OFFICIAL LIVEBLOG: Identity/Passions: Life Blogging Outside the Lines

Session description: Blogging started as a geek’s game, and by 2004 political bloggers were making waves and mainstream media news. Post-BlogHer 2005 the rise of the MommyBloggers, first as cultural, then as commercial, force began. So where does that leave the rest of us…blogging about who we are and what we do with as much dedication, passion and amazing writing as any of those other blogging archetypes? We know that many of you who don’t fit
neatly into the above boxes share the same concerns:

  • How can I dispel stereotypes about people like me?
  • How can I build community without something like an ideology or a kid of a particular age to serve as the common thread?
  • How can I get a piece of the monetization pie…I have income and spend money too, you know?

  • Maria Niles moderates this conversation featuring Shameeka Ayers, who blogs about living the high life on a budget, Trish Bendix, who explores lesbian and bi-sexual issues at AfterEllen.com, Jane Gassner, founder of midlifebloggers.com, and Amber Rhea, a feminism and sex blogger, as we delve together into myriad LifeBlogging issues.

    FYI - Natalie P. McNeal (The Frugalista Files) misamiherald.typepad.com/frugalista is filling in for Shameeka Ayers

    We have Amber Rhea from the blog Being Amber Rhea and Jane Gassner has a personal blog and has a group blog called Midlife Bloggers. Trish Bendix from After Ellen. We have a new panelist. Shameeka had a medical emergency and couldnt join us. We have Natalie from Frugalista Files.

    Any questions?

    Maria Niles is the moderator - she is a contributing editor at Blogher. She also writes at the pop culture blog, Beyond Help.

    Audience: You said you have several blogs that you maintain. I thought it was a barrier for me. How do you pile it in one place. The fountain pen collectors and fans will appreciate everything you write.

    Maria: I was inspired to blog by Elisa Camhort-Page. She has ten blogs. It is a struggle to maintain. I always worry if the Chihuahua lovers appreciate the reality tv audience. It's hard work. It's Your voice. I love reading blogs by interesting people. Interesting people have lots of different interests.

    Jane: I refused to not have many blogs. I went to Blogher in 06. Someone told her you have to focus on one thing or your screwed. She started By Jane. Midlifebloggers is a group blog. We don't have one particular topic. Go with your gut.

    Maria: Your blog is about being stylish on a budget. Do you struggle bringing other parts to your life?

    Natalie: I'll bring in my personal interests (pop culture). I try to keep it really broad. I can increase my readership becuase there is something for everyone.

    Maria: Trish, After Ellen is the intersection between Lesbians and pop culture. The lesbians have a wide range, how do you find focus.

    Trish: My job as blog editor is to assign blogs to writers. Pop culture blog that plays for your team. It's TV, film, music from our perspective. We have a good balance of different topics and try to appeal to all kinds of women. I want to have a team of bloggers which are diverse. Seeking out stories so we are more inclusive of different groups of age, race, etc. It's more work, but if you could be more inclusive, more people will be drawn to you.

    Audience: Us non-mommybloggers need to not get caught up in this intensity. I feel it is the elephant in the blogospehere. Can you comment.

    Maria: There is a spotlight on marketers focusing on mommybloggers. Other voices may not be heard as loudly.

    Nancy:--blog is myhoustongardenspot.com I take pictures of flowers, plants, Houston, pictures that interest me. I garden. That's my big interest. I have a lot of blogger friend. I was in Chicago at a garden blogging conference called Spring Fling. A lot of these women have large readership - companies come after them to do reviews. Home Depot gave mommybloggers a lot of cards to give away - and mommybloggers. They gave the mommybloggers cards as well but didn't give it to the garden blogs because they werent as popular.

    Maria: as a marketer, I can say that we're stupid.

    Nancy: Get a clue guys.

    Maria: Trish - you have attracted advertiser interest. Logo bought it. There are some interesting dynamics with gay themed advertising.

