When is a blogger not a blogger?

bloggingt-shirt via deadreshIn the recent media kerfuffle about mom bloggers last week, I forced myself to read the comments on sites like the WSJ and the Huffington Post, mainly to see what those outside the community make of news stories-that-aren’t-really-news-stories-about-blogging.

(And believe me, this isn’t to dredge up this topic again when we have real news to focus on. Like the Michael Jackson civil trial.)

It became abundantly clear in comments: most people still don’t know what the hell a blogger is. They especially don’t know what a mother who blogs is.

In fact, it was all summed up pretty well by the same tired dig that we’ve been hearing for years: Aw, these bored, nazel-gaving housewives want to write lame stuff about their kids, get some free stuff, and hope for a sponsor to validate it all.

That’s when it hit me: Of course it’s hard to understand what a blogger is. Because a blogger is not really a blogger anymore. And a blog…well, it’s a lot of different things

A blog is nothing more than a self-publishing platform. I didn’t make that up! Check the dictionary.

You can use it to keep a journal, you can use it to write about causes you care about, you can use it to hone your writing skills, you can use it to grow a publishing network. You can use it to post photography, and you can use it to steal other people’s photography and pass it off as your own. You can use it to demand free ugly shoes from a PR exec.  You can use it to make friends, you can use it to promote your books, you can use it to make enemies (sadly), and it’s 100% entirely absolutely true–you can use it to get unsuspecting marketers to send you a free electronic nose hair trimmer (and one for your readers to be used in a giveaway) that you will happily promote to your 47 readers in a totally unbiased “review” in which all opinions are your own.

So are there bloggers as those commenters describe? Just here for some gift cards and swag? Absolutely.

Not just “mommies” however, though we do seem to bear the brunt of that media perception for years now–with journalists who are also moms often our own worst enemies.

I recently had to do a project with a series of fashion blogs, and looking through the recommended list, I was horrified at what passed for tops in the network: poorly crafted paid “reviews,” no real curation, writing on about a 6th grade level, and lots and lots of gushy reports about junkets and free handbags. Lots.

As for the world of tech journalism, the most dangerous place in America is arguably the space right between a tech blogger and the free buffet at a private CES press show.

If there are free cocktails? Steer clear of the perimeter entirely. Pro tip from me to you. Gratis.

So what is a blogger anyway? How do we define it?

That’s where I’m a little at a loss.

It became clear this week to me that if you look at the so-called top bloggers, they tend not to be people who simply publish a blog. In fact, if you’re attending a professional conference like Mom 2.0 this week, you will meet hundreds of women, and a few men, for whom a blog is rarely the end, it’s the means.

That’s a huge shift over the last 5 years.

gretchin rubin at mom 2.0 summit

Gretchen Rubin: Not just a blogger. At all. Photo via Mom2Summit on Flickr

With CPMs falling from $25 to $2 if you’re lucky, ad networks chasing the long tail, and really lucrative sponsored posts limited to those blogs with exceptional traffic and engagement, a blog is not likely going to be your primary source of household income. (I think the ads on Mom-101 do manage to pay for cat food some months though, so my cats are my biggest supporters.) That said,  your blog can be a platform for visibility, a place to connect with your community, a demonstration of your writing chops or digital prowess–all of which can lead to those actual career opportunities

There are obviously a ton of examples of Not Just Bloggers like Guy Kawasaki, Perez Hilton, Xeni Jardin. And of course, can’t forget each of the Real Housewives. But I think for some reason it’s harder for the world at large (hi, big media!) to identify the complexity of our professional roles when we also define as parents.

A blogger may be a successful freelance writer like Mir Kamin, Alice Bradley, Ellen Seidman.

A blogger may be a national TV personality like Ree DrummondRene Syler (here on Oprah) or Jill Cordes

rene syler on oprah

A blogger may run ad sales and brand relationships for a publishing network, like Julie Marsh.

A blogger may conduct skills workshops like Karen Walrond, Tracey Clark or Alma Loveland.

A  blogger may be a best selling author, like Jenny Lawson, Heather Armstrong, Jill Smokler, Gretchen Rubin, and most recently, Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest.


A blogger may be putting together network development deals like Rebecca Woolf.

A blogger may be designing clothing lines for major retailers, like Rachel Faucett and Joy Cho.

A blogger may be a brand strategist at a major agency–her own–like Shelly Kramer.

A blogger may be a a non-profit activist and community organizer like Chrysula Wineger or Heather Spohr or Julie Pippert.

A blogger may be a respected PR exec who works with other bloggers, like Stephanie Smirnov.

A blogger may be a niche expert and frequent media guest, like Denene MilnerKatherine StoneCarly Knobloch, Joanne Bamberger,


A blogger may be a website designer like Laurie Smithwick or Elan Morgan.

A blogger may be a successful podcaster like Kristen Brandt and Erin Kane.

A blogger may found a conference or event network like Laura Mayes and Carrie Pacini, Stacie Ferguson, or Nicole Feliciano.

A blogger may run a content marketing network like Danielle Wiley or  Sheila Dowd, Stefania Butler, Kristy Sammis, and Cat Lincoln

Now I’m not mentioning these women in some defensive attempt to say oh, look at all the great things these women bloggers are doing that being ignored in favor of the more condescending hall of shame linkbait stories. (Although these women are indeed doing great things. You go, women!) I’m mentioning them because it’s important to recognize that these are not things that these women do in addition to maintaining their blogs; these are things they have been able to do in at least some part because of their blogs.

