The Business of Mommyblogging on The Today Show
My heart sank when this morning's segment on the Today Show started off with Hoda Kotb announcing "... the growing popularity of... 'mommy blogs.'" She used air quotes, and everything. You could've substituted anything bizarre and mystifying in the quotations, actually. "Alien bloodsuckers," or "giant pink sea monsters," for example.
I turned to my husband. "This is not going to end well," I said.
But first, let me back up.
A couple of months ago, I was approached by an NBC producer to participate in a "blogger round table discussion" to be used on the Today Show. Fellow blogging moms Kristen Chase and Jill Asher had been invited, as well, and we were told we'd sit down for a very informal discussion with NBC correspondent Janet Shamlian. After discussing it with each other and our trusted advisors, we all agreed to do it.
I can't speak for the other women involved, of course, but as for myself, I can tell you that I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. It was fun! Janet was warm and genuine and she knew her stuff -- she's read blogs, she's read our blogs, and she asked smart questions. We talked for hours, and cracked jokes about how it would end up being ten or twenty seconds of actual air time.
This morning, the Today Show aired the segment. The discussion Janet held with Kristen, Jill and myself was used as a bit of backdrop in a piece that was, in turn, the backdrop for a live interview with Heather Armstrong.
Take a look at what was aired:
While there are things I wish they'd done differently relative to the presentation of the round table discussion, my strongest feeling after watching this in its entirety is an overwhelming sense that NBC missed a prime opportunity.
Yes, mommyblogging (air quotes or not) is hot right now. Big companies are taking notice. There is money to be made. This is not new information. Digging a little deeper would be new information, and rather than sharing some of the interesting and even profound things that came to light during our blogger discussion, or asking Heather questions that she hasn't been asked previously, or -- here's an idea -- letting her actually get out a complete thought, what could've been a great segment about moms who blog became The Story Of How Kathie Lee Gifford Is Afraid Of Her Computer.
I'm going to sit firmly on my hands and let others make the point.
Life in the Garden settles for a gentle jab:
Kathy Lee was clueless to the concept [that blogging can make money]. Who Knew that this blog thingy on the interweb could cost you your job and possibly create a new revenue stream?
Susan at Working Moms Against Guilt doesn't mince words:
Kathie Lee was such a poor choice as the interviewer. Apparently, she doesn't "do" computers or the Internet, and therefore doesn't really know what blogs are. But she gave it the old college try--and sucked. Fortunately, her cluelessness made the bloggers look even smarter and sassier, which is just fine.
Amidst the many folks Twittering and blogging about Gifford's multiple "haha" references to not knowing how to turn her computer on and how she "doesn't do" computers, her continual harping on Heather for potential privacy concerns in blogging also came under fire.
I could hear Sarah's eyes rolling from hundreds of miles away:
I enjoyed the segment even if Kathie Lee Gifford is pretty much a tool and obviously hasn’t spent much time reading blogs. Did she actually say she was afraid of the computer?
She is worried about Dooce exposing her child to people, yet I know what Kathie Lee’s kids names are and what they look like too. What is the difference between talking about your personal life on a blog or talking about your personal life on a morning talk show. Oh, right. People are still reading blogs on a regular basis.
Jennie at Preteens, Toddlers, and Newborns, Oh My! is also calling for the clue phone:
And here's my question for Kathie Lee: How is what we are doing any different from you blathering on about your children, showing photos and bringing them on camera over national television for 15 years? I would think someone like Kathie Lee would be a little less likely to judge another woman after all the flack she's taken over the years. I think this is at the heart of why the woman drives me nuts. She just doesn't see the connection.
Christina at A Mommy Story can't understand Gifford's obvious disdain, either:
At one point Kathie Lee said, "You seem like a lovely lady....BUT..." and while the "but" was sugar coated, the underlying message was that she disapproved of Heather posting intimate details and pictures of her daughter on the internet. Before Heather had a chance to answer, she was cut off for an introduction to the next segment. (And let's not even get started on how Kathie Lee talked about her kids on TV on a near daily basis when she was with Regis. How is that different?)
Christina goes on to wonder what NBC was hoping to convey, here:
I wondered what the Today Show expected its viewers to take away from this segment. Did they want them all to rush out and start mommy blogs, because clearly there was money to be made from it? Or were they trying to caution moms against exploiting their children and opening them up to stalkers by blogging about them? The messages seemed contradictory to me, not unlike the old dichotomy of "Women should have equal rights! Get out there and work! Oh wait, you're going to be a mom? How can you abandon your child by working? You should be at home!"
Honestly, I wasn't sure what the focus was, after watching it. I feel like the taped segment was designed to make it look like we hardly do anything and then rake in the bucks, and I feel like the thrust of the live-interview time with Heather was made to make it look like -- in seven years of blogging -- maybe Heather has never really stopped to consider what she's doing.
Which... come on.
I would be less disappointed, I think, if I thought this was the best NBC could do. Having met Janet and her producer and spent the time with them that I did, I am just that: Disappointed. It could've gone a different way completely. Check out what Janet wrote in her blog:
What they write about used to be the stuff of diaries or a mid-morning phone call between the best of friends, and maybe that's why they've become so popular.
Being a mom can be isolating, but with a connection to the Internet we can peek behind the curtain of our contemporaries who blog about their lives, whether it be a tense morning moment with a hubby over who's driving carpool to feeling guilty about taking little Tommy to our hair appointment instead of taking him to the park.
I have to admit, there are several blogs I check every morning...if only to validate that that I'm not the only who feels like she's constantly dropping the balls.
Those are the words of a woman who Gets It. Kathie Lee Gifford did not Get It, not even a little.
And I'll tell you something else, too. In the hours that we sat around talking about blogging, I know that more was said than could be included. I get that. But I'm sad that they chose to focus on Kristen's "controversial duck theft" when she has more to say than that. I'm sad that they plucked a comment I made about my earnings totally out of context (for one thing, it was in response to being asked repeatedly to give a "reference point" to help Janet understand the possible scope of our incomes, and for another, I immediately qualified it by pointing out that I was speaking of my entire income -- from working more than full-time -- of which the revenue from my personal blog is but a tiny fraction). I'm sad that Jill made some wonderful, eloquent points about the community of blogging and how it's buoyed her through a family crisis and that was cut.
I'm particularly disappointed that they cut the part where I answered the "why do you blog?" question by saying that my blog is a perpetual love letter to my kids. Because it is, and if they really wanted to make the segment about the mommyblogging it was purported to highlight, that is what the viewers needed to know.
Instead, within an hour of the segment, my husband had an email from a friend asking him how his "sugarmama" was doing. Kristen had an email from someone saying that she has decided to start "a blog about kids," and after seeing the Today Show segment she sees "how easily you ladies are doing it" and she would like Kristen to tell her how to make money.
Not one of us started this for the money. (None of the four of us featured today, anyway.) Not one. The fact that we're now making money is a side story -- and an important one -- but when you skip the beginning, the ending doesn't make any sense.
Didn't someone once say to do what you love, and the money will follow? That was the story here. At least, it should've been.