Apples and Oranges, the Rise and Fall of Women Bloggers

I have sat on this post for the past few days because the last thing I want is this post to offend. I’ve tossed around the best way to approach it constructively and in an encouraging way. I’d like to consider myself a “friendly” for women bloggers, so with that context, I hope it is taken constructively.

Melanie Notkin, aka Savvy Auntie has built a fantastic site that is a non-mommy blogger mommyblog. It’s actually an AuntieBlog, as the name suggests. I got the scoop from Melanie when I was in Detroit a few weeks ago. is all about women who do not have kids of their own, but have incomes and tastes that they wish to lavish on their nieces and nephews.

It’s a fantastic idea, and her growth has been profound jumping from a paltry 5k unique visitors a month to 35k last month. Still not a dominant site, unless you realize that she has an average of 5 pageviews for every visit to the site. I guarantee most of you are not that lucky.

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Valleywag wrote a piece the other day doing their best to spin the SavvyAuntie effort in a negative light. But even the Valley-based gossip blog that excels at making people look really bad, couldn’t write a compelling piece about Melanie’s site. In fact, the story was so positive by Valleywag standards that it might go down as a huge FAIL on their part.

Which led to a little kerfuffle among mommybloggers, led by Stefania Butler (aka CityMama) who led a spirited charge against Valleywag with lines like “‘let’s take a big huge dump on mommybloggers’ while backhandedly praising a non-mommyblogger for her internet success”.

So let me reinforce that both Stefania and Melanie are friends of mine. One I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting in person, and the other who I will one day. Let me also reinforce that Valleywag is a gossip rag and nothing more – certainly nothing that warrants a response, especially when the article was a “backhanded compliment”. IT’s just the game.

Now, this incident in isolation would probably not spur this post, however it is not in isolation. It’s pretty common for women blogger, mommy bloggers and otherwise, to get all up in arms about something a male blogger said about women bloggers. I understand the background behind it. I understand that for years, women have been at a disadvantage. I understand the BlogHer gives women a conference directed entirely toward them. I get it. Really.

However, ladies, you’re playing an away game. You’re comparing yourselves to another industry, and one far more established, and taking the battle on the road. This is a losing proposition.

First of all, male bloggers are generally not thinking in terms of men vs women. We are territorial beasts. We build our own properties and screw everyone in the process. It’s the nature of the game. You, ladies, band together and riot (or something). Again, it’s part of the game and I understand it.

Attacking Valleywag for a negative article, though, is ho hum. Attacking Mike Arrington for his actual or perceived biases is a losing proposition. Being loud and obnoxious on Twitter “so you’re heard” is playing the game on the road.

Road games suck. Oddsmakers in Vegas always give the home team a 3 point spread to start with when setting lines on football games. The 12th man always has an effect. You don’t want to play on the road, when you can play at home (no pun intended).

Women have an opportunity to dominate their niche. Because they band together, they have an opportunity to own the entire demographic in blogging. Advertisers like Glam are looking actively to prop up female-oriented sites, and BlogHer just received direct investment from NBC Universal.

Women in technology have a way to dominate in tech… if they aren’t trying to make it a men vs. women game in the process! That’s an away game.

I’m encouraged by the amount of women blogging and am amazed by some of the really incredibly successful bloggers who are women and building amazing properties. Sites like Celebrity Baby Blog, the Sparkplugging marketing blog network and SheGeeks are demonstrating that it’s very, very possible to build a successful, and respected property without playing an away game.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

28 thoughts on “Apples and Oranges, the Rise and Fall of Women Bloggers”

  1. Sometimes “we women” like to talk *just to talk.* “We” don't care if it's an “away game” or whatever other kind of sports metaphors “you men” want to throw at us. Look out, because us “hens” are gonna come “clucking” at YOU now. Just sayin'.