    Trish: Gay media is such a small niche. We are owned by MTV/Logo and people assume we have a lot of money, but we are at the low end of the totem pole. We don't get relevant advertising sometime. Gay media - lesbian blogs - blogs for queer woman. It's hard to find and get out there, make yourself known as a profitable community. They have done studies.. Double income no kids, we have money! Marketers assume you aren't profitable. How do you make them know it?

    Maria: Midlife bloggers in interesting. You have found this hunger of stories we don't hear about.

    Jane; I am a midlife woman. I dont have kids at home, not a mommyblogger. I didn't see anything for my cohort. I knew by reading things (primetime women) have the most ability to spend out of anyone. I talked to Blogher about doing it. Someone wrote in to Blogher and said where are all the midlife women. I logged on and got on it. There was such a hunger out there for people who are not focused on their family. Not focused on getting help for their children. They may have children but that isn't where there head is. I'm feeling wishy-washy about ads. I'm not real good - the thing you have to do to build numbers.

    My best friend Janet Miller from 9th grade is my marketing person.

    Maria: There is a group called 20 something bloggers that came about the same way. If you aren't blogging about mommies,etc. There are people who share your interest. We have to find each other and make sure people know there are spaces.

    Jane: There are boomer blogs, Vibrant nation (sponsor is Nordstrom). They do service oriented - like Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal. I stay away from that. I don't want the how to. I want women writing about their own experience. It's the experience that counts, not ten tips for this.

    Audience: My sister is a mommyblogger. I don't really have a space and it bothered me, but now I don't care. I think its ok not to have a theme. I'm ok that nobody markets to me. It's more about writing to have my own voice. People end up there and its nice.

    Maria: Amber, your blog is very personal. Recently you shut your blog down. There are some pressures with being personal online

    Amber: I wrote the blog for 7 years, starting in 2002. I thought the name lifeblogging was funny. I remember when blogging was called blogging. Finding your niche doesn't resonate for me. I never wrote my blog for someone else. If someone found something cool, maybe they found something they Identify with.

    I did shut it down, I launched a new one and I'm not promoting it. If people find it, it's ok, not hiding it.

    Sometimes there is no debate. I'm writing about something in my life and you don't have a right to debate me on it.

    I have a new blog now, getting a fresh start. I don't have a theme, it's ok. Some people call me a sex blogger, but I write about it some of the time.

    Audience: Jamie - ShameonShamus: The rest of you have a topic (this question may be for Amber) You didn't nec. have a topic. How did you find a community of people who were doing the same thing.

    Amber: Sort of. One thing that was good when I moved to Atlanta in 2004. I met a lot of people through it. There used to be a stereotype that if you were a blogger you never went out and met people.

    There are people out there who still write about their lives. There are women who still write about things we're not supposed to talk about. It can be very empowering.

    Maria: Natalie, when you talk about frugal lifestyle. You talk about saving money does that scare away opportunities for Marketers?

    Natalie; Not really - part of Miami Herald. I get banks, etc who want to be on my site and I turn it over to Advertising. I write about wear what you have in your closet and make it cute.

    Its kind of interesting - Frugalista took off - Retailers would start doing studies and what is a frugalista - a mother with kids and over 35. I'm not a mom with kids and over 35. I'm not part of that demographic. I hope to someday be that. Majority of women are single. I deal with it to push my brand out there. I'm a trained journalist and I'll link to my blog. I justgot a deal with Harlequin and can write my story, my way.

    There is a certain push for a certain demographic. We have to keep our blogs out there. You need to be visible too because what you are doing is important to others too.

    I started out my blog when I got my credit card bill. I'll do a blog about going a month and not spending any cash. It would keep me honest. A lot of people were happy thatI put it out there. From there it evolved. The blog keeps me honest. Women don't talk about problems with money.

    Audience: Blog with a topic they have respect for. Personal blog they think is a diary. How do you address that it's just as important?

    I know that some of the famous bloggers started as personal bloggers but became mommybloggers. How do you explain to people the difference?