Simply put, a blogger is now more than her blog.

Marketers are increasingly understanding this. We understand this. Our readers understand this. The media…well, not so much. Because it’s complex. It’s nuanced. And America overall doesn’t do so well with complex and nuanced media. (See Also: CNN during political season.)

You may be a blogger who chooses not to take part in any of this, by the way. But if you do, if you want to be successful vis a vis a bloggging platform, there are things you can do to make it work for yourself.

When I spoke at the Dad 2.0 summit earlier this year, our panel discussed turning your social media and blogging experience into more lucrative opportunities. But the conversation was hardly around banner ads or CPMs and I don’t think the idea of “brand ambassadorships” even came up once. In fact, at one point I blurted out to the room, “no one wants to pay you to write about your kids” which was met with varying degrees of skepticism.

(We can arm wrestle about it later if you want.)

What we did discuss–we being author/advertising brand strategist Craig Heimbuch,; corporate blogger Jason Avant; Blogher Social Media Manager Diane Lang–are the many, many ways that a blog, if you choose, can be a platform for doing other things that bring you fulfillment, success, “famous on the internet” attention if that’s of importance to you, and yes, income.

It’s essential to get out there in person and make connections. Relationships are the core of any business and there is simply no substitute for in-person meetings. And yes, the networking events and shows, the respected professional blogging conferences facilitate those opportunities greatly, whether you indulge in the $8 minibar peanut MnMs or not.

mom 2 summit networking

How deals are made in any industry. Via Mom2Summit on Flickr

If you want to be successful, stop chasing sponsors to send you on junkets or get you into movie premiers. Start figuring out where the actual career opportunities are for your passions and skills. Start figuring out what you do for free and what you don’t.  And stop devoting time to efforts with no ROI. I give you my word that paid text links and Acai Berry affiliate ads will not figure prominently into your business plan.

Just look at all those bloggers I listed and the things they’re doing. I learn from every one of them, all the time.

Let me assure you, none of this is to diminish those women (and men!) who are happy to just write about their kids. I still love reading a lot of those blogs best of all. God bless Metro Dad, when he does actually publish (ahem), for keeping it awesome and ad-free, and doing it for the love. I adore reading Josette Plank and Wandering Scientist who write to write, to get feisty, to share their ideas, and to honor and trust us with pieces of their lives so that we may connect or gain or or heal or empathize.

But if you’re a blogger who somehow engages or intersects with brands and sponsors, we continue to have this overall PR problem that we can’t seem to shake.

Or can we? Can we change this generalization that parent bloggers are particularly bored or narcissistic or swag whores?

Eh, we keep trying.

All I know is that for the media  to lump every mother with a blog into one happy, convenient stereotype about “bored housewives” cranking out dreck…it’s like looking at prefab boybands and using it to define music as a whole. It’s like calling the knock-offs in Forever 21, fashion design. It’s like looking at Saved by the Bell reruns and assuming that’s what it means to be a TV writer. (What? Zach has two dates in one night, AGAIN?)

For years, there’s been a joke that what actors really want to do is direct.

If you’re a blogger, what do you really want to do? Is your blog a springboard for something else? Or are you happy blogging for its own sake?

For me, I suppose it’s a little of both.


[tshirt image: ©Deadfresh]


96 thoughts on “When is a blogger not a blogger?”

  1. I blog because I love writing. I use it for therapy, I use it for comedy, and I use it to facilitate debate with intelligent people (ahem).

    (And sometimes I blog when someone pays me to review one of their products.)

    I have stopped calling myself a blogger because of the misunderstandings and connotations that come with it. I’ll call myself a humorist, a writer, and a comedian, but blogging is still such a poorly understood world that it’s frustrating to explain to others.

    Excellent post and discussion about the issue, as always.

      1. And I’ve moved to “communicator and agitator” as my self-description (communications consultant for more traditional locations) for all the reasons you’ve outlined. Also because that’s what I do. Communicate and bug people :).

        Thank you for including me on your list of examples. Quite the group of writers, movers and shakers on this list, so double squee to be on the same page as them!!!

    1. I feel that way about YOU Katherine. Your post last week was exquisite and everything you do for this community raises us up.

  2. Well done. This should be bookmarked for every journalist who ever wants to write about blogging, mommy- or otherwise.

    PS You give good link.

  3. This is an awesome assessment, Liz. Probably the best I’ve seen in a long, long time.

    I don’t consider myself a blogger, I’m a freelance writer and hog farmer who happens to maintain a blog — a blog I consider part of those jobs.

    1. That’s an excellent point Diana – blogging is now an essential part of so many jobs.

      I did see one comment rebutting the WSJ piece suggesting that should the author be laid off, she would probably spend time on a blog to increase her presence for freelance work. It was spot-on.

  4. Thank you for writing all this. I do consider myself a blogger, and hope it will be something more some day, but that’s exceptionally hard to explain to others. Posts like this make it a little easier.

  5. Great piece Liz, you beautifully addressed how to define a blogger in so many different ways. And as a professional blogger /content producer and one who does not actually have her own blog, I find it not just fascinating but inspirational. But then you’re always fascinating and inspirational. So there’s that.

  6. Thanks for writing this, Liz. I often feel so depressed at the drivel out there and at how difficult it is to be heard above the noise. I’m still ad-free mainly because I know I’m not big enough to have it make one bit of difference, and I hate those flashy boxes all over the blogs I read for the most part.

