What The Dooce/HGTV Deal Means For Us

by anna on January 24, 2010

If you watch the goings on of the bloggerati as closely as I do, then you have probably heard by now about Heather Armstrong’s content partnership with HGTV that was announced on Friday. The terms of the deal are somewhat unclear (e.g. what does “development deal” and “convergence programming” mean?), but there’s no question that this is a big move — for Dooce View definition in a new window, but also for the rest of the blogging community.

Now, listen. This pissed me off. I’m not going to lie to you. It pissed me off almost as much as finding out that Momversation had been nominated for a blogging award (psst: Momversation is a commercial, people). In turn, I got even more angry with myself for letting something like this bother me, since I don’t even watch HGTV and I don’t want to be on TV myself (except perhaps to test out my weight loss theories). I suppose we can trace my weakness here to the fact that there are still, even for me, those days in which I feel like the responsible older sibling who is fed up with the prodigal sibling’s tantrums being met with reward instead of censure. But this is the world that we live in, folks: Jay Leno gets the Tonight Show, an inexperienced Republican gets Ted Kennedy’s seat, and Dooce gets HGTV.

We will not let this make us into cynics. Er, we won’t allow this to make us more cynical. Enough! of this wallowing, I say, because we are here to grow our businesses, and we don’t do that by sulking. No! We shall pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and figure out how to make this HGTV move work for us and not just for the Armstrong Dynasty. And this is why I say that, upon reflection, I think we should all applaud this move, regardless of how we feel about Dooce, because whenever a blogger moves into another form of mainstream media, the scope of the blogosphere’s influence expands and brings along with it opportunity for everyone. So, brava! But you’re probably still wondering what this deal means, exactly, and what kind of opportunity it could bring for anyone else. So here’s what I’ve worked out so far.

  1. They Are Going To Pay For Dooce To Fix Up Her House, And Then Film Her Doing It.
    What, exactly, will Dooce will be doing with HGTV? Well, she says “I have signed an exclusive development deal with HGTV,” and they say that her “exclusive programming development deal” will involve her working with “HGTV’s online and on-air production teams to create innovative convergence programming for the network.” So what does all this corporate PR bullshit speak mean? My guess is that “convergence programming” means content that exists where the worlds of “online” and “on TV” meet — i.e. webisodes of Dooce and her family and all the zany madcap adventures they have.

    .

    Though a cursory review of the materials released by HGTV and Dooce suggest that she’s going to be some kind of creative consultant, I think this is deliberately misleading because the value that Dooce offers HGTV is the audience she brings and her ability to bolster their online presence and credibility. It isn’t that they cannot find creative consultants with penchants for Charley Harper and Target elsewhere. Besides, you don’t need a press release to hire a new creative consultant: you send out a press release to notify people of a new on-air personality. And you don’t put Heather Armstrong View definition in a new window in the capacity of hosting a show (please cf. her appearances on The Bonnie Hunt show, Oprah, and Dr. Phil for why you don’t do this) — you use her to create content. The only content she creates concerns her life at home. Ergo, this partnership means that HGTV is going to pay the Armstrongs to fix up their house and film them doing it. (Here’s my suggestion for the first project they might tackle.)

