If Donna Reed Blogged

Palin Family

Mama Grizzly: A preeminent mommy archetype in post-modern America

The New York Times Sunday Magazine featured an article about Heather Armstrong, an extremely successful blogging mom.

She is one of the few bloggers who wield that kind of clout. Typically, there are 100,000 visitors daily to her site, Dooce.com, where she writes about her kids, her husband, her pets, her treatment for depression and her life as a liberal ex-Mormon living in Utah. As she points out, a sizable number also follow her on Twitter (in the year and a half since she threatened Maytag, she has added a half-million more). She is the only blogger on the latest Forbes list of the Most Influential Women in Media, coming in at No. 26, which is 25 slots behind Oprah, but just one slot behind Tina Brown. Her site brings in an estimated $30,000 to $50,000 a month or more — and that’s not even counting the revenue from her two books, healthy speaking fees and the contracts she signed to promote Verizon and appear on HGTV. She won’t confirm her income (“We’re a privately held company and don’t reveal our financials”). But the sales rep for Federated Media, the agency that sells ads for Dooce, calls Armstrong “one of our most successful bloggers,” then notes a few beats later in our conversation that “our most successful bloggers can gross $1 million.”

By talking about poop and spit up. And stomach viruses and washing-machine repairs. And home design, and high-strung dogs, and reality television, and sewer-line disasters, and chiropractor visits. And countless other banalities of one mother’s eclectic life that, for some reason, hundreds of thousands of strangers tune in, regularly, to read. Queen of the Mommy Bloggers by Lisa Belkin is a contributing writer and the author of the Motherlode blog.


Among women who blog, Drummond and Armstrong are at the top. There are almost as many ways to measure reader traffic as there are blogs right now, but Nielsen estimates that Dooce sometimes has as many as six million visitors a month, and Pioneer Woman is in the same range. Both bloggers have best-selling books: “It Sucked and Then I Cried” is Armstrong’s story of postpartum depression; “The Pioneer Woman Cooks” is Drummond’s first book, a cookbook illustrated with photos of food and cowboys, including rear views of her husband, clad in Wranglers and chaps as he bucks broncos and brands calves.

Having a tale to tell is only the first step, of course. Still evolving is the art of making a living from that tale. Heather and Jon both worked in online marketing, yet they were hesitant about adding advertising to Dooce early on. More specifically, it was Heather who hesitated. She feared “selling out” and the reaction from readers. But after her postpartum breakdown, her therapist prescribed that she hire a baby-sitter to come every day. Ads became a way to pay for child care.

The Armstrongs started small at the end of 2004, with Google ads (the kind that appear on registered sites and pay anywhere from a few pennies to a few dollars, depending on Web traffic). Before long they had contracted with an agency that actively sought display advertisers, making Dooce the first personal Web site to accept significant advertising. When monthly income from the blog exceeded Jon’s paycheck for the same period, he quit his job to manage the business.

Armstrong’s readers responded as she’d feared. “They screamed, ‘Who do you think you are?’ ” she remembers. “ ‘What made you important enough to make money on your Web site?’ ”

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  • Apurr Sonar says:

    my first repsonse to this no-title, “family-friendly” post with its yuck pic up top, is to want to download the photo, stamp a red circle with a diagonal line in it, right across the top…
    i haven’t even read the content yet.
    there’s my initial response.
    no whatsername here!
    bogans out!

    if i had more time, i might do as i threaten, or even _READ_ the post… that will come later.

  • Apurr Sonar says:

    i have a blog site link that is very popular amongst media ‘types’ and wannabes here in australia. it’s big, and replete with archives, has many comments on each post, and uses, btw, one of my fabvourite WP themes, “Cleanr”. it is run by one self-aggrandizing woman (the site is named after her) who relentlessly sells her idea that new media is THE media, and that journalists are namby-pamby know-nothings… well i intuit this from reading only one or two posts, i admit. at the same time, it looks as if it’s a good resource for media use, audience reception to media presences, blogs and blogging, social networking and so on..
    main problem for me, is getting past the irritating self-important style of the writing – but then, i am a little too sentsitive to those issues.


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