Mama Got a Brand New Blog…and a Big Fat Check

Image by meglet127

I’ve been catching up on some reading during our road trip and I finally made it to last month’s feature in The New Yorker on Ree Drummond, better known in these parts as the Pioneer Woman.  I haven’t read much from the Pioneer Woman, but I found the piece on her to be very interesting, perhaps most for its insights into our little bloggy world.

A few tidbits that stood out to me:

  • Ree Drummond’s blog receives over 23 million (!) page views per month.  (I don’t know how many page views Motherese receives per month, but I’m guessing it’s somewhere south of 23 million.)
  • The Pioneer Woman made about $1 million in ad revenue in 2010.  (I do know how much Motherese made in ad revenue in 2010: $0 million.  Then again, I haven’t started running ads so that probably makes it harder to earn anything from them.)
  • Drummond’s husband’s cattle ranching family are the 79th largest landowners in the United States so she’d probably be doing okay for herself even if she didn’t earn $1 million in ad revenue, not to mention much more in book royalties and the money she’s earned from the Hollywood option to her story.  (No one has yet contacted me here at Motherese to option my story for a movie.  I am, however, waiting by the phone.)
  • The article cites a study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project that found that “approximately fourteen percent of women who are online in the U.S. write blogs.”  (Okay, no snarky comment here.  That number just blows me away, as it did when Jana first pointed it out to me on Twitter.)
  • Drummond’s profiler, Amanda Fortini, puts her finger on a delicate issue in the blogging community: “As a canny author of her own persona, Drummond surely realizes that she must encourage the fantasy she has created.  To remain interesting, her life must be aspirational.  She is who her readers would be if they had more time, more money, a quiet life in the country, a professional teeth-bleaching, or the support of a laconic cowboy husband…But it is tricky to inspire wishful thinking without fomenting resentment.”  (This comment made me think of our recent discussion about hiring household help and my own desire to fess up to the help I have; clearly, though, Drummond has to walk a finer line than I do between telling all and keeping the image of a “domestic idyll” alive and well for her readers.  Something tells me you’re not suspecting too much “idyll” ‘round these parts.)

What do you think of the Pioneer Woman and other big time “mommy bloggers”? Do you prefer to read blogs by people like you or by those you might aspire to be more like?

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44 responses to “Mama Got a Brand New Blog…and a Big Fat Check

  1. I subscribe to Ree’s food blog, but not the rest of her blog, since my blog has taken a turn into the food and recipe world. Her recipes and tutorials inspire me and remind me to be more detailed with my recipes.

  2. I prefer and actually only read blogs of people who I have in some way connected with. I’ll never be Ree Drummond (or other big name bloggers), don’t aspire to be, and think that without the connection and the relationships I’ve developed online, blogging wouldn’t be any fun. But who am I kidding, I’d sure love the paycheck. 🙂

  3. I have wandered around her blog before- I’m guessing she spends more than 40 hours per week focused on posting/maintaining/publishing, which might be expected if you are grossing more than $1 million/year in ads! (When does she find the time to homeschool?) I haven’t found a way to connect with her yet. There has to be a common thread- for me.

  4. I’m with Christine on this. It would be so easy to spend my days reading about other peoples’ doings, and in the process forget to have a life of my own. I faithfully read a few blogs (including yours!), feel that I should comment more often, as I so appreciate receiving comments on my own, but am always playing catch up. And every time I spend an evening reading a BOOK instead of a blog, I feel nourished in an important way. Loving my online community as I do, I also see the value in not getting too big, too distant, too commercial. Can’t imagine ever taking ads, or for that matter getting so popular that I didn’t have time to read all the comments on every post. Talk about a blessing and a curse! Small, real, intimate: that’s what you have going here, as do all my other online friends. Which is why we like each other, right??

    • Thanks, as always, for your wisdom on this, Katrina. And you’re absolutely right: less is more in the blogging world when it’s connection that you’re after.

      Personally, I spend a lot of time asking, “What if?” What if I spent more time online? What if I accepted ads? What if I made it big? But then I spend time playing Legos with my kids or pick up a book and I get over it. (And I hope never to meet a day when picking up a book doesn’t help me get over anything.)