  2. This is one of those instances where if you were next to me, I'd kick you in the balls. Oh, shut up everyone, he's my friend I can say that. First of all, : I mean, seriously, that's how CLUELESS you boy bloggers are. You act like we just ARRIVED on the scene and started making noise. We've been here the whole damn time. Right next to you. And your old boy's club wasn't taking note, they were too busy scratching their balls. So an entire community was created due to your inability to acknowledge what was going on around you. And yes, I am generalizing here- but you started it dammit. Which is why it's condescending at BEST to say “However, ladies, you’re playing an away game. You’re comparing yourselves to another industry, and one far more established, and taking the battle on the road. This is a losing proposition.”Comparing ourselves to another industry? Really? I didn't realize there was a separate industry. When I am treated the same I might agree. But let's just use your post, which is…friendly, as an example. How come when your loud and obnoxious on twitter it's justified? You're just trying to be heard- right? Apparently your message is more deserving? Your flame wars are more important? The main reason I would say this is entirely about gender, is because when Calacanis goes after Valleywag he's not accused of being anything but a (former) blogger. When CityMama does it, she's misguided and wasting energy on an away game. When a blogger gets a typical Valleywag write up and they go after it, no one bats an eyelash. When Melanie and mommybloggers get it, and go after it, we should just be happy it wasn't worse and any press is good press. Why is that?

  3. Nice, now if we could just get more, women in technology, and a host of other disciplines would be a good start, although this is also not unique, there are many in the same boat, like what ever happened to Kathy Sierra? How's about autoadmit and the women lawyers, this story and stories like this keep on popping up in popular meme, although in the end summation of the game, what do we do about it?

  4. When did this post ever become about your community? This post was written specifically to say, “Don't try to be like the men you hate – be yourself and own your areas of expertise and the rest is gravy”. I'm not going to fight a guerrilla war over semantics. I'm playing my game at home and that is my post and the intent, purpose and focus of it.

  5. I wasn't saying you were griping. I meant talking = blogging, twittering, etc.To me, it sounded like you were 'splainin' something to “us women” and so I was just 'splainin' back. That's all.Using sports metaphors to explain something to women is about as effective, on a whole, as us blogging a losing battle. Or something like that. heh.

  6. Note: I'm a guy, so don't hurt me ;-)But I read this purely as: do your thing, ignoring those who are slighting you or ignoring you, and you'll come out on top. Competition can be good, but just focussing in on what you/your company/your community do best is (in my experience) the true path to success and recognition.But, again, I'm a guy so I haven't been through what “women bloggers” have. But, I am a young, Canadian, tech/media CEO (started the company with others when I was 25… and until recently was the youngest person in the company). So I do understand how it is to live in other folks' shadow (cause, c'mon, gawker is our biggest competitor and they cast a REALLY big shadow!).Anyways, gutsy move (as always) Aaron, hopefully it generates some constructive discussion on both sides of the aisle (if there are two sides) :-)

  7. Hi Aaron, I don't hate men and don't at all think that my post was about men v. women. Just had to get that out of the way.Thanks for your thoughtful post. It would make more sense to me if I were railing against an article a male blogger wrote just because he's a man. (That's not really my style, though.) The Valleywag article was written by a women, and my issue was with the tone of her piece. Why or how TechCrunch pulled their article is not my issue. The fact that Valleywag is a snarky, tech gossip rag, not my issue. The fact that the author chose to write an article about the rise of a “non-mommy mommy blog” which was unnecessarily mean-spirited towards mothers who blog (IMHO) is where I had a problem. So I wrote about it. I wish I understood sports and betting enough to get your analogy, but I think I get the gist of it. It may seem like an away game to those used to watching these kinds of issues play out (to use another sports analogy) “picture-in-picture, 4 games at a time, on a premium channel in the professional leagues.” I'm not there. I'm all farm team and that's fine with me. But for those of us farm teamers for whom this is a deeply personal issue, we bring our A-game every time we play–whether it's at home or away. Okay, enough with the bad sports analogies. You pointed out (with graphics even!) that Melanie's site is growing by leaps and bounds and managed to note her success without apologizing for it or snarking about it. VW could have done it the same way, but I suppose then it wouldn't have been VW. You can call it what you want, but it doesn't change my feeling about the issue. The author wrote, I commented. I had no ulterior motive. I AM being myself, mommy blogging IS my area of expertise (though I also have a background in high-tech and live in Silicon Valley so that also informs my writing), and the gravy is being able to share my feelings and have my readers (mostly women) relate. I write for them. I consider you a friend as well, and disagreeing about this topic ain't going to change that.