    It’s sometimes embarrassing to say out loud that I’m a blogger — or, gasp, a mom blogger — in the face of articles like those printed in the Journal, esp. because I resisted blogging for YEARS because of that very perception (which I bought into).

    I don’t want to be “famous” or “rich”; I just want to be heard.

  7. Thanks for this. My parenting blog was the springboard for my freelance writing which is about television and not parenting. Because I dared to log into Blogspot one day in 2008 and start a “mommy blog,” I’m now doing what has long been a dream of mine–to write about television and get paid for it. I still sometimes have trouble calling myself a writer, but I think it’s because I’m conditioned to think that writing a blog doesn’t equal being a writer. Except I get paid for my words and so I’m a writer. But that’s probably my own internal crisis.

    We are more than our blogs. That’s the real takeaway. Thanks again for this.

    1. Oh, that is so heartening! That is one of the real reasons I started blogging, and it has worked, to some extent. It’s also a place for me to blow off steam, organize my thoughts, etc. but it serves as a platform so when I pitch for pieces, I can point to real writing I’ve done.

      I have been calling myself a writer these days, even though that, too, is hard to define.

      Thank you for reminding me it’s possible.

    2. I love stories like this so so much. Huge congrats to you. Anyone who puts the effort in and finally gets paid to do what they love–especially writing–deserves all good things coming to them.

  8. This is so incredibly smart.

    I look at my blog as a resume, in many ways. It’s a great source of information on my experience, my expertise, my interests, my connections, and my aspirations. I believe the same is generally true for all bloggers – whether it’s to their advantage (like those whom you’ve mentioned) or to their detriment (as with your fashion project).

  9. It has definitely been a springboard for me! And, yes, let’s keep trying to change that generalization. Posts like this are definitely a step in the right direction, so thank you.

  10. I write. On my blog and else where. And I’m thankful for every opportunity, both paying and otherwise, that I have landed because of my blog. To that end, I have always considered myself a writer and not a blogger. My blog is a tool to achieve other goals, goals such as freelance writing, speaking and community building. I am not in this for the money, I never have been. I just want to write. I’m exactly where I want to be and it’s all because of my blog.

    Have fun at Mom 2.0. I’m sorry I won’t be there to hug on you inappropriately.

  11. You’re so right, Liz. It frustrates me that there’s still the perception that pro bloggers do this solely for free stuff or ad revenue (which, as you point out, isn’t so revenue-y these days). There are so many ways to use a blog as a springboard. I’m like you: for me it’s both about blogging for blogging’s sake, and also for the other opportunities it presents.

  12. Just writing about blogging this morning to readers who do not traditionally read blogs, and linking to this post made my day. You have given me so much to think about. Blogging has brought writing to everyman (woman?) and that must be seen as a wholly good thing. People who never before had a voice or a platform, have both and I think we are all better for it.

  13. This was similar to my own reaction to that article. It made me realize that at this point, doesn’t everyone pretty much blog in some form or another? I mean, if you post 50 times a day on facebook are you blogging? If you share your photos on instagram, how is that different? 100% of the teens I know have their own blogs or tumblrs, so when 100% of the population blogs, does the term become meaningless? I only call myself a blogger because I like to confuse people. It’s so fun to watch them grapple with what to say next.

  14. Perfection. I’m going to link to this on my linked in to explain what I do. (Hope you don’t mind!)

    My blog has always been a springboard to other things. I “blog wrong” all the time, but to me it’s always been a platform. A place to talk. Blogging fads mean nothing to me, because the blog is just a collection of my thoughts, a snapshot of where I am and where I’ve been.

  15. Well put. For me it’s a little of both. Blogging opened up my world in exciting ways- some that helped pay the mortgage and others that added a bit (or a lot) of excitement to my life. As a long-time blogging veteran my interests and needs have changed over the years. I’ve intended to quit a few times-you know just slowly and quietly exit the busy, noisy social media world, but something always draws me back- the promise of a paycheck, the fun of having my own platform, or a comment or email from a reader who was affected by my content.

  16. Basically, this discussion is a necessary fight on how we are all going to define blogging. Even though we say that there is NO ONE blogger, the truth is we are human and we instinctively turn vague concepts into something that best fits our own image. Tech bloggers see blogging as tech blogging. Parenting bloggers see blogging as parenting blogging. Book bloggers see blogging as book blogging.

    The writer of the WSJ article seemed to want to belittle mom bloggers as drunk naive mommies, probably as a way to distinguish herself from the increasing success of bloggers who are honing into her territory without the same old-media credentials. Unfortunately, to me, Liz, this post seems a bit biased itself, because you also see the world through the prism of a world attending Mom 2.0 — one consisting primarily of successful business people who JUST happen to blog. I love all the amazing and talented folk linked in this article, but it’s like saying the sporting world is mostly occupied by Olympic athletes. This is not “blogging” any more than mommies running away from their kids to party at the Hilton. I would suppose a good 99% of the millions of blog post written each day get no readers, make no money, and are written for a variety of creative or social reasons. Of course, it is this amateurish nature of blogging that gives blogging a bad name, but it is also what gives it it’s power. Most of us DO go to a conference like Blogher less for the learning, and more for the social aspects. So what? It feels as if everyone is suddenly throwing the personal bloggers under the bus, because their silly little hobbies and unprofessional manners are ruining the monetary potential for the 1% who are able to make a career out of it.

