Wednesday, December 9, 2009

MOM 101!

Interview with Liz Gumbinner of author of Mom 101 and co-founder of Cool Mom Picks

Short Bio
Liz Gumbinner, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of Mom Picks, is a born and bred New Yorker but without the accent. She's had a successful career as a creative director in the Prada-mandatory world of advertising, writes some parenting columns here and there, and has contributed to a number of parenting anthologies including Sleep is for the Weak, 42 Rules for Working Moms, and the upcoming See Mom Run and Kirtsy Takes a Bow. In 2009 she was named to the Nielsen "Power Mom 50" list of online influencers, and cited on's list of 10 MommyHood Gurus.
Liz is equally at home in the boutiques of Fifth Avenue and the aisles of Target, but can most often be spotted around her Brooklyn neighborhood with the love of her life and their two daughters, Thalia and Sage, trying to coax their stubborn English Bulldog across the street.

Why did you start blogging? Was it something that you had wanted to do on a personal level, were friends doing it or was it a way to help gain exposure for other projects?

-In early 2006, my first daughter was 6 months old and I had been spending a whole lot of time on message boards trying to figure out this mom thing. Eventually what I wanted to do as a writer was share longer, deeper stories, thoughts and observations than what I could do on the boards and I started a blog. I took it on more like a memoirist finding her voice, than a writer self-promoting. In fact I was shocked the first time I got a comment from someone besides my mother.

Did blogging for you become something different than what you thought it would be when you started?

The community aspect was a really unexpected and delightful benefit. I had no idea that I would end up making profound friendships and starting a business with the FAMOUS BLOGGER KRISTEN CHASE who was kind enough to let me know that I should allow comments from non-blogspot users.

How different do you find blogging from traditional writing for advertising? Such as…do you write in a way that will provoke more of an active response from your readers?

Advertising writers tend to be removed from their subject matter - clever and observational but not necessarily of the audience. As a blogger you learn that you have to immerse yourself in the subject, use less exposition (which I am still working on) and don't be afraid to let go. I think in copy writing we tend to gloss over the bad stuff or the weaknesses. That's good for selling antibacterial soap, but not so good for an audience looking to connect with you personally.

How effective do you feel your personal mom blog has been to create awareness for your other projects? Do you feel that blogging has created more of a "buzz" for your career than most other venues or that it has allowed you to reach an audience in a new way?

It's incredibly helpful for my online projects. I think people in advertising just think I have some weird geeky journal thing online. But the online audience is often interested in other things I'm doing as far as writing, or Cool Mom Picks, or charity projects and I'm always so grateful to them for their responsiveness. It's cool when I do a reading and someone shows up who I've never met to say "I learned about this on your blog."

What are your thoughts on bloggers who post a great deal about their lives, their children, their spouses?

We all have to make choices as memoirists how much to share, and where our stories end and others' stories begin. I will write about Nate in terms of our relationship, but I don't reveal personal struggles of his, and I don't (generally) use my blog to vent about him. I may get so "WHOO YEAH!" comments in the short term, but in the long term, I've still got to sleep next to him at night!

As my children get older I'm also more discriminating about what I say about them. So far they like seeing their pictures up there. Although one day they'll kill me for posting their bad haircut photos.

On the more homespun Mom Blogs—how do you feel about ads, product reviews, contests, coupons?

I think one of the amazing things about the blogging platform is how democratic and accessible it is. Anyone can start a blog with no gatekeeper, no hoops to jump through, no audition, and the good content will rise to the top. I see no reason why a mom shouldn't be able to stick ads in her sidebar and make a little money off what she's doing. I especially like smart relationships between brands and bloggers - like Intel's sponsorship of Maggie Mason's lifelist on Mighty Girl. Or Asha Dornfest from ParentHacks working with Microsoft Office for home. Those bloggers then become like celebrity endorsers, and if it's a fit it's a fit.

What gets challenging from a marketing standpoint is when there are 25 moms representing a big brand, and few of them seem to know how to use paragraph returns or apostrophes. It diminishes the brand in my eyes.

That said, I think that the best blogs are about one's passions. If a blogger is passionate about cereal, I hope that she'll create the best, most thorough, most entertaining cereal review blog that ever existed. If she's just writing "reviews" on whatever came in the mail that day in exchange for keeping the product, I'm not that interested in it. She has the right to do it, and if her readers enjoy it then more power to her. There's no one right way to blog. But I do think that if a blogger starts to trade her relationship with her audience for a disingenuous relationship with marketers, they'll sniff that out pretty quickly and she'll eventually lose both.

