Blogging’s Glass Ceiling, Or Why Baby Poop Don’t Get No Respect
A Sunday NYT piece about the BlogHer convention begins,
FOR two days last week, many of the men’s bathrooms at the Westin St. Francis Hotel here were turned into women’s bathrooms. The stalls on the second floor were lined with note cards featuring nurturing messages like “You are perfect.” Nearby, women were being dusted with blush and eye shadow, or having the kinks in their necks massaged.
There was a lactation room, child care, and onesies for sale emblazoned with the words “my mom is blogging this.” No doubt they were.
In which section would you think this story would appear? If you guessed “Fashion and Style,” you’re a much more astute judge of the newspaper trade than Erin Kotecki Vest, the political director at BlogHer.com and mommy blogger at Queen of Spain.
Perhaps, with all the talk of us being “…a corporate-sponsored Oprah-inflected version of a ’60s consciousness-raising group” they missed the part about 36 million of us taking over as power-users of the web while raising our children and supporting our families.
Perhaps, I need to remind or at the very least provide some additional information that may or may not affect the future placement of a piece on women bloggers.
Women are outnumbering men on the web.
Women control .83cents of every household dollar spent. That means from buying a lawnmower to buying laundry detergent, women hold the purse strings.
Women have been turning off DayTime television and canceling their subscriptions to ‘female’ based magazines in favor of going online.
Yet when we get together yearly to learn from one another on the business and practices of blogging, the NYT sees fit to discuss us in the same breath as “what women are wearing on their feet this summer.”
But this wasn’t a feature on the business of blogging. That story’s so 2005. The short answer is that there’s not much money in blogging unless you’re leveraging a major network. (More on that latter.) No, this was a freelance piece from Kara Jessella, a former beauty editor for Teen Vogue and the co-editor of How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time.
Indeed, as Digby notes while also complaining about the story’s placement,
This story doesn’t delve deeply into any stories about those women who attended the convention who are successful, what kinds of blogs make money, how they do it, why some work and some don’t. Instead it took a snide tone about female bloggers as if they are some bizarre, trivial subculture of lactating zombies who bitch and moan all the time.
And it contains such insights as,
Blogging has come a long way from its modest beginnings. These days, there is money to be made, fame to be earned and influence to be gained. And though women and men are creating blogs in roughly equal numbers, many women at the conference were becoming very Katie Couric about their belief that they are not taken as seriously as their male counterparts at, say, Daily Kos, a political blog site. Nor, they said, were they making much money, even though corporations seem to be making money from them.
We’ve got a strange juxtaposition, with these women simultaneously trumpeting that they control 85 percent of the money and all of the dominate the Internet and yet whining about how hard it is to make a buck. Let me assure you, ladies, that very few bloggers are making much money. It’s a gig with absurdly low barriers to entry and with fierce competition for eyeballs.
You want to get the respect of DailyKos? Well, put together the biggest political blog on the planet, raise a ton of money for political candidates, and write about things people care about. Want a hint? This ain’t it:
I’m listening to my mother and my brother discuss my daughter, and I can’t decide if I am thrilled or offended.
“She’s going to give you a run for your money.”
“She’s going to be the wild child.”
“The life of the party, breaking all the rules.”
“Battle of the wills. My money is on Princess Peanut- Erin, you’re going down.”
[Photo of Princess Peanut redacted]
I just kept on slicing eggplant at the counter while they went on and on and on.
Needless to say the past few days with my 3-year old have been…let’s call them trying.
That’s the lede to the most recent post on Kotecki’s blog not whining about the coverage of BlogHer. A quick scan of the site indicates that this is pretty much what every post is about. Now, this is fine. It’s an online diary of the frustrations of motherhood that presumably has some value as an outlet. Maybe other frustrated mothers of toddlers can find some comfort in seeing they’re not alone. But it’s not going to land you in the Politics section or draw comparisons with Edward R. Murrow.
“It’s disheartening and frustrating,” said Allison Blass, a BlogHer attendee whose personal blog at www.lemonade-life.com is about living with Type 1 diabetes.
Some non-diary bloggers were mentioned in the piece, too, including one very familiar name:
Other prominent female bloggers who did not attend the BlogHer conference agreed that there are unique challenges that women in the blogosphere face. “Women get dismissed in ways that men don’t,” said Megan McArdle, an associate editor at The Atlantic Monthly who writes a blog about economic issues.
And they draw interest in ways men don’t. But getting paid to blog by one of the most prestigious magazines around? That’s pretty rare. Megan’s doing it. She’s taken seriously enough to have been given that platform by a really unorthodox scheme: She got a first class education (UPenn undergrad, Chicago MBA) and wrote for next to nothing on a well regarded blog until she got a break, first writing for the Economist and then the Atlantic.
Then there’s Kate McMillan, whose small dead animals is the most popular political blog in Canada. Unless she’s got some funding source of which I’m unaware, she’s still supporting herself with her day job as a graphic artist. The dirty little secret is that even respected, popular sites generally don’t make much money.
There are dozens of superb writers out there writing about important topics in unique ways, drawing a very respectable following, who aren’t making a lot of money at it. There are only a handful who are making the mad blog bucks.
Most money in blogging comes in much the same way that it does in the rest of the media: by either cornering a niche and getting lucky or by putting together capital, starting a network, and hiring others to do the writing. The only mommy blog I’m really familiar with is Heather Armstrong’s Dooce. I presume she’s doing well with it financially. Nick Denton’s Gawker sites are, one suspects, doing fine. Quite a few celebrity gossip sites also do well — and handful, extraordinarily so — simply because of the massive search traffic they can generate.
And Stacy McCain is right: When the NYT devotes column inches to your project, have the good grace not to whine about which section it’s in.