    Can the different types of blogging — the professional, the creatives, the amateurs, go to the same conference anymore? Maybe not. Even the conference separation by gender is getting old. Maybe it is time to just split apart. Poets and news reporters both “write,” but they don’t go to lunch together.

    Is there a definition of blogging? I didn’t find it here anymore than you did in the WSJ. The blog world that fits my image — and probably many will agree — is less about influence with brands or money made in marketing than about individuals writing compelling stories about their lives. The other stuff is a side gig. I don’t choose a doctor because of his handicap in golf. Of course, that is a biased view of blogging as well. My bias. Each of us is going to have a completely different list of what we consider to represent the blogging world, based on how we see ourselves.

    1. Awesome thoughts Neil! As always. Yours is one of my favorite voices of dissent to count on.

      Okay, so…your thoughtful comment deserves one in turn.

      In defense of mainstream journalists, I really don’t find them as a whole “threatened” by bloggers as many suggest. I do find however that as you say, they (and authors too) want to differentiate themselves. There is some (understandable) resentment as if bloggers achieved success via a different path, one that was perceived as easier. No Columbia Journo degree required to hit wordpress.com. It’s the same way professional chefs hate shows like Top Chef which seemingly offer shortcuts to fame for line cooks and sous chefs; even if they are talented and deserving.

      I also agree that I did mention women I find to be successful role models who I admire. (Although I mentioned a few that I bet a lot of people haven’t heard of. Seriously, read Wandering Scientist!) I tried to differentiate “pro” bloggers because that’s who the article was referring to when it describes the type of blogger who attends a conference like Mom2. Of course there is a huge range of bloggers–even so-called parent bloggers–as I mentioned in my post. You may blog for fun, you may blog for coupons, you may blog for social change. Indeed there’s room for all of that, especially at a conference like BlogHer which is big enough and affordable enough to accommodate everyone. There’s no one right way to blog. Or one right thing to blog about. Or one right way to experience a conference, even.

      It seems however, that the real disparity is when media takes the pros and applies the attributes of the hobbyists to them. Or casts a generalization that can be detrimental.

      (Trust me, I already have people in my life who think that a conference is Spring Break, and that I’m not working my ass off putting together decks for panels, toting media kits, taking furious notes, and scheduling meetings with brand partners and potential clients. Our fault perhaps for the perception–it’s just that it’s more interesting to put a cocktail party on Instagram than a handshake.)

      I will push back on one suggestion though: The idea of having a conference made primarily for and by women, even while men are wholly welcome (I think there’s a male speaker on nearly every Mom2 panel this year) is a sacred, important thing. Women in any business remain a challenged minority, with their own issues to face. I wouldn’t take away those opportunities any more than I would take away one from Latinas, Black women, or lesbians.

    2. Great points, Neil!

      On the topic of the segregated conferences do you think this is already happening naturally to some extent? Most of the “professionals” I know are by and large not interested in attending the same conferences as the Mommy Bloggers that were represented in the WSJ article. It seems to me the content and environment at various conferences are doing the segregating for themselves. The question then would be: when will we see a defined break in the demographics? Or have we already?

  17. After reading-and musing about your excellent post, it occurs to me that once ‘the other side’ gets hold of the language, they get to define it, demean it, and co-opt it. In education it’s happened with terms such as whole language, balanced literacy, new math, open education….I could go on forever. The next step is that decent people who are left holding the negative bag begin to change their language. That is, until ‘they’ catch up with us again. It’s almost seems too big to fight. In truth, whoever owns the language gets to define the terms. I’m proud to tell the world that you are a blogger who speaks truth to power. However you choose to do it.

  18. Great list! It really is a spectrum. My blog serves my writing, not the other way around. Whenever I’m unhappy with blogging, it’s almost always because I’ve momentarily lost sight of that.

  19. As one who often stands in awe at your writing, I am so flattered to be included in this list of bloggers (or people that have blogs but are not bloggers, or writers, or content creators, or whatever the heck you want to call me). I would love, love, love to sit down over a cocktail and talk about all of the issues you have brought up recently. Keep up the good work. Keep up the conversation. And save me a seat at the next conference/girls weekend/whatever so I can buy you that cocktail!

  20. My husband and I were in a store a little while ago – I was using a boatload of coupons I’d received from a national brand when the cashier asked where I got them all from. My husband, with the biggest grin on his face – beaming from ear to ear says, “Oh she’s a blogger!” As he said it with such pride, my gut felt like it’d been punched.

    Why did I feel so blech when he was clearly so proud of me? Probably because of the views shared from people like WSJ.

    I should be proud of what I’ve accomplished BECAUSE of my blog, the doors it has opened, the people I have met (hello Oprah!), the business opportunities it has granted me. It’s an amazing journey that should be celebrated!

  21. In general I think of my blog as a place to hash out ideas, document what’s happening in my life, to connect with others, and primarily as a way to simply keep writing on a regular basis whether I think I have time for it or not.

    But I believe that blogging is simply a part of the new landscape of self-publishing. The old models for getting writing out there are obsolete and changing rapidly. I feel fortunate to live in a time where not only do I have access to some wonderful writing that I would never have had the chance to read without blogs, but that I am limited only by my imagination and whatever courage I can muster to hit “publish” and see what comes of it.