Same goes for contests and coupons. If they are entertaining and interesting and on-brand for the blog then why not. Have them daily! But that's not true in 99% of the cases. Although that's just me; I know there is a whole world of crazy contest enterers who just do that all day long. And some of the coupon blogs are the most popular now in this economy, so those blogs do a great service for their readers. I admit from time to time I'll find a good deal at CVS at some of them! But overall, I prefer to spend my time reading stories that are compelling and entertaining, and finding writers who inspire me.

Do you feel that they take away from the blog in any way or enhance it?

I hope that a contest on Cool Mom Picks enhances the experience for our readers because we only do them if they're on brand, and they're secondary to the content. If Kristen is doing a sex toy giveaway to promote her Mominatrix book I know it will also be hilarious, and I'll read it - even if I don't enter. That you know of.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's a Dog's Life Part 2

After you started your personal blog have you or have you been tempted to start a blog at work or use some sort of collaborative on-line media like a wiki?

I have actually started several other blogs. One of them is for the Texas Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Association (yawn). We use it as a communication tool. I'm the chair of the education department. Yeah, that's exciting. We also have one at work but I don't post to it very often. I use a lot of Google documents. I use it to share docs between other librarians around the state of Texas. We collaborate on papers mostly. Because I am a university faculty member, we live under the publish or perish rule. Thus I am starting an electronic journal about digital librarianship. I'll be the editor and contributor. So I use a variety of social media tools to do my job.

Do you feel blogging has changed your writing style?

Blogging has changed my writing style. I think more about what the reader wants to hear than want I want to say. Combining the two is always in the back of my mind. I want to make my topic interesting to my readers but I don't want to talk down to them. They are some of the smartest people I don't know (or know). The last thing I want to do is make them feel silly. I mostly try to introduce them to things that they might not have heard of or to talk about historical events that they may not know all the details about. Then there is the food. I hadn't started out as a food blogger but that seems to be where I go. I cook a lot, I'm older than most of my readers, and I have a lot of cooking/housekeeping/home managing know-how to pass along. I'm everyone's mom but in a kinda of cool way. It's sad really but I'll take what I can get. I love the people that read my blog. I've connected with so many of them that I feel invested in them and their families in about the same way as I do my own kids. I want to pass on any information that will make their lives easier.

Have you ever thought of approaching stores that cater to vegetarians or health food stores or pet care stores to do product reviews?

I haven't thought too much about approaching stores that cater to vegetarians or health food stores. Probably because I've been so busy it hasn't really occurred to me. Plus, I'm not sure I want to buy into that whole blog for money thing. I do a lot of contract work so blogging is just a fun thing for me. Fun in a commitment kind of way. Safeway/Randalls just contacted me about linking and blogging for them but I turned them down for now. I'll probably be blogging for them if the offer is right and I can do it my way. It is very important for me to feel that I am honoring my vegetarian values. I guess I do blog for one vegetarian group. I do a meatless Monday blog and I encourage my readers to go meatless one day a week. It doesn't matter to me which day they do it. I feel it is very important that each of us do our part for the environment, for animals and for our own health by going meatless one day a week. Joey from John Hopkins uses my recipes and features my blog on their website periodically. So maybe that is selling out but I don't think so. I'm not getting paid for it. This is not to say that people who do make money from their blog are evil capitalist pigs. They are not. They have just found a place that works for them. It just doesn't work for me.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's a Dog's Life

Short Interview with Michele from It’s a Dog’s Life

Michele’s Short Blog Bio:
My life is an open book. Just a very short and very boring one. I am a librarian in Houston, Texas. I tend to be a bit neurotic, math impaired, and admittedly lazy. I like old stuff such as furniture, postcards, and of course books. I collect cookbooks like they were going out of fashion. As if! I quite possibly like my glass of wine a little too much and have taken an admittedly unreal interest in everything vegetarian

Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging because I took a social networking course for my job. One of the assignments was to start a blog. What you see is what I started. I didn't start it so that I could have a voice in anything.

Did blogging for you become something different than you thought it would be when you started? Did it evolve?

It become something totally different then what I thought it would be. I didn't think I would continue to do it after I finished the course. It also evolved into something else again. At first it was all about my dogs. I didn't have much to say about anything else. Next then I knew I was writing about cooking, my kitchen pantry, my travels, etc. Then I started making blog friends and that led to blogging about interactions or things that were brought up at their blog. That is one of the aspects of blogging I like the best; the friends that you make. Some of my blog friends I chat with online a couple of times a week.