  8. Stefania- believe it or not, I have no issue with your post. It was great,and I was pleased to see you come to Melanie's defense. I'm also aware thatit was Melissa who wrote the Valleywag piece.The post is more a general post and not specific – the example was justthere and I needed to give Melanie some link love for… well, beingMelanie. Twofer.As mentioned earlier in this long series of comments, my point was mainly toencourage women to be women and not worry about the men. I think the momentthe debate becomes a men vs. women issue, the women are going to lose.That's not being sexist, but it is recognizing the road that is there andwho is who in the blogosphere.The idea that the men vs. women issue should be brought into the publicspotlight is questionable. As noted, there are many GREAT women bloggersmaking names for themselves and those ladies did not show up overnight. Theyhave existed alongside of men and have done very well for themselves. Themoment a topic becomes a class warfare argument, someone is going to win andsomeone is going to lose. I don't think it has to be that way, and I wish itwasn't the road being chosen by some – and I don't mean anyone specifically,just in general. Again, 30000 foot…Thanks for stopping by. Valuable insight there.

  9. Uh, I don't consider myself a “woman” blogger, I don't actively participate in anything “exclusively” female online, I don't feel threatened or sidelined by men in expressing myself or getting heard, and I certainly don't think twice about saying what I want to say anywhere I want to say it, regardless of whether or not ANYONE reacts or tells me I'm saying it in the wrong place or the wrong way. There is no game but the game I wish to play, and anyone who tries to “steer” me in a direction because of some gender-related argument, even in a “friendly” way, is just being patronizing. Whether or not you feel like women are playing at a “game” against men in an “industry” that is dominated by men, until you don't feel entitled to correct or critique them for any reason based on gender… you're still part of the divide. Did it occur to you that they weren't playing at being men… they were just doing what they wanted? As Stefania said, they have every right to take exception to things and engage in debate any old damn way they want without you characterizing it as a male way of doing things. This is backwardly guy-centric in the most insidious way. Don't play the game like us, ladies — find your own womanly voice, innovate in your womanly way, change things with your womanness? Blech. I write and blog and exist like a human being. That is the only game I know how to play.

  10. Um – we've been there for a long time. There are more than enough women in technology… but recognized women in technology? Yeah, that's a different thing.

  11. Marissa Mayer, Vanessa Fox, Kathy Sierra, Carly Fiorina, Susan Decker, WendyPiersall, Sarah Perez, Corvida – all involved in running technologycompanies or being in the technology social space. That doesn't touchpolitics. That doesn't touch sports. That doesn't touch celebrities. Thatdoesn't touch travel and culture.It still strikes me that a compelling argument has yet to be made about howI'm wrong here. It still seems like a feminist complex. No offense, oranything.It also strikes me that women want to argue with me over this when my postwas clearly not argumentative, and was in fact supportive.

  12. And I am one of them. I'm just sayin', a LOT of women wouldn't “get” the point of the metaphor.And I *did* write that thinking, eh, well, I'm sure this could be seen as sexist, but I *am* a woman *and* a realist.I think your point may have come across more clearly to your larger intended audience (women bloggers as a whole, yes?) without the sports metaphor. I DO see your point w/ CBB, Sparkplugging, etc. Why get all riled up about something, and instead just soldier on doing what you do best?Are you saying CityMama (also a friend of mine) is diluting her brand with that kind of a post?I really like what Jeremy had to say below. While I agree, it's hard being a woman “in a man's world” or whatever the eff we want to call it, and I think it's hard for you and Jeremy to understand the feelings and emotions of women. I will also admit that sometimes *ahem* we are not entirely rational. And that *I* don't always understand women, or myself, at times, either.I think women want to reserve the right to bitch about whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want, even IF it is a losing battle. Sometimes we just want to vent. And bitch. And we don't like men telling us that we'd get further if we didn't bitch and moan.How's that for a complicated, random response?

  13. That's not enough tho… what I'm saying is actually made by dan's post “we need more women in technology”? We have tons of women in technology – why doesn't he know it if we're so well recognized?You're not wrong here.I made a big long comment about it that seemed to disappear.I think you just put it in a way that women aren't hearing it.

