Martha Stewart proves that no one can talk sh*t about bloggers – except other bloggers

Martha Stewart at BlogHer 2012  photo credit: BlogHer

Martha Stewart at BlogHer 2012
photo credit: BlogHer

Yesterday a Bloomberg News video with Martha Stewart made the rounds on Facebook and ignited a frenzy of indignation from the women’s blogging world.   In the interview, Martha disparages bloggers by saying they are “not experts,” that they don’t fully test recipes, that many just repost other people’s work.  Here’s a sample of the conversation that exploded on Facebook yesterday. (Shown with permission from an expert in many things, Amy Oztan)

So, here’s the deal.

Martha is totally right.

And she didn’t say anything that bloggers haven’t said amongst ourselves every time we get together.  I had this conversation over and over again at BlogHer this year.

Are there amazing bloggers who are absolutely experts in their fields?  YES.

Are there bloggers that are full of it, steal other people’s work, put up anything any PR person sends them, are completely based on smoke and mirrors and everyone wonders why any brands work with them?  HELL YES.

Now aside from the fact that you can tell the Martha Stewart interview was edited down to just these perfect controversial sound bites – I’d love to see the context of Martha’s discussion of bloggers – there also has to be a reality check in the blogging world.  Not everything is cause for outrage.   And sometimes the very media outlet that puts out the video and calls it

Martha Stewart Speaks Out: Bloggers Are Not Experts

needs to be called out for playing this game in the first place.  This is 30 seconds out of who knows how many minutes of footage.  I’m guessing at least a half an hour.  And they got exactly the reaction they wanted – all of the bloggers making this video go viral.

Martha Stewart should know better than to ever say what she said, even just from a savvy PR point of view.  But, she is someone who truly knows the media landscape.  She knows that blogging and the content machine have changed the way people get and want their information.  As Cecily Kellogg points out over at Babble, Martha Stewart’s company has taken a major hit, as have all large publishing companies, as they try to evolve in the changing digital media world. But that doesn’t mean she’s wrong about how many bloggers operate – or large online platforms – Babble, Baby Center and even the New York Times have certainly had their share of plagiarism scandals.

So let’s take a step back and get real.  Martha Stewart certainly doesn’t need me to defend her, but we also don’t need to be piling on one of the most successful female entrepreneurs – someone who elevated the crafting, food, and style niches to begin with, and proved there was a business model there – just to make bloggers feel justified about what they do.

If you’re an expert, prove it by turning out great, original content, and hopefully you will be able to make a living doing what you love.  And I bet if Martha asked you to contribute to her Pinterest Boards you’d do it in a heartbeat – because nothing proves you’re an expert more than the seal of approval from an indisputable expert in your field.

Why I’m Going to BlogHer – Again

going to BlogHer '13Every year around April and May in the mom blogging community a common refrain starts popping up on Facebook and twitter – “Are you going to BlogHer?”

I was on the fence this year.  It’s in Chicago so it means paying for travel and hotel.  To be honest, even though I technically went to the conference last year (it was in NYC) I didn’t even attend any sessions – they were too beginner level and didn’t really apply to me anymore.  People generally complain that it’s too big, too much about swag and just not a great place to really network anymore.

And, more and more over the past two years as my focus has been solely on building KidzVuz, I have blogged less often and been less active in the blogosphere.  So why would I go to the largest women’s blogging conference of the year?

Well, I felt the pull.  And I tried to understand why NOT going seemed kind of well, strange.

Here’s the thing about the BlogHer Conference – it’s like a family reunion, and so many of these women are my online extended family spread across the country that I rarely get to see in real life.

It’s hard to explain the mom blogging community to outsiders.  Perhaps they’ve read some of the disparaging or silly articles written in the past year.  Or they only see the free product bonanzas and giveaways, hear about the swag-fests and exclusive events, or even worse the petty infighting or bullying that occassionally happens online.

But, for most of us, particularly those of us who have been doing this since before the term “mommy blogger” was coined, there is a connection that is not quite definable.  A feeling that we’ve been in it together, built something together, watched each other grow and try new endeavors, helped define the space and sometimes even supported each other through loss and grief.

And, at it’s core, even though it’s become gigantic and slightly insane, BlogHer is still a celebration of that community – and all of the women blogging community, no matter what they write about, whom they write for or where they write from.

I’m fortunate I am able to go to Chicago this summer for BlogHer, and even more fortunate to reconnect and see so many women in person that I usually only see as a little avatar on my screen, and hopefully meet a bunch of new women whose blogs I can discover and who I will be able to add to my not so virtual circle of women I am proud to call friends – not “friends.”

Also, I’m ridiculously excited to hear Gale Ann Hurd speak.  So, there’s that.

When it’s OK to Work For Free (Really!)

