Page last updated at 09:11 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 10:11 UK

The power of female blogging

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

mommy blogger
'Mommy blogs' are starting to attract lots of traffic

The message was loud. It was clear. It was simple.

"Take the money."

Spelling it out was Gina Garrubbo, executive vice president of BlogHer, which claims to be the biggest online community for women who blog.

Ms Garrubbo made her comments at Blogher's recent conference in a session that aired concerns mommy bloggers have about selling out by displaying adverts on their sites or testing out products.

"Everyday I talk to Fortune 500 companies and they care. They care about supporting you on your terms. It is your opportunity. Build the business. Write the rules," said Ms Garrubbo.

Changing landscape

Female blogging is a growing phenomenon.

In 12 months the BlogHer network has mushroomed from 180 bloggers to 2,200.

According to comScore Media Metrix, community based women's websites are now tied with political sites as the fastest growing category online.

blog her conf08
Blogging is about giving women a voice and sense of community many said

"Today, women are not only the most powerful consumers in the world, we're also the power users of Web 2.0 and social media technologies," said Lisa Stone, BlogHer co-founder.

That willingness to harness the web has resulted in a community of 36 million women who write and read blogs, said Ms Garrubbo. And that gave them clout among advertisers.

"There are millions of dollars to be made," she said. "Online media is taking away from traditional media and blogging is a new medium just like mobile is a new medium. Mommy blogging is one of the biggest and most influential sectors."

The influence they have with readers is what will help companies sell the next new car, telephone or tomato sauce, Ms Garrubbo told the BBC.

One figure aired at the conference suggested that 64% of the audience who read BlogHer blogs have bought something on the recommendations of the blogger.

Ms Garrubbo warned that companies that want to pitch to these women had best not rely on the old standards.

"These women are changing the nature of advertising in this space. Advertisers need to treat these women intelligently and speak to them differently," she said. "The game has changed."

We are the backbone of this economy and getting paid for blogging is getting paid for raising our voices.

Catherine Connors, Her Bad Mother

In a print magazine advertisers could use old standards such as heels, lipstick and sex to sell but that would not work via blogs, she said.

"In this medium women are creating their own terms in their own voice," she said.

General Motors, a sponsor of the conference, said it recognised that things have changed and the traditional market has fragmented.

GM spokeswoman Natalie Johnson told the BBC "I'm here because I want to meet more of the mommy bloggers. It's important for us to get to know this particular audience as well as other bloggers out there.

"Today we are seeing a change in how people communicate. They want their voices heard. Sure they listen to the message but today they say 'hey here's our take on this.' Bloggers want to have a say and we run a big risk not talking to them."

Ethical stance

The conference hosted more than 40 commercial brands including General Motors, LeapFrog Nintendo and HP leading some to acknowledge the problems being paid for blogging presents.

blog her gina garrabbu
Garrubbo: "There is a major business opportunity waiting to happen"

"With so many people paying attention to what we are saying there is a tendency for some to write things they think will be commercially acceptable, " warned Lindsay Ferrier of Suburban Turmoil.

Advice on how to deal with such a conflict came from Maria of Immoral Matriarch who urged bloggers to "keep it real".

"As long as you are honest. If you love the product or TV show, I want to hear 'you.' I don't write with the intention of making money, but if anyone wants to give it to me I will take it. But you are not going to censor me.

"If I want to curse or say something politically incorrect, I am going to say it," she added.

Cash call

The truth is that few bloggers make significant sums from blogging. Most earning about $100 (50) a month. As Heather of Rookie Moms put it, "I make enough to pay for quite a nice lunch once a month."

There were tales of women who had given up work and taken to blogging full time and of others who wrote books and also became full time writers.

Heather Armstrong pays her mortgage from what she makes spilling details of her life and that of her children on Her husband Jon quit his job to handle the technical side of the site.

catherine connors
Connors: "Blogging is about raising our voices"

"We live as comfortably as we did when Jon worked full time and I was at home," said Ms Armstrong whose early forays into blogging got her fired from her job as a web designer.

Many women at the conference struggled with the idea of making money from their blogging.

"This (blogging) has become so much about advertising and money and you are either being courted by the advertisers or you are not," said Rachael Mosteller, author the Sarcastic Journalist blog.

For Catherine Connors of Her Bad Mother, who attended with her baby son Jasper, making money was no bad thing.

"Getting paid for blogging is not getting paid for mothering," said Ms Connors. "Mothering is a part of the economy that isn't recognised. It's hard work. We are the backbone of this economy and getting paid for blogging is getting paid for raising our voices."

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