  5. PW is not a person – she’s a character. To me, she’s not aspirational at all. I think, the more commercial a blog becomes, the larger the risk of losing the person behind the blog. Personally, I prefer reading from real people, who talk about real life – where things are far from perfect. Maybe I’m just a grouchy NYer. Thankfully, there’s more than enough room in the blogosphere for everyone.

  6. I prefer to read good writers – on a variety of topics. My interests are far reaching (which is why I also write on a variety of subjects, and not solely my parenting musings).

    I do enjoy reading people with whom I have some connection or common ground; then again, I enjoy reading those whose lives are quite different from my own – not so much in an aspirational way, as to expand my viewpoint. Again – if the writing is good.

    I read to learn, to discuss, to connect, to then share – and also for a love of words – all the same reasons I write.

    Most of us don’t have the luxury of infinite amounts of time; we pick and choose who we read, for evolving reasons, and then get on with the business of our daily lives.

  7. In my early blog days, I thought I had to at least look at the big bloggers. So I did. But, the appeal missed me. Her life wasn’t mine, nor would it be. Her blog wasn’t like mine (nor do I that).
    I look for writers who make me think, a few who calm me down, and several who I wish were in my block so we could hang out in the front yards, letting the kids play and talking about life and the world in addition to parenting.

  8. Oh, my mind walks a line right in the middle of this debate. I sometimes read the big-timers, but I prefer the small-timers (like myself, I suppose; I also made 0 million last year, and I’m fairly certain that I get just short of 23 million less page views per month). Sometimes I do feel a bit resentful! There, I said it! Whew! I don’t want ads, or big PR firms sending me pitches, or to have millions of page views per month, and yet sometimes, I feel resentful. I’ve stopped reading some blogs (Ree’s included) because I find the constant state of domestic bliss to be disconcerting. I bet she’s a wonderful person in real life. I bet we could be friends, if we ever met. Yet, I often feel as if we share so little in common, and that makes it hard to connect to her writing.

    • Thanks for your honesty here, Sarah. I think a lot of us can relate to what you say; I know I can: it’s hard not to feel jealous when reading a story like Ree’s. Theta Mom had a great post a few weeks ago on blog envy that suggests that we’re not alone: http://www.thetamom.com/2011/05/envy-the-blogging-kind/.

      • This is a good article- and I know that there are many bloggers out there that work much harder than I do. It’s part of the reason why I don’t expect pitches or sponsorships– I’m doing this part-time, as a hobby, at this moment. They are working much harder than I, and they deserve to be rewarded for their work! However, when a blogger becomes more of a brand than a writer, fellow mother, etc, I feel myself pulling away. Perhaps it’s only due to the fact that they are not in the same place as I am in at this moment.

        • And I think this points to a potential problem for bloggers like you and me. We’re in it for the connection so it feels disingenuous when it’s not clear whether a writer is in it for the connection, for the money, or for both.

  9. I do read bloggers to be inspired. Some writers are able to multi-task so well that I secretly believe that they have a covert staff of researchers. Then I realize that they are just much better organized than I am. Oh well, something else to aspire to.

  10. Also, I should mention that I grew up in the general areas where she now lives, and I am very familiar with that specific area. I’ve even taken classes of college students down there to specifically discuss the history and reemergence of the Osage peoples’ culture. If I have a hard time connecting to her on even this level, I can only imagine what others may feel.

  11. 23 million? wow. I cannot imagine.

    She’s a very engaging writer, so I feel that she somewhat deserves her success, even if I’m a little jealous. Ahem. Just a little.

  12. I’m torn here. I don’t regularly read Ree’s blog, but I do find her marketing and the growth of her blog completely fascinating. For me, the blogging community is about making friends and having a dialog, Ree doesn’t have that luxury due to sheer numbers.

