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On Brands: Why Do You Read Dad Blogs?

I attended the amazing Dad 2.0 Summit in Austin recently and was thrilled to meet up with so many of the dads I read online.

It’s a funny thing about blog reading: I felt I knew so many of these guys already that the usual small talk — “So … what are your hobbies? Do you like gladiator movies? — was just unnecessary, and so we skipped straight ahead to parenting or alcohol or, yes exactly, Turkish prisons.

Beyond the social aspects of finally getting to meet so many of the bloggers I admire, I had a great time during the lively panel talks.

One of my favorite panels of the whole event was about who we, as dads, are writing for; who is our audience? The panel included Charlie from How to Be a Dad, Paul from GreatDad, Michael from The Spohrs are Multiplying, popular non-fiction writer and non-blogger A.J. Jacobs, and was moderated by the incredibly talented Lesbian Dad, Polly Pagenhart.

It’s no secret that most of the blog readers out there are women, and most of the panelists agreed that the vast majority of their readers were women, even though they are largely writing about traditional dad topics.

But that wasn’t what I found so interesting.

Someone brought up the idea of growing blogs — that is, turning them into the online juggernauts we see every now in then in Dooce or, say, The Pioneer Woman. There was a question about whether a dad blogger could achieve that level of inter-fame and how best to go about it. One said to write from the heart and to be yourself, tackling topics that are interesting to you and writing in such a way as to attract a large audience. Another said to avoid the controversy, to find a consistent voice to keep selling yourself as a “brand” — the (insert adjective here) guy, or whatever.

I really, really hope it’s not the latter. That is not why I read blogs at all.

I want the controversy. I want the foibles. I want the stories about being so disgustingly human and mistake-riddled that I can’t help but relate. I would wager that this is why many popular blogs are popular — not because they stick to a branded script but because these writers manage to go off-script and tell their personal stories, controversy be damned.

It seemed like an important time to hold this Dad 2.0 Summit as so many dad bloggers are struggling with the same issues mom bloggers dealt with years ago. How do I grow, how do I connect with consumer brands, how do I tell my story and make a living off of it, etc. etc. etc.

I read more than my fair share of blogs — more, I’d wager, than the average guy out there — and the ones I’m attracted to always about story, about personal voices rather than personality, if that’s a distinction that can be made. In other words, I think readers can see through someone who is trying to keep a phony persona for business purposes. I started reading blogs to find a circle of people like me — support as I began staying home with my daughter — and I am still drawn to those who tell honest stories and spill the beans on their lives. It may not be great for the bottom line, although I’d bet it is also that, but I think it’s at the heart of what the blog community is about.

What do you think? What are your favorite dad blogs and what attracts you to them?

Mike Adamick writes at the clusterfudge known as Cry It Out!

Previously

American Parents Are Suckers: The Book!

Things I Swore I’d Never Do As a Dad

Photo: Backacking Dad, who wrote a fantastic essay about dad blog audience years ago. You should read it.

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