  2. Dooce Wants To Be A TV Personality. In the HGTV press release, Heather Armstrong says that she has been “looking to grow [her] business beyond its online presence, and having been approached by other media brands before [she] can confidently say that that there is no better partner than HGTV to help [her] take this step.” What does “growing her business” beyond its online presence mean, given that she’s already published a book? Unless she has some hidden desire to be a radio personality, it has to mean TV or movies. The only content she creates is about her family and her dogs, so I am thinking a full-fledged television reality show cannot be far behind, unless she wants to make a movie based on her life.
  3. Whether She Succeeds Or Fails, This Leads To More Deals With Other Bloggers. There’s no question that Dooce is good at what she does. But she doesn’t have a huge range, kids: there are only so many objects to balance on a dog’s head, and only so many husband/children/appliances about which to complain in all caps. A great run for a sitcom is 7 years, and even if Dooce manages to milk that out of the arachnophobia of her children, other companies will be looking to use bloggers in similar capacities for their own brands. And if the show doesn’t work, this still another experiment in how bloggers can be used as brand representatives, and as more companies do this, there will be more deals to be had, more advertising opportunities for other bloggers, more of a presence of blogging in the popular imagination, et cetera.
  4. Whether She Succeeds Or Fails, This Means More Bloggers And More Blog Readers. The mainstream population still does not read blogs or understand blogging as a business model, which means there is a huge audience out there waiting to find out about our blogs and how great they are. The inclusion of a blogger in any capacity on television increases our visibility with the mainstream population. Regardless of who the blogger is, the good news is that this will lead to more blogs being started and more blogs being read, more eyeballs for us.
  5. Whether She Succeeds Or Fails, This Is Part Of A Gentrification Of The Blogosphere. Think of the blogosphere in the early days as being like the meatpacking district of NYC in the late 70s: it was still a very industrial and largely abandoned landscape, despite the fact that a few shady characters were starting to set up shop in the abandoned factories, and a few trannies were turning tricks on street corners late at night. But then, you find out that a few gay couples have bought up some properties because they could get a lot of space, cheap, and they’re fixing things up. Next thing you know, there’s a bunch of converted lofts and they’ve opened up a few Starbucks, and before you know it, you’ve been priced out of the neighborhood and are happy to rent a broom closet in an apartment that now sells for $2.5 million. This is online property we’re talking about, of course, but the amount of time and effort you put in to your property has a lot to do with its value: as more people come into the market, your property value increases proportionately.

I will be watching this move with impatience, and not wholly disinterested motives. Go forth, ye Armstrongs, with your new media adventure. I will be here to write about it.

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{ 48 comments }

1
The Mayor January 24, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Let’s see if I understand you. It might be like something like Kate plus 8?
Dooce Designs Despite Lack of Taste-an Inspirational Tale of Remodeling. That could probably be a mini series.

Observation:She’s going to be at a severe loss when that dog dies. She better start looking for a doppelganger for Chuck soon.

2
anna January 25, 2010 at 8:16 am

@The Mayor, yeah, I think it’s headed toward a Jon and Kate situation. This is just my guess, though, and I do think that they will try to center it around doing home improvement stuff, at least at first.

3
Susie July 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm

“Observation:She’s going to be at a severe loss when that dog dies. She better start looking for a doppelganger for Chuck soon.”

I think Chuck has been replaced by Marlo. I wonder what she is going to do once Marlo is past that adorable baby chub phase. Probably have another one to exploit.

4
Julie January 24, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Thank you for this brave post. Obviously, no one should be afraid to be speak critically about Dooce and yet…. Kudos to you for saying what so many of us are thinking and articulating it so well.

I, too, read her press release with equal parts curiousity and concern. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

5
anna January 25, 2010 at 8:17 am

Thanks, Julie.

6
The Mayor January 24, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Also, you are right on about that bathroom mis-remodel I totally missed dissing before.

I stopped checking in on Dooce shortly after her 2nd pregnancy. I’ve already had 6 kids and I couldn’t bare reading about hers ad nauseum. Oh yeah, then I found out that Dooce invented natural childbirth (kind of like Al Gore inventing the internet thing).

7
anna January 25, 2010 at 8:18 am

I still read Dooce because I figure there must be something I can learn there, with all the attention and opportunities she gets. Sometimes this is easier to tease out than others, though.

8
Heather January 24, 2010 at 8:49 pm

I actually rolled my eyes when I read that she had signed a deal. I dunno, call me..well, a nasty piece of whatever but I’m actually really sick of her. I have as much use for her as I do Kate Gosselin (that woman has absolutely nothing constructive to say to the world). It could just be me but I all her blog posts are bragging about something. Hey, all the power to her for making a business out of her blog, but I don’t appreciate the tone of the writing. There is this…underlying sense of entitlement for her accomplishments. And the utter mockery and disrespect she uses towards others at times. I am a big fan of HGTV but I can honestly I can’t see myself watching the show. It could bring more blog readers, but if you are a hardcore tv fan, you are not likely to just go read blogs. It’s a completely different audience you are catering too. If anything, it will be her fans watching.

