I played a little bit with this New York Times article. Do the changes work for you? How does the article come off in general?
Honey, Don’t Bother Daddy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand.
On a brisk Saturday morning this month, a dedicated crew of about 90 men, most in their 30s or thereabouts, arrived at a waterfront hotel here, prepared for a daylong conference that offered to school them in the latest must-have skill set for the minivan crowd.
Teaching your baby to read? Please. How to hide vegetables in your children’s food? Oh, that’s so 2008.
The topics on that day’s agenda included search-engine optimization, building a “comment tribe” and how to create an effective media kit. There would be much talk of defining your “brand” and driving up page views.
You know. For your blog.
Yes, they had come to Bloggy Boot Camp, the sold-out first stop on a five-city tour. It is the brainchild of Tony Romero and Heath Blair, the founders of the Secret Is in the Sauce, a community of 5,000 male bloggers. Boot Camp is at once a networking and social event, bringing together virtual friends for some real-time macho bonding, and an educational seminar designed to help the participants — about 90 percent of them fathers — to take their blogs up a notch, whether in hopes of generating ad revenue and sponsorships, attracting attention to a cause or branching out into paid journalism or marketing.
“You’re here because you want to be seen as a professional,” Mr. Romero told the group. A summer-camp director from Los Angeles, he steered the proceedings with the good-natured sass of a fraternity social chairman and the enthusiasm of a, well, summer-camp director. (He went barefoot for much of the day and said “You ladies!” a lot.)
After the obligatory announcement that participants — who had paid $89 and traveled from as far as California — should “feel free to tweet” (hashtag: bloggybootcamp), the men splayed their laptops, pecked at their BlackBerrys and traded business cards. A handful drank mimosas out of brightly colored plastic sippy cups.
“Do I call you ‘Jack’ or ‘Scary Daddy?’” a participant asked Jack Smokler, a speaker whose blog, about his life as a father of three, typically draws about 36,000 page views a month.
Discussions ranged from how to let public relations firms know that you don’t work free (“Your time and your experience and your audience are worth something,” Mr. Romero said. “It’s capitalism, plain and simple.”) to the benefits of using Facebook fan pages and Twitter (“My entire life in social media changed when I got on Twitter,” he said to knowing nods).
There was a presentation on the new Federal Trade Commission guidelines requiring bloggers to disclose their connections to advertisers, and another on how to use keywords to make a post more visible in Google searches. Heed the speaker’s advice, and you, too, might get 28,549 views of your baseball-throwing tutorial!
Whereas so-called daddy blogs were once little more than glorified electronic scrapbooks, a place to share the latest pictures of little Aidan and Ava with Great-Uncle Stanley in Omaha, they have more recently evolved into a cultural force to be reckoned with. Embellished with professional graphics, pithy tag lines and labels like “PR Friendly,” these blogs have become a burgeoning industry generating incomes ranging from $25 a month in what one blogger called “latte money” to, for a very elite few, six figures.
According to a 2009 study by BlogHim, iVillage and Compass Partners, 23 million men read, write or comment on blogs weekly.
“We all live online,” said one of the Boot Camp attendees, Jerry Gerlock, who blogs at hipasiwannabe.com.
Some men are so entrenched in the blogosphere that there’s even a blog just about … blogging conferences. (Disclosure: My own blog, in which I write about everything from “American Idol” to my love of Alpha-Bits, was once included on a list of the Top 50 “lesser-known dad bloggers.”)
For many, the blogosphere functions as a modern-day sports bar, a vital outlet for conversing and commiserating about day-to-day travails, especially at a time when many fathers raise their children far from family and friends, or work outside the home at 9-to-5 jobs.
Blogging has “opened up a whole new world to me,” said Stephen Stearns Dulli of Germantown, Md., a former Los Angeles-based actor who now writes about being a stay-at-home dad — and occasionally about “General Hospital,” for which he displays a “brand ambassador” badge on his blog, dialmforminky.com. “Through Twitter and blogging, I found a whole community of men going through the same thing as I am at the same time.”