    Amber: If they aren't going to get it, they're not going to get it. It doesn't make sense to me. The value in personal blogs are the connections. I can't tell you how many times I read something on a personal blog - I feel less alone gives me the strength to write about things in my own life. I had people contact me - thank you for writing about your experience with mental illness. I feel I don't have to hide it.

    As we hear other people talk about different parts of themselves - it creates a human connection that is sometimes lacking.

    Audience: I always dread that speed dating thing this morning. I walked out but then I walked back in. Why do I hate it? I go around and say the same phrase "I just blog about my little life" Which pisses me off because my life is awesome. A lot of people have the same thing. What is that? There is this sort of defensive thing going on.

    I have had so many arguments with people that refuse to go to Blogher because it's all Mommybloggers. It's like saying you are going to Burning Man to just do drugs.

    After a while you don't care. How many people are clicking on it. My ego was eating my head and I stepped back and had to ask who did I start it for.

    Maria; Great idea - don't look at the stats - it can screw with your mind. If you are grateful when you find connection, stats will get into the way.

    Jane; What I have found - it is so easy to get sucked into the mentality of wanting to be respected, wanting to be acknowledged. THe way one knows that they are respected, by who buys advertising, commenting, etc. Every third day I have to remind myself why I got into this.

    Coming here. When I learned what this is about. Everyone is a mommyblogger? what is this all about. I walked in here and said wow there is a lot of mommybloggers. There is a focus on advertising and merchandising.

    Maria; I was at the first blogher where it was said that mommybloggers were a radical act. There is value in sharing stories.

    Q: I went to Blissdom in Nashville and wanted to see Jen Lancaster (one of my fave authors) I wanted to make sure it was said in this room. What I learned about the blogging community is there is such support and they are really connected to each other. Even if you aren't a mommyblogger there is so much we can learn from them. They got audiences that are interested in all of our topics. They are a great group of women.

    Trish: You want your own story to be told, so you have to build your own community for it. For those of you who have personal blogs it might be hard to find others who you can relate to. You have to create a community yourself if you are not finding it.

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    Maria: When you are a personal blogger, when people attack your ideas, they are attacking your life. Amber - you said it's not up for debate.

    Amber: I don't like the idea that you have to build a thicker skin. I disagree with that. It puts the problem on me - my responsibility - the problem is with them for attacking me. I should not be responsible for their bad behavior. When someone is in my space, if they talk sh*t - I don't hesitate to hit the ban button. If someone came in my house and did the same thing, they would be out the door.

    Audience: My name is Phoebe - I just want to agree with what you are saying. If it's your blog, you should be able to post whatever you want.

    Audience: My name is Corrine - That blackgirl site. It's a blog collective. I blog about how black women are perceived in pop culture. Building relationships - we should use this opportunity to find people of like-mind. Natalie and I have a very rich relationship , and we have only met IRL twice.

    I recognized Natalie's blog name at a panel. We have had honest critical information sharing regularly Find the people you want to build relationships with (in this room) I'm not a mommyblogger, but I'm fabulous. We're all fabulous.

    Audience:My name is Katie- Im interested in the story about shutting down your blog. The interaction between public/private.

    If my mom read what I'm writing now - I get so much value from other people sharing their stories, but I find myself censoring myself. I don't blog under my real name. I would be nervous about my boss, sister mother reading my blog. How do you navigate - is this too far.

    Jane: It's a difficult one. I started my personal blog. I moved from Los Angeles and it was for my friends and family to keep up. My family actively rejects it. I don't have to worry about them reading it. I really fight that. I have an unusual marital situation.

    It's a balance. You always have to check with who you are and how you feel about things.

    Amber: There isn't one right answer, everyone has to find that out for themselves. I started my blog under my own name, I didn't think to do it any other way. My mom started reading it and I was like oh my god, but then I said if she doesn't like what she reads she doesn't have to read it. I don't blog about work. Plenty of peple I shouldn't blog about sex, mental illness, but I keep on doing it because women get enough of that. It's unfortunate when women police each other on what we can do or not

    Audience: I represent two communities of moms across the country. What I want to do is bring bloggers whether you have procreated or not - I want to bring that over to a community of women who have procreated. I hope that there is more of a connection between bloggers and moms.