9
anna January 25, 2010 at 8:25 am

Heather, you might be right. I’m going to be really interested to see. There is the possibility, of course, that she’ll make new fans as a result of her appearance, like other online talent. But who knows?

(PS it’s good to see you! I was worried you’d stopped reading!)

10
Heather January 25, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I started a new job in the fall and I’m on the computer ALL day. By the time I get home, me and the computer aren’t friends anymore. *lol* I have totally neglected my blog reading and I feel like I’ve missed out on a gigantic chunk of life. *lol* And thanks, I feel special that you noticed I hadn’t been around. :)

11
anna January 25, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Of course! You were one of my first regular readers! Congrats on your new job.

12
-R- January 24, 2010 at 9:17 pm

I like your analysis of this. I do think it will bring more attention to blogs, hopefully in a good way.

13
anna January 25, 2010 at 8:25 am

I hope so too.

14
LC January 24, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Girl, you got guts. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out….not a HGTV fan or a Doociple but I am intrigued for sure.

I enjoy your blog very much!

15
anna January 25, 2010 at 8:26 am

Thanks, LC. I loved you in The Hills. :)

16
Jessica Gottlieb January 25, 2010 at 12:06 am

I’m going to have to respectfully disagree and let you know loud and clear that momversation is a blog.

17
anna January 25, 2010 at 8:27 am

Fair enough, Jessica. I will say that Momversation is one of the most impressive corporate-sponsored social media efforts to date, if not the best of all.

18
Heather January 25, 2010 at 1:10 am

How sad is it that we’re all leaving comments telling you how brave you were to portray anything less than an unflagging admiration of Heather Armstrong? I’m so tired of watching bloggers walk on eggshells for fear of attracting her wrath, or that of her legion of fans. Good for you.

19
anna January 25, 2010 at 8:27 am

Thanks, Heather.

20
Kerry January 25, 2010 at 6:50 am

I fear this is another one of those situations where people make bad choices because they have no one to advise them. I can’t see how more exposure of her life will be good for Dooce or her family. If she didn’t like the hate before…well, this is just going to bring more of it. People are crazy.

But I agree that this will be good for bloggers.

21
anna January 25, 2010 at 8:29 am

Kerry, this is a good point, and I didn’t even address it. i was too caught up in my own issues! But you’re right, if this is any form of reality show, this is going to make things harder for her family, particularly for her kids. I do hope that they have some kind of limitation on this, but I doubt it: the promo video of her shows both her kids already.

22
Alexis January 25, 2010 at 8:11 am

I too am interested in seeing just what happens with this. I have to say, though, I am not sure where I stand on this. My feelings that not many people could build such a media empire out of seemingly so little content may be good or bad. Am I all “hooray for women getting to do what they want and earn a living at it” or am I more like “seriously, what is the fuss?” (Truthfully I am really thinking “Damn woman, why not me?” )

Lets just hope that this kind of publicity for the blogging community has the positive impacts you suggest and that this particular selection of blogger doesn’t lead the country to embrace too many, possibly negative, notions of what all bloggers are like.

I am getting my popcorn ready, let the circus begin…

23
anna January 25, 2010 at 8:31 am

Alexis, there are a lot of factors for why Armstrong Media is successful, and though it will sound like sour grapes, you cannot underestimate how important timing and just consistency over the past ten years has been to this. It’s much easier to gain traction in an environment where there are few blogs, and every year that you continue to blog, your influence goes up exponentially. I’m not trying to say there’s no reason for her fame, just that it’s not as simple as there being good content.

But yeah, popcorn is called for, regardless!

