While U.S. President Barack Obama probably couldn't tell you about the current trends in mommy blogging, it's obvious he understands the political and economic clout of women bloggers. He opened BlogHer's eighth annual conference in New York last week, live by video conference.
Among the other keynote guests were media heavyweight Martha Stewart and news anchor Katie Couric, both of whom have new TV ventures set to debut in the fall. Attendees hooted and tweeted during their presentations, holding up smartphones and iPads like lighters at a rock concert.
More than 130 sponsors packed the adjoining trade fair, selling electronics, toys, drugs, gluten-free food, toilet paper and sex toys (thank you Fifty Shades of Grey), and giving away mountains of products, hoping to get the mommy blogger bounce. Women banged past one another, wine in one hand and a Santa-sized sack of swag in the other. Gone are the days of sample mini-pads and mouse pads. Mommy bloggers have become both the marketers and the marketplace.
The almost 5,200 attendees of BlogHer12 were economically, socially and racially diverse. Half of them identify as parenting bloggers. They post about crafts, educational parenting, healthy eating, divorce, erotica, postpartum depression, raising kids with disabilities, being single moms by choice, gay moms, military moms. What they have in common is the desire to connect and talk about their lives in an online public sphere, and a membership in a demographic that politicians, celebrities and industries actively seek to woo.
Elisa Camahort, co-founder of BlogHer, says today's women dominate social media, influencing the purchasing, voting, health care and lifestyle choices of North American women.
Retailers are finely attuned to this. Women control the lion's share of household spending – recent reports estimate it's about 73 per cent in the U.S. and 67 per cent in Canada. It's no surprise, then, that some companies are focusing their attention squarely on the mommy-blogging set. Canadian toy maker Spin Master has a dedicated staffer whose job is to reach out to mommy bloggers and keep them informed of the latest trends and products. Spokesperson Stephanie Kerr says the company is gearing up for Christmas, and intends to send new products to as many as 300 mommy bloggers, many of whom are Canadian, to review products on their sites. Maple Leaf Foods also has a department dedicated to social media.
At the first BlogHer conference, in 2005, with 300 in attendance, a debate erupted between the yet-to-be-coined "mommy bloggers" and the "serious bloggers." Someone suggested if the women blogging about spit-up, baby food and the dearth of sex in their post-baby marriages put their attention to serious matters, they'd bring about real social change. Alice Bradley, who writes the wonderful blog Finslippy, stood up and said mommy blogging was a radical act. It was. This critical and growing mass of diverse bloggers opens a window to women's experience and narratives that will never again be closed.
There are an estimated four-million mommy bloggers in North America, writing about everything from chemicals in food and where to get cheap stuff to resolving fights with the hubby. Only a handful are big earners. It's been reported that Heather Armstrong, who blogs at Dooce, earns $1-million a year. Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, has translated her blog into a series of bestselling cookbooks and a show on the Food Network. Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess who gets two- to three-million hits per month, is currently on a book tour for Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir. But other popular mommy bloggers who make the top-25 lists bring in much, much less income. Gina Crosley-Corcoran of the Feminist Breeder, with close to 400,000 unique visitors annually, posted that she earned less than $6,000 last year. Ms. Camahort likens it to any artistic endeavour: Only a tiny percentage will be financially successful; most will hang in for the love of it.
Regardless why they're doing it, mommy bloggers in North America have used their clout to make or break products, to change what's on store shelves and to, as Canadian mommy blogger and political activist Karen Green put it during the last federal election, "mom-the-vote."
President Obama was certainly out momming-the-vote at the conference last week. If the thousands of women there tell that story to the hundreds of thousands of women that read their blogs, and they tell all of their friends – well, it's no surprise that he made the effort.
Dad's weigh in
They may not have the numbers yet, but more and more dads are managing domestic affairs full-time or balancing work and family – and blogging about it.
Over 200 gathered at Dad 2.0, the first ever daddy bloggers convention held in Austin, Texas, in March. Representatives from Huggies were there to apologize for offending them with an ad campaign that mocked their diapering skills. BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort says the support, camaraderie and connection that blogging provides is something men seek too.
Here are some interesting Canadian daddy blogs getting attention:
Jay Palter: homemadedad.ca
The former stay-at-home dad writes about being a primary caregiver, taking a lot of crap for it, and shifting gender roles.
Eric Novak: envirodad.com
The father of four believes that environmental stewardship is a requisite of parenting.
Buzz Bishop: dad-camp.com
Mr. Bishop edits a site that features dads writing about their kids, stuff to do with their families, and tips and tricks to navigate the parenting minefield.
Nick Cheeseman CanaDad: ncheeseman.blogspot.ca
Feeling his way through the wilderness, this blog has lots of pics and funny observations about parenting.
Special to The Globe and Mail