From the category archives:

waxing philosophical

Unpaid Writers, Both Literal And Hypothetical

by anna on February 15, 2011

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Kids, if you haven’t yet noticed, I’m just going to come right out and say it: I’m not functioning at full capacity lately. As such I’ve found it very difficult to write good content for this section of the website in particular. It kills me to put this whole section out to pasture for part of or the duration of my morning sickness, though, so I’m currently entertaining the possibility of hosting a few guest posts here. If you’re interested, please pitch me (anna at abdpbt View definition in a new window dot com) your idea and I’ll mull it over. Basically, if the topic is the business of blogging, and it sounds like something readers here will like, I want to hear about it.

I do have some mixed feelings about guest posting — for one thing, I’ve always felt that this blog is kind of inextricably tied to my voice, and for another, we all know how ambivalent I am toward the concept of unpaid (or low-paid) writing labor in general. That said, writing one guest post is a little different from signing up to be an unpaid “citizen journalist” indefinitely. So here are my rules, if anybody cares (and it’s very probably that nobody does, except me, but just to make things clear):

  1. All guest posts will have an author’s bio plus a link back to the author’s blog or business or whatever they want within the text of the post;
  2. I will only accept one guest post from any one blogger;
  3. There will be a (pathetic) payment of $15 for each post I use;
  4. The topic has to be amenable to the general zeitgeist of ABDPBT Personal Finance in general, i.e. no copy-and-pasted PR releases about Disney Cruises or the latest bullshit brand ambassador program (unless, of course, you have some kind of inside dirt that you want to share that will ensure it’s worth all of us reading); and
  5. I reserve the right to be rigorous in determining what is acceptable guest post material, and am guessing most of it will not be acceptable because I’m super crabby and difficult to please.

I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass about “exposure” here because, you know, whatever — everybody knows it’s kind of a crapshoot whether or not a guest post will really lead to a bunch of clickthroughs or new readers. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. But maybe there’s something you’ve been wanting to say about this topic you can’t say on your own blog, I don’t know. Give it some thought.

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Now, just to be totally hypocritical, I’m going to link to some of the interesting articles I’ve been reading about AOL’s recent purchase of the Huffington Post for $315 million. It seems that, now that there’s an actual, verifiable dollar amount attached to the value of the Huffington Post, some people are up in arms about the fact that they use unpaid writers! What do you know? Of course the deal is far more complex than many of these articles suggest (e.g. some of the Huffington Post’s staff is paid, and its tough to say how much of their traffic is actually produced by unpaid writers, etc.), but the discussion is still intriguing. As I said to Carla (who sent me the links to most of these, btw), I wonder if the New York Times will be called an angry jealous and bitter troll View definition in a new window for raising some of these questions? (My guess is no).

mommyblogger vertical

A recent AdWeek article (hat tip: Mir) cites a study done by eMarketer that defined mommybloggers (for the purposes of defining ad verticals, that is) as “adult female Internet users with children under 18 in the household who write blogs about any subject at least monthly.” The total number of “mommybloggers” by this definition — now at about 3.7 million — is projected to grow to 4.4 million by 2014. This small(ish) increase in the number of mommybloggers is attributed to the rise of Twitter and Facebook, which are much easier to maintain than are blogs, but far more interesting is that while less women are likely to start blogging in the next few years, the study projects a 9% increase in blog readers over the next few years, which is good news for people who already have blogs.

The first response to this definition of “mommybloggers” is to be infuriated, naturally, that any other achievement of the woman is, once again, being overshadowed by her uterus. That is the textbook first wave feminist response to this classification and while I do not want to overlook or dismiss the problematic word choice above, I also don’t want people to throw out the metaphorical baby with the bathwater here (pun very much intended).

Some thoughts:

First, “mommyblogger” is an ad term, and it’s an ad term that benefits anyone to whom it is applied. You might not like that they chose to refer to it as “mommyblogger” instead of . . . “household CEO” or “controller of family budget” or some term that has less to do with one’s ability to produce babies, but the bottom line is that “mommyblogger” is a category that corresponds to a vertical that goes along with the person who does most of the routine household spending in America. This is a coveted advertising demographic, and it is one that you should want to be in, stupid name or otherwise. Secondly, though the study sited suggests that it’s only women with children, we know that there are many bloggers within the “mommyblogosphere” who don’t actually have children (yet) or who have suffered from infertility who are still grouped into the “mommyblogger” category because of their general appeal to the same type of reader/ad demo. So, name is troublesome, yes. But ad demo is good. The ad demo is what makes our niche so coveted, despite being not particularly traffic-heavy, or useful, or even interesting to the internet at large. People who have not spent much time outside of the mommyblogosphere really do not understand how good we have it in terms of ad money, possibility of advancement, book deals per capita, and the like. You think it’s tough to make it among the mommies? You have no idea, friends. Trust me, you’re going to want to stay here where the money’s good and the water is shallow.

