Erica O’Grady visits with Lisa Stone, co-founder of BlogHer. Stone, a journalist and media strategist by trade, had a successful career launching blog networks and national brands. In 2005, Stone, Jory Des Jardins and Elisa Camahort Page boldly asked: Where are the women bloggers? They created a bloggers’ conference to meet annually, and established an organization that would pay women for their blogs. Today, BlogHer reaches more than 14 million women monthly through its conferences, Internet site and publishing networks. The next step in BlogHer’s growth is to launch a niche Twitter community, called Chatter, on BlogHer.com.
Erica: This is The BusinessMakers Show, heard here and online at thebusinessmakers.com. It's Featured Guest time, and my guest today is Lisa Stone, cofounder of BlogHer. Welcome to the show, Lisa.
Lisa: Thank you for having me, Erica.
Erica: I wanted to start off by asking you about the origins of BlogHer, and that's not to be confused with blogger. A lot of people know the blogging software created by Evan Williams and Pyra Labs. It was sold to Google. But you're something totally different, so tell us about BlogHer-B-L-O-G-H-E-R-com.
Lisa: So in 2005, my 2 cofounders, Jory Des Jardins and Elisa Camahort Page and I wanted to answer the question, "Where are the women bloggers?" So we decided to ask other women if they wanted to come to a blogging conference. And now we're in our fifth year of our conference.
Erica: How many women are members of the BlogHer community?
Lisa: Well, we reach 14 million women each month through our conferences, which are once a year-a thousand people come there, we have 2,500 blogs in our publishing syndicate, and on BlogHer.com we have more than 40,000 members.
Erica: So when you first started this, was your idea to quit your day job and do something like this full time.
Lisa: It is now, but let me tell you, it was a labor of love. We were 3 chicks with credit cards. We did. We split the first conference facility on our credit cards and prayed, and it turned into a business because the women in our community said they wanted a better business model to help pay them for their writing, and we said, "You know what? We have a little experience in media and sales. We think we could come up with a business model." And in 2006 we launched our first little publishing syndicate of 34 Mommy Blogs and since then, we have grown to more than 2,500.
Erica: That is incredible. So tell me a little bit about some of the moms that participate in BlogHer.
Lisa: What's interesting is today on BlogHer, 68% of our bloggers or the women we reach fall into the 25-41 age bracket, and that's like prime childbearing years, right? Well, the majority of the women in our network do have children, but what's interesting is that of the women who blog about parenting, they're also blogging about so many other topics. So we have women who are blogging in the parenting space about children with special needs, about divorce, about discipline, about how to introduce your child to Facebook or keep him or her off it if they're too young. Then you have moms who are using their mom status to identify with other parts of their lives. We have PunditMom, Joanne Bamberger, who writes about politics. She's a member of a larger group of political bloggers who blog at MOMocrats. Then we have other blogs that are completely focused on food through the parenting spectrum. It's just amazing. They're blogging about everything.
Erica: I think the real question is how many of your moms who are blogging are making a pretty good living at blogging because I know that in this economic downturn, a lot of people are getting worried and I know that blogging is kind of a fluctuating market. Sometimes you make a lot of money, sometimes you don't make as much. So are a lot of these moms stay at home moms who are using this as a way to put extra money in the bank?
Lisa: Definitely. On our publishing network of 2,500 blogs, we syndicate headlines to each other and we help people grow their traffic, so one thing we help our bloggers with is reach. The other thing we help is with revenue. We split the revenue 50/50 with the blogger, so what we're doing is we're going after Kraft, we're going after P&G, we're going after Johnson & Johnson, we're going after GM, we're going after the kind of quality advertisements that we are all willing to see on our blogs. What we've found is that as advertising goes, so goes the ability we have to place advertising on their blogs. So December this year was kind of a calm month, a little too calm for our taste, but since the new year has started, we've been having an increasing amount of interest from marketers and advertisers who know this is the place that they've got to go if they want to reach women who are no longer watching as much TV or reading as many newspapers. So when it comes down to what people are making, we have checks every month that range from $25, which is the minimum check that we write, to upwards of $30,000, depending upon the size of the blog.
Erica: How great is that?
Lisa: If you're that big of a blogger, you can live off it, but the average payment on our network is more like between $100 and $300 a month.
Erica: Which is still not bad if you're looking to put just a little bit of extra money, maybe to save for Christmas shopping.
Lisa: That's right. Or groceries or mortgage.
Erica: How much time does it take most of these women to keep their blogs up and keep their readership and interest level up?
Lisa: That's a great question. We ask the blogs in our syndicate to blog 2 or more times a week, and we think that this is a marathon. We don't think you have to blog 15 times a day. We think that if you blog 2 or more times a week on a subject that is interesting and passionate for you and to your readers that you're going to do a really good job of growing your audience, particularly if you use sites like Twitter or services like Facebook to raise awareness of what you're writing.
Erica: How do you become a member of the blog syndicate?
Lisa: So BlogHerAds.com is a site where people can come and fill out applications. We actually are closed to new members right now because we wanted to be very careful that we took extra good care of our current members in a time of economic crisis. Now that we've found that our phones are ringing off the hook a little more than we expected as people are moving their marketing dollars online, we're hoping to reopen it again in Q2 of this year.
Erica: Wow, that's fantastic. And what would you say are the top subjects that the bloggers are being paid the most for? Is it politics or is it mommy blogging, or what's the best topic if you really want to make money through BlogHer?
Lisa: Well, there's-73% of our traffic is in parenting, food, and entertainment, and there is a reason why my cofounder, Jory Des Jardins, recently wrote that Mommy Blogs should be the Time magazine person of the year because that is the area where advertisers have the most interest in being. We control 83% of household spending and we have predictable behaviors because we're buying for the family. It's in the parenting space where we're finding the most addictive return advertising. However, I will tell you that food and health show enormous promise for the coming year.
Erica: I want to ask you a couple of questions about what it takes to run a big organization like BlogHer. What's the number 1 skill you need as a woman entrepreneur to run an organization and build this amazing community of women?
Lisa: The ability to listen, Erica. I mean, honestly, the only thing I can tell you is that BlogHer would not exist a) if I didn't have 2 fantastic cofounders and we didn't love working together and b) if we hadn't made a commitment that the only way to work with women in an entirely new record-breaking technological environment was to listen as hard as we could and try to deliver services that they might be interested in.
Erica: So what was the biggest challenge you encountered?
Lisa: Well, I'll tell you, we reached a critical point in 2006. Over Christmas we had 3 enormous sponsors come to us and say, "Ladies, we love your 180 blogs. We need you to be 10 times bigger to give you enough marketing dollars." And that's when we decided to pursue a venture capital investment. We have 2 funders-Venrock and the Peacock Equity Fund, which is an NBC/GE organization.
Erica: Wow, that's incredible. Most of our listeners know about Twitter. So tell me what is BlogHer going to do to tackle that kind of market?
Lisa: We decided to leverage the enthusiasm our users have for Twitter by launching a Twitter service on BlogHer. It's called Chatter.
Erica: And so will this service actually tie into Twitter?
Lisa: Today we're still in beta, but what we found is that women actually are looking for now smaller, more niche audiences and user groups to talk about things that are maybe a little closer to home.
Erica: Lisa, thank you so much for your time here today.
Lisa: Thank you, Erica.
Erica: We've been talking with Lisa Stone, who is the cofounder of BlogHer, and you're listening to The BusinessMakers Radio Show, heard here and online at thebusinessmakers.com.