There have a been a flurry of articles in the mom blogging space over the past year about mom bloggers who work for free and how you should never, ever do it.  I wrote one myself for Mom Blog Magazine.  You’ve heard it before: You cheapen everybody’s work; you make it harder for anyone to be taken seriously and get paid; you are a chump building someone else’s business without getting anything in return.  And, all of that is true – sometimes.  One of the things that bothers me about this dogmatic approach to the topic of being paid is that often it is hurled by people I know have worked – and continue to work – for free in some instances.  The other thing is, it’s not so clear-cut.  I’ve written previously about why you shouldn’t work for free – but taking stock of my year and really my last four years since I started blogging – I think it’s important to talk about when it’s okay to accept work that doesn’t come with cash compensation.

  1. YOU ARE NEW TO BLOGGING – It’s a big, wide blogosphere out there and building readership and traffic is daunting.  Joining a blog community where you are posting with a group of other women can give you an automatic group of colleagues and support.  You will not drive a ton of traffic from these sites – no matter what they say to the contrary – but you will start to feel like you belong, meet other bloggers and build links back to your site.  I started out writing for Silicon Valley Mom’s NYC Mom Blog site and then for the Yahoo! Motherboard and those two communities gave me the connections and friendships that are far and away the most valuable I have today – both personally and professionally.  I don’t regret writing for them for free for a moment.
  2. YOU WANT TO BUILD YOUR EXPERT REPUTATION:  There are sites that can provide a much bigger soapbox for your views than your blog.  Again, they will not throw you tons of traffic, so don’t fall for that, but they can give you a platform and a legitimacy that your blog alone will not.  When the Washington Post asked to re-post an education piece I had written I did not hesitate to say yes.  It enhanced my standing as an education writer and advocate and gave me a great byline to point to when applying to paying gigs in the field.  As long as you own your content and you are seeing the benefit then you should consider it.
  3. YOU WILL GET EXCLUSIVE ACCESS TO EVENTS OR INTERVIEWS: Let’s face it, you are just one of many bloggers trying to get press passes, invites and other access to brands and events.  If you don’t have the clout (or Klout) to obtain those on your own then having the byline and credentials from a much larger site can help.  I have attended many conferences, expos and events thanks to my affiliation with Yahoo! Motherboard.  It’s a name those outside of the blogging world understand.  To me, that was valuable.

Like I said in the beginning, nothing is black and white.  You have to go with your gut and you have to feel like what you are contributing is being respected and acknowledged accordingly – cash or otherwise.  You also have to be realistic about your worth.  Only you know what is right for you.  What do you think?  Would you or do you work for free?

My 7 Links Challenge – Writing Against My Will

If you know me you know I am not a big joiner.  I never did the 25 things about me meme on Facebook, I rarely answer those emails that urge you to answer questions and then send them on to 5 more people, I hate polls, but I am writing this post because this game of virtual tag intrigued me and came from one of my real life best friends, Shari of My Judie the Foodie.  The premise behind the My 7 Links Challenge is to analyze your own blog and break it down by some interesting categories.  And if there’s one thing I like it’s a chance to analyze and dig into some metrics in a new ways.

So, here it goes:

My most beautiful post:  I don’t think of myself as a “poetic” writer or a particularly fabulous photographer so I will define “beautiful” as a post that pulled at something deep inside me when I wrote it and that is The Bittersweet Inevitability of Growing Up.  Read it and weep.

My most popular post:  This is an easy one thanks to actual data and it’s a recent one: No One Puts Women Bloggers in a Corner – Except Women Bloggers.  But I have to give honorable mention to Mona Lisa Cat because it’s ALWAYS in my top 5 even though it’s just an image!

My most controversial post:  I guess it would be The Sex Talk: There’s No App for That.  Not so much on my blog but when it went up on Yahoo! Shine the comments were crazy and belligerent.

My most helpful post:  Hmmm, I’m a big advice giver on Mom Blog Magazine and The Blogging Angels, but don’t do that much of it here.  So, I’m thinking my latest post about BlogHer parties is up there: Ain’t No Party Like a BlogHer party: Except The 50 Other BlogHer Parties.

My post whose success surprised me: Why Aren’t Parents Rioting in the Streets?  I wrote it because I had to write it or I would burst.  I didn’t think anyone else would really care.  But, I touched a nerve, leapt into the education reform debate and ended up reprinted in The Washington Post.  And the comments were even better than my post I think.

My post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved:  So many.  No really.  If you’re a blogger you know there are those posts you work so hard on and then watch as they recede into the ether while something you dash off in 15 minutes gets the limelight.  For me that post was Finding My Religion in a Bowl of Matzoh Ball Soup.  It had decent traffic but I love that post and it didn’t get the reader love I had hoped.