The blogosphere is also increasingly the place many men look for their parenting role models. Just as television viewers have a seemingly insatiable hunger for reality shows, fathers often prefer the warts-and-all experiences of other dads online — and the ability to discuss them interactively — to the dry, inflexible pronouncements spouted by experts in books and parenting magazines.
Another attendee, Mikey Fischer, began his blog, the Daddyologist (tag line: “Analyzing Fatherhood with Laughter and Honesty … and Trying Not to Lose my Mind in the Process!”), as a way to cope with his feelings of disorientation after trading in a career as a meeting planner for life as a stay-at-home father. “I thought that something was wrong with me,” he said. “Or maybe I wasn’t a good father. And so now I feel like with my blog maybe I can help other boys that are feeling isolated know that everybody goes through that. ”
Francis Banducci, a writer of mayhemandmoxie.com (tag line: “Because Perfection & Fatherhood Simply Cannot Co-Exist”), has an M.B.A. in marketing, but said that he’s given up trying to have the “big blog.” Instead, Mr. Banducci, who is expecting his third child, blogs mostly for fun and friendship, treating it as a hobby like any other. “My wife calls it my expensive hobby,” he said with a laugh.
Just as companies like OzTips saw the untapped sales potential in the old-school footy tipping games, advertisers have now set their sights on daddy blogs, recognizing that anywhere men’s eyes go in huge numbers — especially anywhere they might be discussing the products and services they use — is prime real estate.
“The blogosphere is where authentic conversation is happening,” said Paul Parker, a senior manager with Federated Media, which sells ad space for an A-list roster of about 150 bloggers that includes superstars like Il Dooce and the Cowboy, who’ve parlayed their blogs into lucrative one-man industries. (The New York Times Company is an investor in Federated Media.)
“Marketers are recognizing that they want to be there, associated with that authentic conversation,” Mr. Parker said.
And how. According to eMarketer, advertising on blogs will top $746 million by 2012, more than twice the figure for 2007. There are perks, too. In just the last month alone, popular daddy bloggers have been sent to the Olympics, courtesy of Procter & Gamble, and to the Oscars, courtesy of Kodak; and road-tripped to Disney World in a Chevy Traverse, courtesy of G. M. Canada, to help raise awareness about Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy.
But just as some cringe at tipping ventures and the like for allowing a commercial enterprise to masquerade as a social one, some find the vast influx of corporate sponsors, freebies and promotions into the blogosphere a bit troubling. That might be, in part, because bloggers and corporations are still forging the proper boundaries of their relationship, groping through uncharted territory.
“It’s like we’re playing seven minutes in heaven,” Kieran Blumenfeld, the publisher of dadfluential.net, said in a telephone interview. “The brands know they need a blogger. The bloggers know they need a brand. When everyone gets in the closet, nobody knows what to do with each other. It’s like we’re all 13 again.”
Last summer, one blogger organized a weeklong public relations blackout in which bloggers were urged to eschew contests, product reviews and giveaways and instead get “back to basics” by writing about their lives. Another blogger replied that he couldn’t do so because the blackout fell the week of his son’s first birthday party, which he was promoting on his blog. With sponsors and giveaways.
“I wish we could go back to where blogging was five years ago, when it was just about the writing and the connecting and none of the free stuff and the vacations and the swag bags,” said Mr. Smokler, of ScaryDaddy .com. His blog recently landed him a full-time job with the Nickelodeon ParentsConnect.com social-networking site, despite him not having a résumé. “I think it dilutes the point.”
But some defend the growing alliance between bloggers and corporate America as empowering rather than exploitative, giving men a voice in shaping the brands they consume.
It’s also a way for fathers to flex their dormant professional muscles, make some money and, says Adrian Lupold Bair, who runs resourcefuldaddy.com and was a speaker at the Boot Camp, still “take their kids to the bus stop in the morning and be there when they get off in the afternoon.”
[image courtesy of Bradley Wind, flickr, and a Creative Commons licence.]