‘Mommybloggers’ turn their hobby into profits

‘Mommybloggers’ turn their hobby into profits

(07-21) 19:55 PDT — Heather Armstrong’s blog got her fired.
Six years later, it pays her family’s mortgage.

Armstrong, a 33-year-old Salt Lake City mother, is one of thousands of
"mommybloggers" who are finding there is money to be made in writing about the
traditionally uncompensated work of child rearing.

momblog.jpg
Blogger Stefania Pomponi Butler of Palo
Alto spends time at home with daughters Bunny (right), 6, and Wallie, 3.
Chronicle photo by Katy Raddatz

Armstrong, who has chronicled her life on Dooce.com since 2001 – and lost her
Los Angeles Web-design job a year later after writing about her co-workers – now
spills much digital ink on the topic of her 4-year-old daughter, Leta. Readers
love it – to the tune of 5 million to 6 million page views a month.

Armstrong spoke of her experience to about 1,000 women, 60 percent of them
moms, attending the BlogHer conference over the weekend in San Francisco.

Most of these mothers started online journals for personal reasons. But a
handful have taken blogging from a sanity-saving hobby to a career, and many
others – more than 1,000 in BlogHer’s ad network alone – are collecting at least
a little extra income through their blogs.

Blogger Stefania Pomponi Butler of Palo Alto spends time at home
with daughters Bunny (left), 6, and Wallie, 3. Chronicle photo by Katy Raddatz

momblog1.jpg

Some, like Armstrong, earn money through advertising on their sites, while
others profit from selling merchandise or writing product reviews, or have used
the popularity of their family sites to start related careers. A lucky few have
even landed book deals.

Mommyblogging – a term embraced by some and reviled by others – has become
one of the more lucrative blog categories because of marketers’ intense desire
to connect with mothers, who are leaving traditional advertising venues such as
soap operas for the Internet, said BlogHer co-founder Jory Des Jardins.

"When you have children in the household, your spending goes through the
roof," said Charlene Li, who covered social media for Forrester Research before
leaving to strike out on her own recently. Pair that with the fact that mothers
are more likely to blog than the general Internet population – 15 percent of
mothers with kids under 18 blog, compared with 12 percent of all online adults,
Li said – and mommybloggers begin to look pretty attractive to anyone selling
anything.

Heather Armstrong started her blog, Dooce.com, in 2001 and was
fired from her job because of it. Now she’s a mom who blogs for a living.
Chronicle photo by Paul Chinn
momblog2.jpg

Armstrong and husband Jon, who quit his job in 2005 to handle the business
and technical end of the site, don’t disclose how much they earn.

But, she said, "We live as comfortably as we did when Jon worked full time
and I was at home." Armstrong also recently completed her first offline memoir,
about her struggle with postpartum depression.

That lifestyle is something that legions of other bloggers long to achieve,
and the Armstrongs know how singular it is.

"It is miraculous how much time we get to spend with our daughter," Heather
Armstrong said. "It’s a dream lifestyle."

Still, making a living sharing such personal topics as breastfeeding, child
rearing and depression has its perils. Armstrong has seen photos of her daughter
manipulated online. Critics have attacked her for deciding to wean her baby in
order to take antidepressants, and for taking work-related trips without Leta.

Armstrong even limited her time at BlogHer because her biggest fans – other
bloggers – tend to react to meeting her by publishing every detail, and
sometimes those details are less than kind.

"There are hundreds and thousands of strangers who detest me," Armstrong
said. "It’s a weird reality to live with."

3 moms who have succeeded online

— Stefania Pomponi Butler, 38, of Palo Alto consults with marketers who want
to get bloggers to write about their products. Companies pay Butler to tap into
the extensive network she has built through her blog, City Mama (citymama.typepad.com). The mother of
two earns enough, she said, to pay for "preschool, pedicures and cocktails."

— Mir Kamin, 36, of Athens, Ga., mother of two, last year made 10 percent
more than in her previous job as a software engineer through her sites, Woulda
Coulda Shoulda (wouldashoulda.com) and Want Not (wantnot.net),
and contributing to other parenting sites.

— Carmen Staicer, 38, of Virginia Beach, Va., brings in several hundred
dollars a month through her blog, momtothescreamingmasses.typepad.com.
"In this society, you are more validated when you have an income," said the
mother of six.

Blogging tips

Figure out how to make money. Only a blogger like Heather
Armstrong, with a very high-traffic site, can make a living on advertising.
Other possibilities include selling merchandise through affiliate programs such
as Amazon Associates, or creating your own merchandise. A few mothers, such as
Kristen Hammond, who blogs at MommyNeedsACocktail.com, have had success
selling T-shirts, although others, such as Armstrong, found that creating
merchandise did not pay off. Getting paid to write product reviews, or at least
getting free merchandise to write about, is easier, and agencies such as the
Parent Bloggers Network (parentbloggers.com) can connect bloggers with
marketers.

Draw in interested readers with search engine
optimization, which involves titling and tagging posts in a way that helps
search engines find and catalog them. A Seattle company called SEOmoz has some
useful introductory articles at SEOmoz.org/articles.

Create a quality product. Spelling counts, advised blogger
Carmen Staicer, as does honesty when writing about parenting. "It’s not all
sunshine and rainbows," she said.

Source: Chronicle research

This article appeared on page D – 1 of the
San Francisco Chronicle

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