    What she does have? She very apparently knows what she is doing and has the cash to maintain and run a very successful enterprise all while appearing as down to earth as possible. I briefly met her at her book tour in Columbus earlier this year and I have to say, whether calculated or just her personality, she was kind, smiled and had a conversation with hundreds of people, she came across extremely down to earth and like someone you would want to be friends with. I have to say that not many of the stratosphere bloggers out there can say the same.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Michelle. From what you say and other things I’ve read about Ree, it seems like she is not only a uniquely successful businesswoman, but also a genuinely nice individual – a rare combination indeed!

  13. I’ve read the Pioneer Woman. I think it’s a cool blog. I like it.

    I find it interesting that it has no STICKING power in my life. I don’t visit regularly. Is it the size? This is something I ask a lot.

    • I’m interested in this question of “sticking power.” I read a few blogs that, while not as big as the Pioneer Woman’s, are sort of niche-y (say, about cooking or organizing) and I feel the same way about them. If I had to draw an SAT-style analogy, to me those blogs are to magazines as your blog is to a book. I hate losing books, but I recycle magazines at the end of every week. 🙂

  14. I love your witty words, Kristen. I often think about the idea of self presentation, in particular whether our “true” selves are sufficiently interesting to be displayed online (and to garner a following), or whether we have to constantly best ourselves in order to remain relevant. I have to say that I enjoy a mixture of the everyday and the dramatic. A blog needs to contain something exciting or witty or compelling to hold my interest. But I also need to feel as though I can relate to the person writing. It’s a tenuous balance, indeed!

  15. 6512 and growing

    I enjoy TPW’s photography and writing, but like Rebecca said, it has little staying power in my blog-reading life.
    The “big time” bloggers that I do read feel more like fictional characters, and in a sense they are. They’ve built such an image and brand out of their name, their paycheck probably depends on maintaining that image.
    Ultimately, I like it real.

  16. Funny you should mention this as a while back I decided to monetize my blog. It may sound silly but it was a heart wrenching decision as I didn’t want to destroy something that was/is special to me.

    But here is the deal. I am a 42 year-old father who has been working as a consultant for five years. It has been a very tough five years for us. There have been some great months and periods of time where there has been plenty of business as well as extended periods where it has been a struggle.

    I love to write and have experience in building publications. So I decided to see what would happen if I sort of married the two interests and opened myself up to the possibilities.

    Since then I have worked with a number of different companies such as Nintendo, Frigidaire, Mattel and Microsoft. I haven’t made enormous amounts of money but it has generated some income and led to a number of freelance writing jobs.

    Not to mention that I have met some fascinating people that I wouldn’t have otherwise met.

    And I have done all of this without reaching out to the brands and their agencies.

    Most importantly I have done so without compromising my writing. I blog no differently than I did before and I disclose all relationships.

    If this turns into a full time business that allows me to support my family I would be grateful for the opportunity but hope that I don’t lose my authenticity in the process.

    In the interim I am using the skills I developed in the past and those that are being worked upon now to make myself more attractive to potential employers. Would love not to have to worry about $700+ each month in healthcare costs for the family- not to mention all of the other bills.

    • I don’t know much about the ins and outs of monetization, Jack, but I do know that some blogs feel like glorified advertisements with all their giveaways and product mentions. Yours never feels that way – and there is nothing I would like better than for you to continue to write what you want, when you want, and to have the ability to support your family while doing it. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could make money doing what they love?

  17. Does it count if I watched The Pioneer Woman on Throwdown with Bobby Flay? 🙂

    Although I’m sure that her blog started out as small and heartfelt and self-written as any of those I know and love (like yours, Kristen) I’m also pretty sure that it is now written and maintained by the gigantic machinery of a publishing house PR department. It’s too polished for her to be handling all this stuff herself and the feeling of branding does feel pretty strong on there. I think it’s all essentially HER and true to her, in that it’s cooking and this ranch life, etc., but it’s not exactly my shtick. More my speed was the original story – city girl meets a cowboy and falls in love.

  18. To be honest, I’ve only visited her blog once just to see what all the hoopla was about. I see the draw, but like several other comments here, I didn’t hold my attention. I prefer real people, not characters. I also appreciate writers who aren’t “on” all the time. Real people have good days and bad. Not every post is unicorns and rainbows. Sometimes life sucks and it really feels good to know that you aren’t alone in this crazy whirlwind existence.

