Wednesday, July 29

The last BlogHer post...

Tengrain wrote me this great email and I asked him if I could share it:

I was really interested in your take on Blogher, I'm really glad you went and that you posted about your experience. I'm also sorry that it turned out not to be so empowering as much as a focus group.

When you and the ESC were talking about it a few months ago I went to the website to see what it was about. I did not get the sense of community about it, it struck me as being more of a trade show vibe (I've set up a few, participated in a few from both sides, so I kind of recognize trade shows when I see them). To me, the tell-tale phrase was "mommy blogger." It is not exactly that it is both sexist and condescending (though I suppose in some sense it is), but it smacked of the sort of micro-trends crap that marketing departments use to divide people up into personas that they can then create a narrative about and (allegedly) more accurately market to them. Soccer Moms comes to mind. (I have a sense of who a Mommy Blogger is, instinctively, but I wonder if there is a formal definition?)

I was frankly puzzled why you wanted to go, but I thought maybe you were being subversive, like infiltrating a Mary Kay show to set the bunnies free, like Opus the Penguin. Yes, you are a mother and a blogger, but you are not what I would think of as a "mommy blogger." But I digress.

The Tina Browns and Huffingtons of the world cannot see another perspective: it's about money. The web as a new distribution channel for advertising is extremely successful: low cost, distributed, scalable, green. In bad times, even the poor and broke still click on pages and that gives them money from their advertisers, just as it does in good times. You don't worry about union contracts, print costs, trucks, subscriptions, newsstand sales. The whole thing is simplified. And you know that if they could figure out a way to cut out the writers, they would. Oh, wait.***

Where Tina and Arianna fail is in the content realm. They know they need it to give readers compelling reasons to visit the sites and to see the ads. But they are not interested in content except as a means to an end. I think that the Daily Beast proves that point exceptionally well. What a load of crap. HuffPo is sliding into the sex sells route with pictures to titillate, inane quizzes, and so on; when it started it seemed editorially driven, but no more. The Beast has always been such a dog's dinner, just a mishmash of stuff of which something is always going to appeal so someone, but no coherent mission. Frankly, I'm amazed that it seems to be working.

The part that stands out to me in your post is the notion that mommy bloggers should band together and make demands of advertisers - yes, a self-selecting demographic should prove their existence to get an EndDust advertisement on each woman's blog, yes, that is the road to empowerment. I have a hard time believing that they actually told you this crap without bursting into laughter, and I have a hard time believing that you do not have at least one of their heads mounted on a plaque above the fireplace. I admire your control.

Anyway, as I said, I'm glad you went, and I wish it had turned out to be more of what you wanted.

I went in large part because it was a woman blogging convention in Chicago (reachable and because I have a friend there who can put me up, affordable) and it was held at a time when my children are with their dad. I applaud BlogHer for having on-site childcare available.

I won't be attending Netroots Nation because of the conflicts with childcare and scheduling and cost of travel.

It's important to remember what the fabulous Evil Slut Clique points out about BlogHer, that a:

stereotypical portrayal of both mothers and BlogHer members is offensive and sexist. Apparently there are only two categories of bloggers - mothers and 62-year-old men who write about the stock market. Apparently all Blogher attendees are women, all women are mothers, all mothers are strictly "mommybloggers", all mommy bloggers always have breastfeeding babies, and all breastfeeding mommybloggers want to bring their babies everywhere.

My friend Lisa wondered why women can't just blog on whatever we want? And she's right. Except that I spent two solid days hearing the message, and particularly and specifically in plenary session from the conference organizers, that blogging about certain mommy topics was valuable BECAUSE it attracted advertisers, which is what empowers women bloggers. That is a lie.

This statement from a BlogHer09 U of Chicago Magazine participant (last sentence) speaks volumes AND leaves me speechless:

This might not be the next sexual revolution, but I’m happy to be recognized for my purchase power, one free thumb drive at a time.


PS. Thanks to Rock and Roll Mama for her terrific post.

*** Dear Arianna Huffington -- Pay the writers, what Harlan Ellison says:


  1. Yesterday I was out visiting some blogs that are deep into the blogher stuff. My favorite writers lately are the humor writers who mostly mine their lives and situations for funny material.

    But there is a whole world of blogging there that remains a bit of a mystery to me. When I find that content was discussed in commercial terms, now it makes sense.

    As I said to you, BG, in an email, when content is dictated to me, I have trouble writing creatively. I can report, but I can't create. That's what I do at work. I don't want to do that on my blog.

    I stand by what I said, however, to each, blah, blah, blah.

  2. 'Dear Arianna Huffington -- Pay the writers'

    In the words of the Big Duke - "That'll be the day". A lot of her staff was working on the cuff when I was there. Praise be the starry-eyed intern.

    Blogging should be about whatever the blogger wants to create or write about, the petty judgements of others be damned and if they can turn a buck from it, good on them...However, a perception I have is the majority at this time don't put a whole lot of philosophical considerations into their subjective process of creativity, and thus a certain degree of conformable ennui hangs over the enterprise.

    Ah well, at the end of the day we're all just tomatoes at the stand, waiting for the moment as time ripens us to be squeezed and pondered, then hopefully picked and digested.


  3. I love that Harlan Ellison clip! He's so right.

    Out here in the decimated Silicon Valley, there is an online jobs organization in which employers post a contract writing job description, and then writers bid on it. The lowest bid wins the job.

    I was looking at it the other day, and the employer was offering $0.50/hr, max., for a transcribing job. Other employers were asking for writers to work for free, you know, so you can build up your clips and samples.

    It's such a race to the bottom.



  4. Lisa: OHOHOH I went to the comedy writers panel at blogher. Those women really rock. Some of them are more Erma Bombeck than my taste goes for, but who the hell cares? they're awesome writers.

    And they don't write reviews of products or giveaways as far as I could tell. They don't HAVE to because they have TALENT and more importantly...a COMMITMENT to their own voice.

    I just WISH. WISH that more women felt they could speak from their hearts and minds and SAY something from THEM instead of letting Tide tell them what to say. Really that is what this is all about...empowerment is being able to speak as YOU.

    Darkblack you rogue....

    And Tengrain that should be illegal. Someday someone is going to have the guts to say theft and slavery and make it stick.

  5. Anonymous3:48 PM

    Harlen is nothing if not constant.

    Does the film talk about the time he had all his contacts ship postage due bricks to a publisher who would not pay him on time?

    When the publishing house stopped accepting postage due packages he shipped them dead gopher. book rate.


  6. i avoid mainstream liberal blogs, as they reek of the "wink, wink, nod, nod" culture.

  7. You'd like to know that BlogHer's almost 70 contributing editors are paid. And have been paid since we first started generating revenue.

    And they get paid the same whether they write about parenting, politics, technology, sex or any other topic.


  8. It's a big blogosphere. But it is sad when people don't value their own perspective - um, assuming they're reality-based and all that.

    I've heard some crazy tales about Harlan Ellison, but he's a fine writer and right on here. (Coincidentally, my latest post references a story of his.)

  9. Good 'ol Ellison. May he continue to live, write wonderful stories, and be a salty pain in the ass to stupid people forever.

  10. Such a fantastic and necessary post; as much as I am actually midstream in a series of posts about my kid, I chafe at the whole Mommy Blogger Nation and the notion that a woman who has a blog needs to fit easily into a pre-set niche. I am so much more than a mother and a woman, and for my writing to be limited to those things insults all that I am. LOVED this.


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