    Natalie: I have a lot of moms who read my blog. It's kind of sad it has to be like it is now.

    Audience: I wanted to talk about the whole issue of mommyblogging. We are all acting like it's a done deal. Blogging has been defined as mommyblogging - 80 percent and the rest of us. I want to remind everyone - this definition is under two years old!

    Your life stages change. What if you start off as an infertility blogger and then it works and your a mommyblogger. Presto chango.

    I am a meno blogger - I had kids late. My life has changed, even in the five years I have been blogging. Don't let these definitions define you.

    Audience: I'm Nicole - The one thing I wanted to say. I am not a personal blogger. I tried it so I could do it for work. The one thing I learned. If I ever limited to myself to the niche or genre i was working in, I was doomed for failure. The most interesting people I have met and interesting writers I have found come from these strange places. Open yourself to new people and new experiences. Most of us who are not the most popular bloggers, we can support each other.

    Audience: I'm from Leftcoastmom.com- Triple threat reject - Parenting and Politics. I'm not a mommyblogger. I don't just write about my kids. That's only a fraction of my life - big part because of my life. I don't have a lot of traffic on that blog because it's split.

    Started Bi-Polar Gemini - putting these two things in real person terms. I have had more traffic on that already.

    Audience: Yesterday I was at the Ford thing and some bloggers went to the ford plant in Chicago. we drove new cars did a lot of great stuff with ford. I have a Subaru so I was a good audience. Does anyone in the room have ideas for initiatives for non-moms to attend these things. Is anyone organizing non-mom bloggers to be involved in these events. Mommybloggers a couple years ago were nothing a couple years ago. Some moms took it and a lot of stuff is happening.
    Is it happening for non-moms

    Jane: It's not happening withn blogher - what happened with the Ford thing - How did you get it - they sent around something and asked if they wanted to participate. What I understand of the blogher review panel - they put people forward to different advertising and the advertisers pick who they want.

    Maria: There is a panel tomorrow about specifics about Blogher Ad network and reviewing for Blogher you have to part of the adnetwork. You are right how do we raise our voices.

    Trish - For After Ellen - social media is a huge part of it. Women will find women in the forums. We actively use twitter for links and meetups.

    Natalie: Strong frugal community of bloggers - they are great - it's still maturing and they may do their own thing.

    Maria: I've encouraged companies to think outside of the usual suspects. In the same way that each of the people on our panel have demonstrated. You can build your community by putting your voices out there. We can collectively say to the advertisers I want my voice to be heard.

    Audience: Start writing reviews. There are many products today - we have platforms to do it. Don't expect people to pay you right away. I write a review and send it to a company and they say hey we can send you more stuff to review.

    Maria: If you are talking about these things - smart marketers will find you. On my pop culture blog, I have started receiving screenings, etc.

    Amber: I just don't care. I'm a little confused why that conversation is happening in this session because of the title (Lifeblogging). I'm wondering the assumption that all of blogging ties in with marketing.

    Audience: I play both sides and do marketing and I'm a personal blogger. Next audience is Boomer blogging - you have to be careful not to lose your authenticity.

    Maria: FTC is coming up with guidelines - transparency - don't lie to people and you'll be fine. Why we talk about monetization here. One of the reason BlogHer network was started because it's a form of economic empowerment. That might allow you options that you wouldn't have. Not everyone wants it. I don't like to see a distinction - if you shun monetization, you are more pure. I think there is room for both.

    Trish - It's my job to be the blog editor. There are rules I can follow - no sexually explicit, no nudity. If I had my personal blog, I can do it. You have to have a mission statement for your blog. If you set out to make money, there are things you might have to do to change your blog.

    Maria: Thank you all so much.

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