Blogging and bringing home the bacon

As many as 3,000 women are at this year's BlogHer Conference to talk about their lives, businesses, and blogs; and in some cases, they're all one and the same.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
4 min read

SAN FRANCISCO--The modern woman, per the popular '70s television commercial, was once "bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan." Now she's also writing a blog.

As many as 3,000 women are here at the fourth annual BlogHer Conference 2008, which opened Friday, to talk about their lives, their businesses, and their blogs. And in some cases, they're all one and the same. Despite the popular perception that women bloggers are all stay-at-home mothers, many women here run their own businesses or work full-time, and they use a blog as a personal outlet, a connection to a community, or as a way to boost their career.

Women filled the seats and lined the back walls at the Friday session on do-it-yourself promotion for their blogs. Stefanie Olsen/CNET News

Jamie Risdon Lentzner, for example, is the founder of Foster City, Calif.-based Jamie's Painting Design, a design shop, and she writes a blog about what it takes to run your own business. A first-timer to the BlogHer conferences, she said that she felt a bit overwhelmed because of the lineup of polished writers and the sheer volume of women.

"It feels like I'm rushing a sorority," Lentzner said.

It can be easy to be fooled by an event with free massage, a Sesame Street salon, and cookies-and-milk breaks. But the women at BlogHer's conference range from well-known food writers and media lawyers to political pundits and technology entrepreneurs. For them, it's not enough to succeed in a chosen career anymore; these days, they contend, the well-rounded woman needs her own blog, too. That's why many of the women here are trying to figure out how to make money from their blogs.

Women's voices are commanding more attention on the Internet. And the number of female bloggers is rising. This week, BlogHer, whose network has grown from 180 bloggers last year to 2,200 this year, teamed with NBC Universal's iVillage.com to promote its content across mainstream sites including BravoTV.com and Oxygen.com.

An estimated 13 percent of women on the Internet write a regular blog, according to a new report from Forrester Research. That's up slightly from the 12 percent of adults who blog, but is still eclipsed by the 15 percent of online mothers who blog.

"Today, American women are not only the most powerful consumers in the world, we're also the power users of Web 2.0 and social-media technologies," BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone said.

Many of the women here are trying to figure out how to turn their blogs into a business. Among the more popular sessions on Friday were those on how to syndicate or promote a blog. The session "DIY Content Syndication and Promotion" had women lined against the walls and strewn across the floor.

Blog-marketing panelists recommended services like Twitter and Kirtsy, a "Digg for chicks," to promote their sites. (Kirtsy lets users recommend favorite products and links.) They also suggested the Wordpress plug-in Disqus to promote discussion on their sites, and Word Tracker for researching snappy headlines that will help drive traffic.

Esther Brady, a popular video blogger about weight loss who landed Weight Watchers as a sponsor, recommended using tools like Blip.TV to film episodic videos for a blog, instead of YouTube. Blip.TV's terms of service are more lax than YouTube's with respect to use of copyrighted material, Brady said.

Sarah Braesch, a mom, blogger, and contributing editor to BlogHer, traveled over the last week from Washington D.C. to San Francisco with several other women to attend this year's conference. Stefanie Olsen/CNET News

For bloggers who needed advice about defamation, the tax code, or how to make money, there's someone here with an answer for everything.

Sabrina Parsons, for example, is the chief executive of software company Palo Alto Software, and she runs a blog called Mommy CEO. She was among several women Friday who doled out advice on running a regular blog.

"At the end of the day, you need to decide what your business is. Are you going to charge for freelance, charge for advertising, or do it as a hobby?" Parsons said. She encouraged attendees to write a one-page business plan for their blog and conduct some research on the Internet to figure out details on advertising.

"We're lucky we're living in the age of the Internet where you can find everything out on the Web," said Parsons.

One of the big issues for some women who are bloggers is finding a way to combine the personal with the professional.

Charlene Li, for example, a former analyst with Forrester Research, said that professional women often use a blog to fend off a feeling of isolation in their work life, or help express their passion for personal interests like cooking, biking, or politics.

Li herself wrote a blog for Forrester about technology, and she writes a blog about her personal and family life. Each blog carries a slightly different tone of writing.

But now that she's left Forrester (Friday was her official last day), she's been thinking about whether she will combine her professional and personal writing in one place. "People know me in slightly different contexts," said Li.

Vicki Mote Bodwell, founder of New York-based bedding company Warm Biscuit, likes that she doesn't write about her business on her blog, KidsBeddingBlog.com. Instead, she sees it as a cathartic exercise and a way to connect to other like-minded parents who are into a low-tech lifestyle, without cell phones or television.

"It's a way to connect philosophically with others," Bodwell said.

For Anne-Marie Nichols, the tricky part is managing her time. She is a freelance copywriter and maintains at least two blogs of her own.

"The question is, how much time can you give without getting burnt out?" Nichols said. "You need to set goals. Are you going to make money or just do it for fun?"

The opening morning at BlogHer 2008 encouraged as many as 1,000 female bloggers to network after breakfast. Stefanie Olsen