  22. I was cheering along as I read this. What you saw with the list of fashion bloggers is something I see all the time through the network I have. It’s hard to not hire always the same group of people because they are the ones that are truly innovating and have an identifiable voice. I try to explain that in order to get to the next level you must be patient, blog hard and be authentic. One sponsored post after another will leave you at that level. Then again, if that works for you, then fine, but don’t complain about the real opps others are getting. On SpanglishBaby we refused advertising for years and we’re still refuse most offers and end up getting much bigger ones. But the real benefit have been the ancillary writing opportunities, publishing our book and using it as a jumping board for launching my blogger network.
    Thank you for keeping it real. I’ll hug you for it at Mom 2.0 this week!

  23. Great article.

    I saw scroll by in my Linkedin news feed, and had to pop over to get a feel for when a blogger really is a blogger and to see if there was something in particular that started the conversation.

    I found both, and I also found some more new blogs to check out and add to my reader.


  24. Good conversation starter! And I needed to rebuild my blog reader, so thank you for this collection of awesome links.

    I’d say 99.99% of blogging is Op-Ed and very little Old School journalism. I think that when criticism *is* handed out to bloggers, it’s equally valid to critique those bloggers who state partisan opinion over neutral fact whether that’s to sling soap, press political POVs, convince moms that not breastfeeding will ruin their baby, or score swag. That the WSJ picked on female bloggers was dirty pool.

    It’s all opinion along a continuum, and a good reader worth her rhetorical training will always actively dissect opinion pieces as she’s reading.

    I think that’s much of the problem when New Media describes itself as journalism but isn’t honest with itself that’s most of blogging is only one kind of journalism. There are very few examples of neutral or balanced reporting out there – again, whether reporting on politics, doo-dads, or potty training – when it comes to blogging, and I think that if we all acknowledged that fact – that there isn’t some hierarchy of integrity where coupon moms are on the bottom and Authentic Storytellers Who Don’t Sell Out are on the top – we’d get beyond this ourselves. And the criticism would stop.

    But we all need to be equally honest and upfront when people call us on our limitations, biases, and even prejudices. That’s the only way the outside critics will back off. “Yes, this is just my POV. And I am getting something out of this by writing my point of view.” Writers are always “selling” something. And I’m not being cynical when I say that.

    I think Op-Ed is a good thing. I love Op-Ed and reviews and writing personalities. But we are losing balance across media.

    There is really scant new media out there serving as examples of reporting without bias, honed and edited by disinterested fact-checkers, and with slavish devotion to those facts before writer personality. When I can find a well-written, even-handed, fact-checked blog where personal POV takes the farthest back seat, I email it to my kids and tell them to treasure and study the writing like a near-extinct species. (My own blogs would never meet this criteria.)

    Blogging is a platform for everything else in the world. It’s a medium via which the ghosts in all our machines put forth like OUIJA boards.

    Also, I’d just like to point out that I’m far more narcissistic than Neil.

  25. Well said (or is it read?), who knew that 8 years after starting my blog I’d still have to defend it and educate people about what blogging is. Yeesh. As a former journalist I also have to defend my online writing to my former J-School colleagues who moved on to newspaper and magazines, etc.

  26. I am tired just thinking about putting in all those links, Liz. I fall into the category of “lazy blogger”, I think.

    Here’s the thing: Facebook has become my “blog” or platform, if you will. It’s where I turn to say what I want to say, see what’s going on in the world, and catch up on blogs, even. I haven’t blogged in four months and, while part of me wants to get back to it, part of me doesn’t.

  27. It is always hard to explain to people who don’t blog that I’m a blogger.. and yes, I make money from blogging, too. I cringe when someone calls me a mommy blogger because I don’t often write about my children anymore, and also, well, you know. Just, no. I have been trying to write a post for days now explaining how fortunate I am to have found this great community of like-minded people, whom I consider my friends. I’m trying to explain how amazing conferences like Mom 2.0 are. I’m also trying to talk about the opportunties that have come my way because of my blog, like co-hosting radio shows, writing feature articles in magazines, being asked to be a celebrity dancer for Dancing With The Stars for Easter Seals, hosting events in my city, and so much more. I love that I have a shopping blog and that I can write about (and even review) whatever I want to on my personal blog, too. You’ve said it so well here, though. But I’ll try to get my thoughts out, too. Thanks for your words… as always. xo

  28. Looking through all of this, and knowing that my bent (as reader) is look at blogs as source of information, entertainment and think points, I sort of always compare it to writing. But writing in bigger sense: not only Shakespeare and Dostoevsky, but also modern essays on history or big Windows 8 manual. Same as bloggers, writing has many nishes and many faces, and defining “writing” as “something that Shakespeare did” misses whole slew of wonderful, useful, entertaining, provocative books.

    I define bloggers as “Internet authors” and my first question is always “what is your passion?” In my mind, most bloggers earn so little from their blogs, that it must be their passion keeping them in, if they have been around awhile. And that for me translates into true, honest, engaging writing. Of whatever shade.

  29. I am honored that you included me on this list! I sort of wish I had an awesome, insightful piece up on my front page right now, but eh- you win some, you lose some.

    As you say, I just write to write… and because otherwise my husband gets tired of listening to my rants.

    However, I’ve gotten so much out of blogging. I get advice and ideas from my readers, and from their blogs. I’ve found a community of other mothers who are also career-oriented, and who are generally all pretty happy with their lives- despite the media stories that say we’re all miserable. That community helps keep me sane and gives me the evidence to shout down the inner voice that tells me I can’t actually have the life I’m leading so surely I’m doing something wrong.