24
Alexis January 25, 2010 at 5:46 pm

That is a great point. I forget that I am way late to the blogging game (after all it is new to me and I am the center of the universe…). I guess kudos are in order to those who jumped in at the beginning and stuck with it through all the “development” years. However, as you stated, while generally the harder you work, the luckier you get, one can not overlook the benefit of just happening to be in the right place at the right time with the right kind of voice.

None the less, lets see what happens, even if it becomes a model of what not to do.

25
nic @mybottlesup January 25, 2010 at 8:53 am

like i mentioned on my tweet, as i RTed this post, i’m curious to understand why you or anyone else for that matter really cares about this whole dooce/HGTV thing. and i don’t write this to offend… and some times that’s hard to set a tone like that over the internet. personally, i enjoy reading dooce. i also enjoy reading you. but i get confused when i see comments like this one from above, “I’m so tired of watching bloggers walk on eggshells for fear of attracting her wrath, or that of her legion of fans.” and i’m simply perplexed by this post as a whole. the impression i’m getting is that you’re not wanting to give heather armstrong more attention, and i could be entirely incorrect, but that’s just what i’m sensing in this post.

who cares what the dooce/HGTV deal means for us? it’s not about us… is it? it’s just another show. at least to me it is.

26
anna January 25, 2010 at 9:24 am

Nic, the reason I care is because blogging is my business. I want to know how this kind of deal can be used to my advantage, if there is anything I can learn from it. To answer you re: Dooce getting more attention, I do not begrudge her success, no. But sometimes it becomes tiresome that it is always the same person, is all. Sometimes I am not as unbiased as I’d like to be.

27
nic @mybottlesup January 25, 2010 at 9:55 am

anna- thanks for the response. i can certainly appreciate your opinion, and can understand it a bit better knowing that blogging is your business, your livelihood. there’s a lot of pride (i would think) that comes along with that. i for one have not been a part of the blogging community long enough to fully grasp that, and that’s probably why i’m somewhat apathetic to the whole dooce/HGTV thing. sometimes i wonder what the blogging world was like before i discovered it, “back in the day,” because i do find myself often wondering if there was always as much judgment as there seems to be in the blogosphere.

28
Kerry January 25, 2010 at 10:25 am

I think bloggers care because what one person does in your field often reflects back on the other people in your field. So, if you do something dumb or shady or foolish, people think everyone else in your field might be dumb or shady or foolish too. That’s why people get judge-y.

This isn’t unique to bloggers. Just ask lawyers or bankers or Catholic priests…

29
anna January 25, 2010 at 10:36 am

Yeah, and since not enough bloggers are ballsy enough to say they are doing it as a career, or want to do it as a career, it allows people to always make the “troll” or “sour grapes” argument about looking at bloggers’ actions critically. So many bloggers are afraid to admit they want what Dooce has, and this is a big part of why they are never going to get it.

30
nic @mybottlesup January 25, 2010 at 4:35 pm

anna- this is fascinating to me. thanks for writing this and starting this conversation. i’ve really learned a lot from reading it today.

31
mommaruthsays January 25, 2010 at 9:06 am

There’s only room for one Dooce in the blogging world – that’s been made very clear to all of us, not by Heather or Jon, but by the stats and analytics available out there. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing how they handle this HGTV partnership. They’re being given the opportunity to bring blogging mainstream to an audience that otherwise might’ve not been interested.

I think Dooce will get a flood of new followers from this TV deal, and after lingering on her site for awhile, they’ll get brave enough to flow out into the blogging world and discover new sites to visit, explore and follow. What’s good for Dooce is good for all of us, in my opinion.

But maybe I’m just more pro-Dooce than a lot of other commentors.

32
anna January 25, 2010 at 9:25 am

Mommaruthsays, I agree with much of what you’re writing in that I believe that, generally speaking, what is good for Dooce is good for all of us. But I don’t believe that there is only room for one Dooce, not by a longshot. First of all Pioneer Woman has twice Dooce’s readership and outsold her in books. Secondly, there are a host of other niches out there with their own Dooces.