My post that I am most proud of:  Ick.  I don’t feel “proud” of my posts.  I think as a writer I am never fully satisfied with anything I write and I could tinker with posts forever.  It’s why blogging is still not second nature to me.  But, if I have to choose I’d say Generation Hillary is one that I wrote and feel like my daughters will read in the future and remember a part of themselves that was important and true.

Now I get to nominate 5 Bloggers I adore to name their 7 links!

  1. FromHip2Housewife.com
  2. Coast2coastmom.com
  3. selfishmom.com
  4. lovethatmax.com
  5. theculturemom.com

And loyal readers I have to ask – do you agree with my links or do you think I have no idea which of my posts resonate and which don’t?

If you tweet this (and I hope you do!) please include the hashtag #my7links.  Thanks!!

Ain’t No Party Like a BlogHer Party (except the 50 other BlogHer parties)

As BlogHer looms ever closer the party haves and have-nots are starting to make their voices heard on Twitter and across the blogosphere.  It’s inevitable that when there are 3000 women at a conference, but only a small amount of invitations available for many events, that jealousy – or even panic – will set in.  I am co-hosting two events at BlogHer this year – one for KidzVuz and one for the Blogging Angels - for the first time ever.  For both events guest lists had to be created – and agreed to – by the different hosts, and everyone had their reasons for choosing certain people.

But, truth be told I just don’t know everyone at BlogHer, and many of the people I might want at an event won’t be at BlogHer.   And then there is the added requirement that the blogger actually fit the event.  Bloggers write across many niches and when you’re thinking about who will get the most out of the sponsors or event theme you have to consider that too.  So, we’ve done the best we could and I hate that some people might feel left out.  They shouldn’t.  See, the best thing about BlogHer is that all of the official parties are open to everyone.  There are endless opportunities to meet new people and grab a drink and wear your most fabulous shoes or sparkliest earrings.  It’s not about the number of invites it’s about what you make of the parties you do attend.

This is an article I wrote for Mom Blog Magazine way back after the Disney Social Media Moms debacle.  I think it still applies, and hopefully makes sense to those looking for guidance on how their social media footprint looks to event organizers:

So you weren’t invited to the big event that everyone is talking about.  Maybe it’s a lunch with some fabulous celebrities, a cocktail party with sneak peeks at new products or even a hugely coveted three-day conference to a magical place and you’re wondering why others were asked while you were passed over.  It’s not an easy question to answer because in the end PR reps will not divulge how they make their lists.  But that doesn’t mean you should sit around and wait to be asked to the ball.  No matter what stage of blogging you’re in you can be proactive about managing and building your online presence.

The first step in getting taken seriously by brands is to treat yourself like a brand. Your blog, your Facebook page, your Twitter stream, your YouTube channel – all of these social media outlets are your ever evolving online resume. Unlike real life where you are judged by your clothes, your home, even your accent, your online persona can be crafted in a way to always present yourself in the best light, maybe even a brighter light than you can even imagine. First, take a look at how you appear online to others.

These Tools Can Get You Started

  1. Social Mention: socialmention.com You can use Social Mention to monitor your blog and your own name.  It’s like a Google Alert on steroids.  Get a snapshot of where your blog is being mentioned, linked from, stumbled and commented upon.  See the keywords that define you and how strong your influence and passion are.
  2. Klout: klout.com The ultimate cheat sheet for brands — though many industry pros know that it’s not the perfect tool — it doesn’t measure quality, loyalty or other important traits that could help identify bloggers that make a good brand match. But, brands love it.  Make sure you register with them and link your Facebook account too to maximize your score.
  3. Addictomaticaddictomatic.com In one beautiful page view you can see your blog mentions or your name in various outlets: Google Blog Search, You Tube, Twitter, Tweetmeme and more.  It gives you an instant sense of your reach and where you need to improve.

(NOTE: Forget Compete.  It’s so off and lags so far behind that the stats are always way off.  Unfortunately some brands and PR people will still use it because it’s fast and free so you should at least know what they’re seeing if they do.  But, check out this post: Why and How to Keep Track of Your Blog Traffic by Kris Cain for some other traffic stat sources.)

  • Compete: compete.com I know, we’re all in this together and you should focus on yourself right?  In a perfect world of course, but in the real world go ahead and type in your blog with some of your peers and see how you stack up.  Then check out the blogs that are doing better than you and see how you can improve.

So, now you’ve got all of these stats and a clear picture of how you and your blog perform across platforms.  Where can you improve?  Tweet more meaningful links?  Spend more time commenting on other blogs?  Create better links in your own posts?  Most importantly, be true to yourself and your voice.  Be aware of trends, but don’t jump on every meme that comes your way.  Be consistent, be unique and be engaged. Chances are you will find yourself with an inbox full of invites and an even bigger problem – what to wear?