    I also got to publish a kids book, which I can honestly say I would NEVER have done without the contacts I made via my blog, and I have an eBook on productivity coming out soon… which also would probably not have happened without my blog. These things will not replace my salary, and I don’t intend to switch careers to be a full time writer. But I love having the outlet for my ideas.

    I do have ads and affiliate links on my blog. Those are buying diapers for a local charity. I sent them my third box this weekend!

  30. I don’t blog as much as I used to, admittedly. But that’s mostly because I’m busy being a real, live social marketing manager for places like TEDxSanDiego and a small digital agency locally. And I’m also a community manager for places like, oh, Cisco. Yet it all started out years ago when I became a community manager strictly as a hobby (in 1999) and continued when I started blogging (in 2003). All of that led to me doing something that I absolutely LOVE. My roots are still in blogging, though.

  31. I started blogging to keep family and friends up to date on a specialized surgery that our daughter was having out of town. It was through this endeavor that I rediscovered how much I love writing. I didn’t even *know* that money could be made.

    I started entertaining the idea that I could do this for work a few years ago, and have since tiptoed out – doing small things here and there – trying to watch and learn along the way. Applying at BlogHer gave me my start. I’m forever in debt to them.

    Starting this past fall, a friend hired me to write blog posts and handle social media for her web site clients. I currently “ghost write” for five small businesses, and am about to take on a sixth. I also assist my friend in transitioning her clients to new platforms – e.g., static sites to WordPress, etc.

    I’m in heaven. I’m making money doing something I love – writing, researching, and learning. This opportunity also enabled me to make a decision whenever I am approached by a PR company to write for free: I’m getting paid over here, so the choice is clear.

    I owe every internet writer a huge debt of gratitude for showing me that there is a door in my reach that was already open.

  32. When people ask me what I do, I reply, “I’m the publisher of SteamyKitchen.com” — and it’s true. I’m a multimedia publisher and I’m proud of it!

  33. Yes, Liz! We are more than just our blogs, and sadly, the term seems to diminish what we do. I was at a Women’s Conference this morning and when I mentioned that I’m a blogger to the woman sitting next to me, she looked at me sideways. (This mostly happens with women who are older and I think less familiar with what a blog is and what we really do). I had one woman tell me I wasn’t a “writer” because I haven’t published a book, like she has. (Nice to get support from one of your own, no?) However, I contribute on HuffPo and other sites, so doesn’t that make me a published writer? P.S. Can’t wait to meet you at Mom 2.o!

    1. Wait, “writers” are only people who publish books?

      I guess I should give back my first 12 years of salary that I received for writing before I published a book.

      Look forward to meeting you too!

  34. Sometimes it feels like the blogosphere has the same discussion year after year after year.

    What is a blogger? Why don’t we get more respect? How do I monetize my blog? etc

    I do this because l love to write. I have been fortunate to make some wonderful friends and meet very interesting people.

    In a perfect world this will lead to a series of book deals and a house that everyone will pin pictures of on Pinterest and a series of blog posts about how I am an untalented jerk and they should have gotten the deal over me.

    Blogging is just fun and that is really what keeps me going.

  35. You managed to provide a better explanation than many of the diversity and depth of what blogging actually is in this post. It should be required reading for anyone who throws around the term ‘mommy blogger.’

    I’ve been blogging for about 12 years now. The original impetus was to create a change in the tech books I was using to teach with. I think I contributed to a change there, and I continue to be interested in how things are taught in my specialized little area of HTML and CSS. But the results of my interest in talking about this niche topic have been varied – I’ve gotten book deals, teaching jobs, writing jobs, social media jobs, speaking invitations, curriculum development gigs and a lot more because of my blog. In many ways, my blog made me who I am today.

  36. I started blogging because after having kids I no longer had the large chunks of time needed to write plays. I needed another writing based creative outlet. My first blog attempt failed because I tried to force myself into a marketable niche. My current blog has no niche. I’m not likely to get a book deal, but I really enjoy it although I’d still rather be playwriting.

    As for the “mommy blogger” label. I am a mommy. I am a blogger (although I hate the word and prefer “writer”). However, I don’t write about parenting or extreme couponing so it’s not a label that people apply to me. It’s a stupid term.

  37. Great piece. Beyond the blog providing an outlet for speaking opportunities, building my own social media consulting company and freelance writing opportunities – the blog has given me a community. Ironically, one I didn’t even know I needed and one I wasn’t looking for. I heard in Listen To Your Mother last night, one reader say her blog keeps her from killing people. I’d add that to my list as well. Namely my own children or husband on some days…..

  38. Thanks for writing this perspective. I am happy to know (and thankfully like) a few of the people you cite as the elite bloggers. I also like the point of view Neil raised. I was a magazine editor-in-chief who fought tooth and nail the idea of having a blog and writing for free. I started my blog in 2011 mainly because I had a personal piece I’d written about my daughter that I wanted to showcase, as well as have a place to repurpose parenting columns I’d written. After being in Listen to Your Mother and meeting women in the fabulous blogging community I felt I had to move forward with this new form of self-expression that allowed me to write what I wanted. Though I can’t say I’m getting rich off my blogging, it is opening doors to new people (I’m an extravert), opportunities and some swag. However, my swag as a blogger pales to the swag I garnered as a magazine editor-in-chief which included trips to Bora Bora and a one week stay in an over-the-water bungalow; trips to Hawaii, South Africa, Florida, Mexico, Bermuda, Colorado, California, Amsterdam, Paris, plus clothes, trunk loads of expensive makeup–at the end of the day an editor of a mag gets far more swag than even the most courted blogger. Also, I knew Katie Rosman, the WSJ reporter, early in her career when she was assisting at one of the beauty mags (either Elle or Mirabella) where she totally got tons of her own swag. Re blogging: I consider myself to primarily be a storyteller although I do write the occasional review post about events, books, toys and shows-which I mainly do to support my friends and brands I like. Still, the type of writing I want to be known for are posts that inspire and move people to action, like the one I wrote in response to the WSJ fracas.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Estelle. I’m glad to know your perspective. (And how awesome is Listen to Your Mother?)