  14. ;-)No, regarding CityMama's post. I just don't think the reactionarionism(there, invented a word!) is conducive to positive forward motion for women.In fact, as she noted, the Valleywag post was written by a woman. Thespecifics of the incident are irrelevant, but… reacting and causing ascene isn't ever conducive for anyone – not just women. Trust me, I'mexperienced on this.I think the betterment of the women's cause is best extended soldiering on,as you put it. For instance, I could cover news on this blog all day longand into next week. I could try to compete with TechCrunch, and Mashable,and CenterNetworks, etc. I could. I'm established enough to have a goodchance at success.But that's not what I do best. I do analysis. I won't get the traffic thatthe other guys get but I establish myself in another way and can rock out inthis world. If I competed with those other blogs, I'd be playing an “awaygame” to continue the sports analogy.That's what I'm saying. Erin rocks her political coverage. Stefania does tooat MOMocrats. I wouldn't exepct Wendy Piersall to get into technology,because thats not her thing. But Vanessa Fox – most definitley.If everyone worried about figuring out their own place in the world and put110% into that, making names for themselves and taking no prisoners, notgetting distracted by looking at what person a or blog b is doing, and notletting others set the agenda for what they are going to do, say, think andhow they behave – then guess what, everyone wins.You can't be me, I can't be you. Why should either of us try?

  15. Completely OT: I hate to do this because I know it brings you revenue but… I'm going to have to start viewing your site with Adblock enabled. Otherwise, it takes 10-12 seconds to load a page for all of your ads.* hits (only 4 yes, but the site crawls).

  16. Sigh. Perhaps its the idea that we silly women folk need advice? Have you offered your advice to other entire segments of bloggers? Maybe that's where the disconnect is for me. If this were a 'flame wars are dumb and fighting valley wag is even dumber' post to all bloggers that's one thing. But maybe it's the idea that we need to be told the rules from those who feel they have been their longer and know better. Maybe, just maybe, that is where I have issues. Or maybe I'm just in a bad mood and taking this all the wrong way.

  17. I am not a tech blogger (“how does this thing turn on, anyway?”), I don't consider myself a Mommyblogger, I am just a blogger. With a small readership and an as-yet unmonetized blog (probably forever unmonetized). I am female, but let's not bring that into it. I agree with your post completely, Aaron, and appreciate your comments. BlogHer holds no interest for me because it is gender based, and I avoid all things gender-based. I'll just keep on keepin' on, spouting drivel on my own terms.– Laurie @ Foolery

  18. My entire blog is based around telling people what I think they should do. Women bloggers are not special in this regard. If you don't feel like it applies, then ignore it. Fighting with me of all people over semantics doesn't help the cause. I'm already on your side. Don't shoot allies, you know?

  19. Not to be obtuse, I am being serious, your classification of man and woman does seem to omit that there does exist various transgender bloggers as well and there is likely to be a growing number of transgender bloggers. What would you tell that blogger group? Or, taking gender identity out of the mix completely, what would you tell any emerging blogger group that does not presently hold a dominant presence in terms of visibility, sheer numbers, or market share?

  20. Aaron,I found the response to your post fascinating. I think everyone has made some valid points.Interestingly, I wrote a very similar post in my first year of blogging, about being a woman vying to get onto the Techorati top 100 – at the time there were 11 women on that list out of 100. Do I think there is bias? Yes. Do I think I can do anything directly about it? No.My conclusion was the same as yours – though I will admit it was worded very differently (that's because I'm a chick, ya know). If we buy into the idea that this bias can hold us back, then it ISN'T the bias that holds us back – we're holding ourselves back. So the only way I have found to move forward is to continue to plug on and work to dominate my niche and make a difference as much as possible. I'll never be a TechCrunch – I have no desire to be that kind of place. I DO want to have as much traffic as TechCrunch – which means I need to 'play the game' like everyone else – and if I come up against any obstacles, my only responsibility is get around them, not to focus on the fact that they are there in the first place. *waves to GeekMommy, Queen of Spain and CityMama*

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