BlogHer to WSJ: Here’s the Rest of the Story About Blogging Business Trips
Last month, Lisa Stone, Jory Des Jardins and I headed to Austin for our eighth annual SXSW sojourn. Our better halves were home watching the kids (or in my case, cat), and we didn’t avail ourselves of the Bang With Friends app, so we went without. I’ll admit that, despite massive peer pressure, we didn’t get drunk, either.
Given the ubiquitous coverage of SXSW as Spring-Break-Meets-Geeks-Gone-Wild, it may surprise you that what we did do this year (as we do every year) is a lot of business. Collectively, we networked with an endless stream of customers and clients and would-be strategic partners, spoke on a panel, gave a social commerce presentation, appeared on Fox Business News, mentored five attendees as part of SXSW’s new official mentorship program and got whisked away to one private dinner at an unmarked social club by a national magazine. We did all this surrounded by massive brand sponsorship presence, carousing attendees and media attention that swings wildly from hailing SXSW as the trend-spotting event of the year to deriding the event as having jumped the shark and being all about the parties and swag.
SXSW and its image may seem so last-month by now, but it’s relevant given the swirl of controversy over Wall Street Journal reporter Katie Rosman’s recent article “The Mommy Business Trip.”
In the article, Katie specifically pursues an angle on women-focused blog conferences as outlets and opportunities for women who are mostly at-home otherwise. According to her write-up, the chardonnay-infused disco just never ends at these events, where every blogger is a mom getting her due: A girlfriend getaway while Daddy feeds Baby forbidden foods.
I spoke to Katie while she was preparing the article, and she was up front about her thesis that there is big business in providing that outlet. We went into the conversation knowing her focus. That didn’t mean that I didn’t do our usual evangelism of the very real and serious business that goes on at every BlogHer event, and year-round as part of the BlogHer Economy. We did because BlogHer is a big and very serious publishing business: Our startup has paid 5,000 premium quality content creators and social media advocates more than $25 million over the last four years. Most are women, but a handful are men. And as the world’s largest event for women in social media, BlogHer is like CES: Deals get done. I cited book deals and businesses born at BlogHer conferences. I mentioned appearances by Martha Stewart, Katie Couric, Soledad O’Brien, Indra Nooyi and President Barack Obama.
Perhaps most importantly, I introduced Katie to Katherine Stone, one of the most serious and substantial examples of bloggers changing the world (via postpartum legislation, among other initiatives aimed at new parents) that we could think of.
But none of that changed Katie’s angle. Then again, since Katie actually attended BlogHer ’11 and moderated a panel, she may be speaking from her own authentic experience:
— katierosman (@katierosman) April 25, 2013
To say that our community is chapped over Katie Rosman’s article is an understatement — Katherine Stone included. The question is: Why? Because I think we can all agree that wild nightlife is a part of every conference in every industry. This is my fourth career, and I’ve attended hedonistic after-parties in every single industry of which I’ve been a part.
The answer is that the Journal has published the umpteenth article dismissing women who blog — even as we are using our expertise across social media not just to develop our own brands and businesses, but to symbiotically develop some of the hottest new companies in the startup economy (Pinterest, anyone?). MilitaryMoneyChica nails it in her post, “If Mom Bloggers Lean In Any More, They’ll Just Walk All Over Us. Thanks a Lot WSJ.”:
Let’s be honest. Do I have fun when I go to a blogging conference? Uh, yes. But I had fun when I went to conferences and professional development opportunities when I guess, according to this article, I had a “real job”…. Thanks for portraying my profession as a bunch of opportunistic, burnt-out moms who have to dress a vacation in business casual to get out of doing the laundry.
As I said myself on Twitter yesterday morning:
@marianhogan I’d say more missing proper context than point. It’s a story abt *some* of what is true, w.o. the preponderance of what’s true
— Elisa Camahort (@ElisaC) April 25, 2013
Women who blog have trouble getting proper attention paid to our work and our accomplishments. Not just because we’re mostly women, but because this community of creators and influencers represents an alternative to traditional media and publishers as a source of information and as a growing channel for marketers, the life-blood of media companies. So how, exactly, is it in the best interests of any of the outlets who have merrily mocked and dismissed us over the years to give us the kind of coverage we think we deserve?
It’s hard to combat that double whammy.
That, however, is the unique beauty of our industry. We do not have to be defined by The Wall Street Journal, or any other outlet. We can (and have, over the last 24 hours) tell our own stories about what we get out of attending conferences.
Yes, for some of us conferences are about connection and fun (including karaoke and line-dancing to “All the Single Ladies,” you know who you are) and … stuff. And that’s okay.
For some of us conferences are about learning and skills development. And that’s okay.
For some of us conferences are about networking and business development. And that’s okay.
And some of us live up to our reputation of Multi-Tasking Masters and do all of the above.
Which reminds me: We discussed it, and next year Lisa, Jory and I are definitely going to be hauling our partners to SXSW. If we’re going to be Multi-Tasking Masters at that conference, it appears that we better line up our booty calls now. Noted.