  39. Last week my aunt forwarded me that WSJ cartoon. She’s not a blogger, but she reads mine. It made me sad that she and her coworkers had seen that article.

    I want to send her this post and have her forward it to them! You know how I feel about it all.

    1. I remember having the same feeling on the NYT “don’t bother mommy” blogging article. People who knew I had some blog thing sent it to me asking, is this what you do?

  40. I blog for the c-word. (Community.) It’s become almost a bad word in this day and age but I love having a community of people to tell me that it’s not just me. I can’t imagine not blogging and I’d do it even if I never got paid for it again.

    Writers write always. 🙂

    1. I’m with you a million percent. It’s why this is not a private, locked journal.

      Thanks, mama.

      1. I’ve made some friends via blogging that I consider forever friends. I can’t wait to meet them in person someday. Blogging has allowed me to find true kindred spirits who share the same passions that I do ~ such a joy and a gift!

  41. I started blogging in 2005 as an outlet. I wanted to be a writer but I didn’t know where to begin as I toiled away in defense work. Enter Jen Lancaster and her first book with her blog listed on the back and I was off. That outlet gave me the confidence to keep writing and while I’m not huge, do write and get paid to do it. It’s been one of the best parts of my life. I’m still finding my way to this day.

    My license plate says WRITAH(I’m from Rhode Island, we drop our ‘r’s). It’s what I am no matter what slot or definition someone else may have for the term.

  42. I wish I could sneak down to Mom 2.0 this time but I just can’t right now. I would also only be doing it for the people. While I know we can’t go back to the olden days of blogging, I’ve found a close-enough contentment in “writing just to write” on my blog, no future plan or hopes for an online or offline writing career, kind of full circle I guess but I know without a doubt this is where I want to be. I’ll stay in it because I love it, and because of the community, and just the desire/need to release my words and photos out into the whatever, for me. I’m still here but happy to watch from the wings.


    1. Bravo Stephanie. That’s so beautiful. It’s so great to really really be able to know and articulate why you write. It’s hard for a lot of us.

  43. *stands and applauds*

    This post couldn’t have been more timely for me. I am being interviewed tomorrow for a mag and I’m pretty sure they could write the article without an interview. Articles on bloggers tend to sit in a couple of categories and are rarely complimentary. I’m an Australian based in the Middle East who blogs to reach out to others who are balancing a mobile career/kids/travel and an international life.

    I loved your post – and I’ve been waiting for someone to write something like this for a long time. Bloggers are a varied bunch, with different aspirations. It is ridiculous to think otherwise.


  44. I loved your post for all the many reasons so well stated in the remarks.
    Why do I blog? I guess I think about my art school days and why does an artist create? To give substance to what is floating around on some imaginary plane? To give a voice to one person’s experience visually and verbally, who in the midst of the humdrum tries to find beauty, irony, humor, comfort, difficulty and joy in what constitutes daily life. And my fellow bloggers, creators, writers- I am fascinated by the mix of talent who have so much to contribute. Amazing what content exists due to this platform that did not exist before- and the community that has sprung from this digital world.

  45. “a blogger is more than her blog.”
    thank you.

    I think of the blog as a really tall diving platform, and it is up to the individual writer to decide which pool she wants to jump into…I have dipped my toe a few times into the one with ads, CPMS and ‘reviews’ and I think it is not the right temp. for me. Which is good because now I know where I want to jump.

  46. Brava (as usual) – another fantastically written and insightful post.

    As the founder of a product review blog, I’m probably – technically – a “swag whore.” But I do it because I used to put myself in the red buying hoards of stuff for my kids, a lot of which was fabulous and some of which was an utter waste of money. I was always the one telling friends and colleagues about the worthy and not-so-worthy products and was convinced (during a very long campaign by one particularly determined colleague) to start MommyGearest.com.

    My commitment to readers, however, is that I have never and will never accept payment for a review. How on earth can these bloggers taking hundreds of dollars to write a review be objective? Are they seriously trying to convince us that if Company X sends a shitty widget along with a $300 cheque that it’s going to get an equally shitty review? Doubt it.

    There are other ways to make money, which I’m slowly but surely figuring out – and I’m doing it in a way that’s comfortable for my conscience. I go to these conferences because I continue to meet amazing bloggers who are making a living from writing (every writer’s dream), who are willing to offer one-off advice or actually become mentors.

    Part of me wonders if the negative articles, like the one in the WSJ, are created to generate the very controversy they have in the past – in turn generating all of the social media publicity via the bloggers they critique.

  47. For me blogging was at first simply about writing. It was a journal that happened to be online that my closest friends happened to know about. It slowly morphed into more. I’m not looking to make money on my blog. I don’t have any ads, I have a full time job that doesn’t allow me the time to really monetize my blog if I wanted to. Though I do occasionally do sponsored posts, I honestly love Leapfrog and Shutterfly and would (and do) buy their products anyway.

