If anyone in the universe qualifies as a “top” parenting writer, it’s Ann Douglas, a prolific author I’m proud to call a longtime friend. Ann has written quite a few very popular books, perhaps the best known of which is “The Mother of All Pregnancy Books.” In her column today for a Canadian newspaper, Ann explores the issue of what it means to be a “top mommyblogger,” interviewing such parent-blogging powerhouses as Catherine Connors of HerBadMother, Joanne Bamberger of PunditMom, and Dawn Friedman of This Woman’s Work.
Ann’s column is titled, “The Perils of Being a Top Momblogger,” and in it she asks Catherine, Joanne, Dawn and others what it has meant for them to be named to the various “Best Of” lists that rank the growing numbers of moms-who-blog. ( Side note: perhaps the most influential of these lists is the one published each year right here at Babble) .
As a personal blogger myself, I was really interested to dig into Ann’s column to find out what some of the mombloggers I admire most would say about what it’s like for them to be the best of the best within what has become an extremely influential, yet still independent woman-owned and operated media category. What I found was that these top mombloggers are both modest and ambivalent. Yes, even these super accomplished women – fantastic writers by absolutely any measure, and each of whom has singlehandedly cultivated meaningful online brands with engaged, loyal audiences of a size that would make many magazine publishers jealous – are somewhat conflicted. These smart, savvy bloggers are hesitant to be ranked against others within our own online community.
I totally understand this ambivalence. I get it 100 percent. Why? Because like the women quoted in Ann’s column, I see other mommybloggers (a rather ridiculous name for the genre, but one that I have ultimately decided to embrace rather than waste time and energy protesting) as part of my tribe, my community, my support system. These women are my friends and my inspiration every single day. I don’t view other other mommybloggers – any others – as “competition” in the same way magazines see other magazines, or commercial websites see other commercial websites competing for the same eyeballs and ad dollars.
In fact, those of us mamas who blog – whether or not we happen to make these “best of” lists- really aren’t in “competition” with one another in the same way an MBA student would understand business competition. Although we do operate within the same media category, we are part of a uniquely interconnected and highly organic ecosystem of relationships and conversations. The independent mommyblogosphere is a living example of how a “rising tide lifts all boats.” If one of us attracts a certain amount of traffic to our blog, and we link to another blog we like – or even to a blog post with which we may disagree that day – our traffic becomes that other blogger’s traffic, and so on and so on. That’s how it works. We depend on one another, and we like it that way.
We mommybloggers truly do represent a brand new media business model – one that significantly replicates the reach and power of offline personal relationships among women – friends, coworkers, sisters and neighbors. But therein lies a dilemma. When we aren’t competing with one another in the traditional, business-school sense of the word, does that set all of us up to be undervalued in the marketplace?
As Dawn Friedman notes in the comments below Ann’s column, there is a perception that the women making these “top momblogger” lists are earning enough money via their personal blogs alone (meaning, not counting other freelance writing gigs or other outside editorial work they may take on in addition to writing for their own blogs) to support or at least kind of support their families. And that’s simply not the case for most of us. Not even close. Obviously, there are a very few mommybloggers who are making a very good living doing what they do, but that’s not even close to happening for 99% of even the most popular women bloggers, including women who routinely attract hundreds of thousands of pageviews to their blogs each month.
Making this issue even trickier is the fact that women in general too often find it difficult to discuss money with other women. It’s hard to bring this rather delicate subject up, especially with women we consider colleagues and friends. So even among those of us who do sometimes make these “top mommyblogger” lists, none of us has a very good idea of what we should be earning from our own blogs, or what anyone else with the same general readership is actually making. Dawn notes in her comment that her personal blog – the one often ranked among the top mommyblogs – earns just about enough to pay for her family to eat out at a chain restaurant each month. That’s hardly the windfall that a lot of people probably imagine when they see the large and loyal audience that her blog has attracted.
In my own case, I would absolutely love to have the opportunity to sit down with other mommybloggers and lay it all out on the table with regard to how much our personal blogs are earning via ad revenue and other income opportunities. I know I am not alone among other mombloggers in that I honestly have no idea whatsoever whether I am earning a reasonable amount relative to my blog’s traffic. I know that it sure doesn’t seem like much when I look at what other types of online publications are charging for fewer pageviews than I am getting. Increasingly, I suspect that the very thing that makes the mommyblogging community so special and wonderful – our collaborative, supportive and non-competitive approach to what we do – is also the thing that is allowing more traditional business entities to take advantage of us – both individually and as a group.
While it’s undoubtedly flattering and fun to make one of the “top mommyblogger” lists, I look forward to a day when those accolades can somehow translate into the ability for the women who receive them to be fairly compensated for the pageviews and audience that they deliver, even as we continue to support and inspire one another in the same wonderful way that we always have.
So let’s start a conversation. Have you ever tried to guess how much the “top” mommybloggers are able to make via their personal blogs? Do you blog yourself? Do you feature ads on your blog or find other ways to monetize your blogging? Do you feel that you are being compensated fairly? Have you ever wished that you could have an honest conversation with other moms-who-blog about who is earning what and how? Talk about this delicate yet important issue facing mommybloggers in the comments below.
UPDATE: Catherine from Her Bad Mother takes a deep breath and dives head first into this tricky conversation among mommybloggers. Definitely go read what she has to say in her post on this subject.
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