Second, I think that too often we get caught up in the politics of generations past without thinking about what we are saying. Maybe forty years ago we needed to remind people that women were more than just mothers. I think that at that historical moment it was revolutionary to do that. But I’m not sure that today, in America, that is essential to do anymore. While I’m sure there’s still a stray “barefoot and pregnant” believer out there, most people are well aware that women are capable of doing a lot more than bearing children. Motherhood no longer inscribes your existence unless you allow it to do so. When we react to these things as if they are horrific instances of sexism, we’re wasting time on wars that don’t really need to be fought anymore. There are so many other issues that we can worry about. Let’s get started on those.

Finally, in my mind, objecting to the term “mommyblogger” is another of the same problems. While I was at BlogWorld Expo, I was discussing the mommyblogger vertical with some guys from a new ad startup called iSocket (Cool idea that I will discuss at length later), and I noticed they were tripping over their words to avoid calling it the “mommyblogger” vertical. This was probably smart on their part, given the way people deal with it in this niche, but they wouldn’t have to bother with this for me. The way they explained it was that it had to do with what kinds of blogs would appeal to the same people looking at a bunch of them listed next to each other — they wouldn’t necessarily all be mommies writing about their kids, but they all tend to have the same kind of readers. Those are the people who are thought of as being within the “mommyblogger vertical.” My thoughts on being called a mommyblogger are basically: who cares? Am I a mommy? Do I blog? Does it describe the whole of my existence? Of course not. But nothing does. What could? The hairsplitting and minutiae all over a name is exhausting and unimportant. Instead, when I hear “mommyblogger” I embrace it. That is the ad vertical of Dooce View definition in a new window, of Pioneer Woman — I think of all the money in that vertical and I happily say, “Yes, I am one of those!” That is all it means to me. And that’s all it should mean to you.

The Peculiar Mommyblogging Niche

by anna on September 22, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot about the mommies lately.

For a variety of reasons, it’s a peculiar niche. To be on the mommyblogging A-list (assuming you throw out P-Dub and Dooce View definition in a new window for being statistical outliers) you don’t usually have to have much more than, say, 80,000 page views per month. In some cases, it may even be less than this. The really big stars like Nie Nie, MckMama, Rebecca Woolf, or Heather Spohr have over 500,000 pageviews per month, but there are plenty of mommybloggers who are considered to be solidly well-known and “A-list” who are well beneath that mark. Why? In any other niche, this would never fly.

It’s the advertisers. We are a small niche, but we’re a rich niche.

There’s a reason that there are so many conferences in this one niche that — as compared to other blogging niches — is fairly starved for traffic. The advertisers love this niche. They love to come to our events, they love to advertise on our blogs (especially in the content columns) and they love to get us to use their products.

The fact that Blog World Expo would want me to come review their conference got me thinking about this: this is a huge conference that only has one parenting track and virtually none of the same sponsors that BlogHer View definition in a new window has. I have not discussed anything with the organizers of Blog World Expo, but how could they not want to get their hands on some of that mommy money? How could they not want to get more mommies at their conference, and with the mommies, the sponsors who come with them? For the past five years or so, it seems to me that the typical sponsors you see in the momblogging world (Nestle View definition in a new window, McDonald’s, Kraft, GM, P&G, et al.) have been ghettoized into conferences that specifically have the word “mom” or “woman” associated with them, whereas the mainstream blogging conferences like Blog World Expo and SXSW Interactive are sponsored by tech companies, beer companies, some airlines, and a few interlopers such as Kodak and Pepsico.

Why don’t the big conferences cash in? Why don’t they court us? Is it because they can’t compete with BlogHer? I cannot imagine that’s the problem. I think if they really wanted to get us to come to their conferences they’d make it happen. It’s not that hard, and I could tell them how to make it happen today (but I’m going to make them pay me for this first, in case you’re wondering why I’m not just going to say it here). I think the reason it hasn’t happened yet is more complicated.

I think the other conferences haven’t courted the mommies yet because, up until now, it’s been a booming economy and the mommies — let’s face it — are a pain in the ass. Nobody wants to deal with them. The other tech conferences are mostly male-dominated and the conference organizers know what they are dealing with. Bring in the mommies and you’ve got a whole other beast. But with a changing economic environment, it may be that they need to start thinking about expanding the mommyblogging tracks of their conferences so that they can lower the prices of the conference passes. And if they do that, they are going to need some people who can help them figure out the logistics. There’s an opportunity there for people who are willing to sniff it out.

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