33
lynn @ human, being January 25, 2010 at 11:01 am

I heard about this deal and my stomach turned a bit. I’m actually an HGTV watcher, and I’m wondering why the hell I’d care to watch her on that channel. I mean, isn’t her family more suited to TLC? I don’t want her bad bathroom remodel clouding my view of hunky guys with hammers.

I agree that many bloggers, including me, would love to have what Dooce has. Who wouldn’t? And, that this deal may help us bloggers “become more legitimate” in the eyes of the rest of the world. (And I can stop having to explain to my mother what a blog is.) However, I’m with you–it’s like there’s one blogger in the whole universe in the minds of the media and her name is Heather Armstrong. I have about 70 other bloggers in my Reader, including you, who are more interesting that her (and are better writers). If this deal helps others get the critical/off-the-blogosphere attention they deserve, then good.

34
Kerry January 25, 2010 at 11:10 am

You know, I wonder if this isn’t a move on the part of HGTV to be more like TLC. I mean, with the economy the way it is, a lot fewer people are interested in watching shows about flipping houses or buying a bigger house or spending $50K to add a “media room.” HGTV was probably a lot more popular when people weren’t underwater on their mortgages. People don’t put money into their houses under those circumstances.

So maybe they’re diversifying a little by expanding into the TLC-like realm of “let’s find some people to gawk at.” It would probably be smart on their part…just not so smart for the gawk-ees. Plus, Dooce brings a ready-made audience of people who probably don’t already spend hours watching HGTV (because we’re all on the internet instead). It brings people who have graduated from TV to the internet back to the couch. That’s smart.

35
anna January 25, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Kerry, you might be right! I bet HGTV has taken a hit of late, and this would allow them to put in a little bit more of a reality show than just a home improvement show. The closest thing they’ve done to this is that “Living With Ed” show they did, which was definitely meant for people to gawk at. I am thinking whatever Dooce does with them will be similar to that show.

36
Eliz January 25, 2010 at 6:45 pm

I think you hit it right on the head, Kerry. Dooce is part of a rebranding of HGTV; it just makes sense, given the housing market. And with her they now have oodles of online cred.

But your theory (and the promo Anna mentioned) points to exposure of her kids. You can’t strip the kids from a mommyblogger. It’s not like she’s got any real design bona fides. I don’t know – I’d be all for growing my business, but at what cost to my family? I wonder if she’s thought this through or if she’s like a shark who can only move in one direction, despite the warning signs.

37
anna January 25, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Lynn, I am laughing at your fear of having her bad tile block your view of hunky guys with hammers! Hopefully it will be confined to webisodes most of the time, but I guess we’re going to find out.

38
Susan Tiner January 25, 2010 at 11:50 am

As a new blogger I feel lucky to have found this blog to catch me up on all of the blogging politics! If HGTV gets internet people back to the couch that seems smart but it sounds like Dooce readers are already couch kind of people so I don’t see how this will lead to other internet –> HGTV deals.

39
anna January 25, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Dooce’s audience is a little different than it used to be, it’s true. There are hardcore fans who have been following her for years, of course, and who remain loyal. But there are a bunch of people who are not bloggers, and (I don’t have any stats on this obviously) I would guess the percentage of her audience that actually blogs gets smaller each year. People tend to read her when they first start blogging and then become disenchanted, based on what I’ve found. So maybe they are more likely to watch TV often. Bloggers tend to be internet addicts first and foremost.

40
Alias Mother January 25, 2010 at 12:28 pm

As someone who tuned out on Dooce a long time ago, I met the news with a resounding shrug. For me, this story is much less about the particular personality and network involved than it is about what appears to be an attempt at a next step in the uneasy relationship between new media and old. I am admittedly extremely ignorant in this area, but I don’t know of a single success story when the online world meets the television world (please, media watchers, feel free to fill me in). I do know of some disasters (AOL/Time Warner just got the biggest play). I suppose that the availability of television content online through iTunes, Hulu, and internet streaming could be a tentative success, but that’s more about distribution than content creation. And then there’s website/blogging support of shows, but that is more of a fandom one-way street. The two sides just don’t seem to play nicely.

