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 , 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.
- 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 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.