathers 4 Justice Stage Naked Mumsnet Protest in Marks & Spencer Oxford Street - International Business Times
  42. ^ Statement Mumsnet

External links[edit]