So I’m wondering if this is less your standard “Here’s a show about Jon and Heather” and more an attempt to think creatively about how to merge HGTV content into blogging world content, and vice versa.

Huh. I guess I’m more interested than I thought. It would be helpful if I had some actual knowledge in this area. It would also be helpful if press releases would ever actually give out any understandable information.

41
anna January 25, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Alias Mother, you’re right in that there’s not a whole lot of clear translation between the various mediums. But what tends to happen is that brands need to have outposts in all different forms of media, so HGTV has a website, but they don’t have the kind of social media presence they’d like. So what they do is try to buy that by buying Heather Armstrong and putting her on their network. The goal is to get their brand discussed more in social media, and so far it is working because (HI THERE, HGTV!) we’re talking about them.

All of this stuff is experimental, and nobody knows what is going to work, that’s why all of these little stabs are kind of interesting to me. As more and more people come online, these kinds of things are likely to happen more often, is what I think. But who knows? Nobody knows what will work and what won’t. I’m just thinking they should probably steer clear of shots of Jon in the tub.

42
Marsha Keeffer January 25, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Anna – Great – and I mean grrrreat – post. I’m wondering if Heather Armstrong will use the HDTV thing as a springboard to becoming a version of Oprah. I think what she’s offering will go more in the direction of entertainment – and she’s been moving along that path for a while, no?

43
anna January 25, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I’m sure she wouldn’t mind being an Oprah or a Martha, but it remains to be seen if she can parlay it into that many different mediums. I’m a little skeptical of her being able to do it, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong. I think she has wanted to do more with her site, yeah, for a while, though who knows.

44
Eliz January 25, 2010 at 7:00 pm

I agree – who knows what hidden talents she has, but Martha? I mean, Oprah was just a news reader who struck a national chord as a talk show host, but Martha’s a force of nature. I think exploiting her kids’ anxieties for laughs might be the extent of Heather’s bag of tricks. She’s written about music for Alpha Mom, and I don’t think that really went anywhere. What are her other interests, other than her dogs?

Besides, as she herself says, being the high school valedictorian doesn’t get you much in life other than being able to say you were valedictorian.

45
beth aka confusedhomemaker January 26, 2010 at 8:48 am

I’m interested in how it turns out. In any industry when you have a shift it leads to questions about what is next for others in the same industry, it makes sense that other bloggers would be interested. So with this partnership being announced you have the discussion happening on the bloggers side but I’m going to guess there are similar discussions on the side of Television & other media outlets. How to tap into this? How is it a good pairing, what is a good pairing? And what brings solid, long-term brand success? It’s natural to begin to think about it in the larger picture.

46
Susan Tiner January 26, 2010 at 11:49 am

Interesting related article in Geekweek about media crossover angst.
http://www.geekweek.com/2010/01/why-does-this-vanity-fair-article-hate-the-women-of-twitter.html

47
anna January 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Thanks for the link, Susan. I continue to be disappointed by how print media is handling its relationship with the internet.

48
Jaxx March 3, 2010 at 12:02 am

I have read Dooce since nearly the beginning of her site. I mostly enjoy her and do not get on the hate bandwagon in any way when it comes to her or her writing about her kids. I’m sure she adores her children and does not see her writing as damaging them in any way. This newest campaign that she loves her new baby and not Leta is just silly to me. That said, I am not sure this newest venture will be good for Heather in the long run. I have seen Heather on several TV shows and do not think she shows to best advantage in that medium. I have always felt that Heather is best taken in small doses. She is very narrow in what she offers on her blog and while her taste is not appealing to me I can see that she does have a creative style that will appeal to some. What I don’t think she has is the kind of broad appeal that will make her popular with a large audience. In fact I fear that some of the more annoying things about Heather will be magnified and may end up alienating the audience that she already has.

Nevertheless, I wish her the very best and agree with you that opportunity for her will open doors for all bloggers.

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