    Hats off to her and her success, though. I would love to be 1 millionth as successful at anything as Ree Drummond is with her blog.

  19. She’s always struck me as the princess of blogging, and that’s not to say it hasn’t been earned. She always makes me wonder what the heck she ISN’T good at, and I think what the profiler said is very insightful. (Check Google Analytics to find out your monthly page views!)

    BTW, I’ve heard first-hand that she’s very, very welcoming and kind in person.

  20. To me it’s sad to see the anxiety of metrics infecting women the way they have driven men in bad directions for centuries (and no one really stops to wonder if, like in Hollywood, the numbers just might be more hype, spin and BS that we might imagine). What i really think about it is that I read you, Kristen, and not the Pioneer Woman (I’d rather read Willa Cather if that’s what I’m looking for)… but then again I tried desperately to “sell out” to Hollywood in years past and my problem was nobody would buy… they suggested I move to Europe where people are interested in quirky stories about real people. All this hype makes me want to get out my old college records and listen to DEVO’s cover of “Satisfaction.”

    • It’s funny that you should mention European film-making, Bruce. Last night after getting back from our marathon road trip, I sacked out on the couch and watched a rerun of The Colbert Report in which he was interviewing Werner Herzog. Herzog said something so profound, wise, and revelatory about the nature of truth – but something that I had to think long about to really “get” – and I thought about you and your comments here and your writing at your place and how much they have helped me understand myself in the past two years. So thank you for that – and for your insight here – and for the reminder that I’ve never been much of a numbers girl.

  21. Sure, the numbers are astounding, but is she really connecting with people. While I would love to be talented enough to write endlessly, I wonder what would happen to my life with my family, if I was chained to the computer, writing for a living. Would I be living, or would I just be surviving? How would I be able to keep a blog fresh and interesting enough to generate that kind of cash flow without selling out, just a little?

    Perhaps I am not as ambitious as I would like to think I am. That’s okay. I still get deliriously happy when I get a comment on a blog…and I think that is all the ambition I need…

  22. I think blogging and the reading of blogs can fall into two camps – for connection and for entertainment/resource. When I read a mom blog like Dooce, I don’t expect Heather Armstrong to reach out and read my little blog just because I left a “LMAO” comment on one of her posts. Nor do I expect Heidi of 101 Cookbooks to give me a shout out when I say “Yum-O” (and no, I would never actually say/comment that faux-word) to one of her recipes. I read those gals for laughs and for dinner suggestions. But then I come to a place like Motherese for connection. I don’t even expect a response from you. I just come b/c your curiosities, challenges, inspirations, insights and musings resonate with own, and that’s all I need!
    I think its great to be able to make money off of blogging. I think its a fascinating new frontier in writing and publishing. So few people get to make a living off of something that they deeply love. And yes, you have to become a persona of yourself, but is that so bad? We don’t associate book authors with the characters they so deftly portray.
    That being said, if it were me, I don’t know how I would navigate that divide between blog persona and real person. But a million dollars could probably find me some good therapy to help with that!

    • I love the distinction you draw here, Rebecca.

      When I first started reading blogs two years ago, I didn’t know about Dooce and the Pioneer Woman and their ilk so I thought that all blogs were about connection and shared insights. Only later – much later, actually – did I learn about the new industry that has grown up around these mega-bloggers. I still don’t read any of these superstars, but your approach makes complete sense: different blogs for different purposes.

  23. Looks like I’m the odd man out here – I read PW’s blog regularly. Mostly for the cooking and photography pages, but I also enjoy her posts about life on the ranch. (Interestingly, I most enjoy it when her husband occasionally posts, as his contributions are more informative about actual ranching topics.) However, as someone whoe reads her blog a lot, I would disagree a bit with the profiler’s quote about maintaining an aspirational life. Ree writes a lot about the drudgeries of being a rancher’s wife – getting up at 4:30am in the summer, clothes caked in manure, snakes in her garden, cows in her yard, etc. I think her staying power is coupled tightly with her ability to downplay her wealth. The more “aspirational” she becomes, the less relatable she becomes. And she has a huge vested interest in continuing to cultivate a persona that makes her readers believe that she’s a regular gal living in the country.