    I blog for the community. For the relationships and connections. I fear and I’ve written in the past about it that I feel like that is fading. That more and more are writing for the money, the possibility of exposure and going viral and getting a book deal. Which lately, seems to be somewhat easy as more and more people I read seem to have them. Not to say its undeserved, their writing speaks for itself, but just that it seems to be the common thing to go from blogger to published author. And on some level I think that breaks a part some of the community. The hierarchy and popularity that exists (even if we want to pretend it doesn’t) becomes even more widespread.

    I don’t know what kind of blogger I am. I guess I’m trying to make sense of my own life and if it connects me with other people than all the better.

    1. I know it gets us off topic a bit but I’d love a discussion about this recurring theme of how success “breaks up” the community in some way. I hear that a lot and it’s like saying we can all be friends, but only if no one succeeds more than anyone else. (And you’re not saying that exactly, it is just something I have felt for a while.) Is this a women’s issue alone? Is it because our community is also based on what is a career for some people, so there are blurry lines between community and career?

  48. And let’s not forget Liz Gumbinner, one of the best writers on the Net. Read and learn, bloggers. Read and learn.

  49. Okay, so maybe I qualify as one of those narcissistic Mommy bloggers, I don’t know. I spent my whole working life getting paid to write about things that mattered to clients (and sometimes that mattered to me too), but now that I’m at home with my triplets (2 of whom have autism), I find myself writing my blog for all kinds of crazy reasons. Reasons like: if I write stuff that happens, it sometimes keeps me from going crazy (or makes it happen less anyway) and maybe it actually helps another person who reads it; or if I muse a bit about parenting through some pretty rough stuff and still finding some joy in it all, maybe it makes me more joyful overall; or maybe someone will see one of my reviews (which are not sponsored & are so far only about things that make my life somehow less stressful and a little happier) and they’ll find a solution to a similar problem we had; or maybe I write because it feels like somebody, somewhere is hearing me who’s not a pre-schooler and unable to speak back at this time. I blog because I am too wordy for Twitter & FB rambles to count as much. I write because then I’m using my brain in more “professional” ways than I may normally get the opportunity to do now that I’m home full-time. So I guess the blog is meant to be therapeutic for me and hopefully for others.

    Does all this make me less of a professional writer than what I was before? Maybe. Or, maybe it makes me a writer who finally gets to pick and choose what I want to write about in the first place. If I can find a way to earn money through the opportunities gained by my blog, this will be a tremendous bonus, but I’m not sure it’s the point for me. I write because I learn and change as I write and I hope my writing can be the catalyst for that same thing in someone else. I write because it’s what I’m good at (well, as long as you don’t fault me too much for ending sentences with prepositions and for periodically enjoying lovely run-on sentences).

    Isn’t this whole debate just a similar thing that people do when they pitch romance writers vs. serious writers or when the highly literary crowd claims that writers with a book on the “New York Times Best Seller List” have officially sold-out? I do realize that a lot of what may be out there is drivel to me, but that drivel might not be drivel to someone else. Okay, so I think I finally fully succumbed to stream of consciousness writing and have lost any point I intended to have. Bottom-line? Writers will write and they will blog or vlog or send notes out in bottles in the ocean and there will always be critics who cannot be pleased. And in the end, I’m not sure I care. (well, apart from the fact that I might still want to make a little bit of money on all this too, but hey I may be way late to that party anyway.) 🙂

    1. I think what you do is what Virginia Woolf referred to as “a room of one’s own.” And its awesome. And I understand it, as someone who gets paid to make the headline shorter, or make the tag line bigger, or not say “fuck” in the body copy please. That’s why I love writing here too.

      Thanks for the stream of consciousness! It actually wasn’t very streamy at all.

  50. A great thought provoker for me as I have just started really asking myself what I want out of this, where I want it to go. I think the simple answer for me is that I dream of it being a springboard to a speaking and writing career, instead of the career I have now. I enjoy what I do, but am passionate about sharing my words with others.

    But I am passionate about it because of how it helps me to explore my own thoughts and feelings and how it helps a few people here and there who read it.

    A bit of chicken or egg I suppose.

  51. I let myself be discouraged by a disparaging article in Newsweek back in 2007, which painted blogging as Narcissistic. I took a really long break from doing something that I love, and have returned to something that brings me significant joy. I get to play DJ in my own little corner of the Internet and have found that rather than being self-centered, blogging makes me infinitely more aware of the world around me.
    Your post is encouraging. I love seeing the myriad of directions and opportunities that your featured bloggers have taken. Regardless of whether my foray into blogging remains just a happy hobby, or turns into
    some sort of springboard for me, I am pleased to see people becoming successful doing what they love.

  52. Thank you for this. And thank you for consistently producing inspiring and thought-provoking content that I am compelled to add to my favorites, or print out and highlight. These questions you pose? Still working on answering those, but thanksfor the validation and the nudge. You’re an inspiration.

  53. Liz, this is one of my favorite posts on this topic. I think we’ve only begun to see what happens as we continue to discover what new media is … media. And I love seeing what people do next. It’s my favorite thing.

    1. And you always have a front row seat to it, if not initiating it yourself. Thanks Laura. You’re my hero.

  54. What I really want to do is…DANCE!

    Just kidding. Thanks for the shout-out, Liz. Since my blogging these days averages about one every 7 months, I’m not sure the business plan is working. Ha!

    Drinks soon, please!

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