  24. Well.

    This is juicy

    I am a HUGE fan of Pdub.

    I enjoy her tremendously and NEVER miss.

    However, I do know there is a website “I hate Ree” where all sorts of jealous people spill all on the Drummond family: like inside scoops on how many times the FIL has been pulled over for speeding in his truck, etc.

    Jealousy and more jealousy.

    I love her.

    I read her autobio, and she loves her husband and family dearly.

    That is all I need.

    • I was just rereading a post I wrote awhile ago about people who feel badly about themselves when something good happens to someone else. It sounds like the Pioneer Woman (I love the nickname “Pdub,” by the way) and her success are ripe targets for such people. It takes real bravery to put yourself out there and be successful when there are so many people waiting around to cut you down.

  25. I’ve seen her books at Barnes & Noble – her cookbook, and her children’s books. There’s no way she’s doing this all by herself, the books, the blog, the advertising deals, the TV show etc. This is not a simple blog, it’s a real business. She’s obviously a smart, driven woman and deserves a lot of credit for that. But I’m not sure most people would want to read every single of her posts as we enjoy reading yours.

  26. I love Ree! I read her regularly and would love to meet her sometime. I agree with Gale’s comments above – that her inspiration comes from her ability to maintain a sense of normalcy even though she is wealthy. She has work and fears, complains about normal things like the expanding butt or her husband getting her up on her feet playing soccer with her kids. I would be surprised if anyone thought she was not wealthy. Just look at her “lodge”, it’s more beautiful than most people’s first homes.

    She writes and tweets very real and I think that’s why she has staying power. She is the real girl who made it good. A 21st century princess story.

  27. Interesting questions.

    A little of both, I suppose. I prefer to read the blogs of other like-minded folks and a few that make me stretch. I like to read for inspiration, but I’m bad at the connection aspect finding myself with more time for reading and not as much time for commenting.

    I love that the blogging world, specifically the circle I roll in, is filled with such energy and creativity. It helps to inspire me and it makes me better at what I do as a mama to these two little ones.

  28. I definitely agree that the PW blog has gone toward a very strong marketing brand and is certainly slick and professional. I do love the photography and cooking sections of her blog, and check it out regularly. PS – Thanks for giving me credit on the PW photo, I took that at BlogHer last summer. She was very accessible and mingling with all the conference attendees!

    • Thank you, Meg, for posting your photo to Flickr’s Creative Commons – a great resource for me. Thanks too for taking the time to leave a comment and sharing your experience with Ree at BlogHer. (I have heard unanimously good things about her from those who have interacted with her in person.)

  29. I like the Pioneer Woman’s website. I have learned alot about photography from her photography links. Her ranch life is so different and intriguing to me. I LOVE how she presents her recipes. The pictures and humor make them fun to try.

    I consider her blog more of a resource rather than a relationship. I am inspired to take pictures, bake, cook, etc. after reading her blog. But the blogs where I connect with and look foward to reading each morning before the boys rise, while I sip my latte – isn’t it fun to make it sound like that happens every morning as the sun rises —- those are the blogs that I enjoy for the connection. I LOVE your blog.

    Blogs that are always positive can cause me to feel depressed…but they also can cause me to get dressed in something other than sweats. They can make me find the sunshine in the sometimes routine days.

    I also added some ads to my site and do an occasional review/giveaway but I make sure to stay true to why I started blogging. It cracks me up that I am able to throw something like that in because I tend to only have 6 people sign up for the dang things. So I don’t know why anyone wants me to feature anything anyways. Anyways, it has made me sad when blogs turn their focus on reviews and giveaways. I let them go when that is their focus.

    This is probably so poorly written. But I am going to hit post and carry on.
    Happy day!

    • “I consider her blog more of a resource rather than a relationship.”

      What a perfect way to say it. And I realize that’s how I look at it too: some blogs are resources; some are relationships. Thanks for coining such an apt phrase, Sarah!

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