I have noticed that you have very little about your family, about you? Is this due to fear of losing privacy or is there another reason?

There are a couple of reasons why I don't blog about my family much. 1. Is they are not little kids. They are adults and have asked me not to say too much. They have jobs and lives that don't have anything to do with my blog and unless they comment (which they do) or say it is okay I usually leave them out of it. 2. We are not very interesting. Or at least I don't think we are.

How do you feel about bloggers who post a great deal about their lives, their children, their spouses?

I get a little concerned with bloggers that are too open with the lives of their children and family. Especially the children. There are a lot of bad people out there and opening their lives up for anyone to see doesn't seem like a good idea. Not only that but employers these days are not stupid. They are on facebook, linkedin, and twitter. They look up blogs. If you have older children, like mine, or a husband on a job hunt it isn't a good idea to blog about them. Do you really think they want you telling them about your latest run it with the law or their last employer? With little ones you need to remember that they are going to be getting bigger. Your blogging about their toilet training may come back to bite you later. I understand that not all bloggers think this way and really that's okay. You need to stay with what you feel comfortable with.

How do you feel about ads, product reviews and other marketing attempts by blogger?

Ads—I don't like them. I don't blog to make money but I understand if some do. To tell you the truth I never click on ads so unfortunately those blogger won't get anything from me. Sorry guys.

Product reviews— This is interesting. I have just been asked by Safeway to review a sale and to post about their 2 hour turkey deal. I turned it down. I don't eat meat. I don't judge those that do but I encourage my followers to at least take one day off from eating meat. How could I encourage friends to go out and buy a turkey when that is the last thing I would do in person. I told the thank you but no thank you. I did leave open the possibility of blogging about something later without meat. By the way, I am blogging about this tomorrow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Not Smashing, But Polishing the Glass Ceiling.

I hate to blame the victims, but really…what else can you do when Mom Bloggers accept less than what their blogs are worth? But this is MORE than just a mom blogger issue when moms gratefully pick up the scraps of marketing money such as gift cards and coupons from MAJOR corporations who benefit A LOT from the Mom Blog PR. This is woman issue.

Women in general, at least of a certain age, tend to accept less, actually OFFER to accept less, AND take on more responsibility than men. I find it at work, I find it in homes and I find it at the schools. Of course, the place I hate finding it the most is in my own personality. But, since I am a woman of a certain age--I do have that tendency to step in and do the f*cking job just to get it done… But now more than ever I have been actively stopping myself, not for my own good but because of my child. SO like a mother-Right?

Before motherhood, If you were taking something away from me, I would not necessarily stand-up for myself. But now, god help you and any close family members you have if you even try to take ANYTHING from my child. Motherhood does that to you—you find a strength. Your children are your strength.

It is easier for me now to think –this unfair pay raise is taking money away from daughter and I will not stand for it. Or this system where high powered women are standing behind folding tables selling cupcakes is stupid and I am not going buy into this women volunteer ethic. Take my money, not my dignity. Scowl all you want PTA mom—You tell me--where are the fathers in this equation?

For me it is not JUST money or time , it is about showing my daughter how to stand-up for herself—at home, while in school and when she goes out into work world. This world would not run without women, but for some reason we continue to sell ourselves short.

Take a look at this great blog post by Mom 101 who talks about the large corporations using mom bloggers and the effect it has on all bloggers.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Oh Baby..."Monetize My Blog"

I have been tempted, like JGH of Nyack Backyard, to press the “monetize my blog” button on the Google blogger program many times. But when I talk to other mom bloggers, whom I respect, they seem to view it as something cheap and dirty like having some tawdry affair….that the whole PTA is aware of it…

I would like to say that I have resisted until now because of some high personal standard, but that would be a lie. I have never pressed the button because I am too lazy and I was not sure if I wanted feminine products or constipation remedies advertised next to my posts. But for the sake of this class and research for my fellow mommy bloggers—I have decided to sell my soul, and “monetize” on my personal mom blog, Lazy Mom Café.

It is actually a lot of guilty fun…just like what (I can ONLY assume) an affair would be like. Since I did not want to let Google decide what I am advertising—I went through Amazon since I LOVE books and I have never had a bad experience with the Amazon. The child helped with recommendations. It was a wonderful family, consumerism moment.

Blogging is sort of a guilty pleasure which, for me, serves two purposes—first as a creative outlet and second and more importantly—to annoy my husband. Both activities are deeply satisfying. And if I were to make money off the blog that would just be frosting on the cake.

So check out my personal blog and if you plan to order anything through Amazon—just click through my site! For Christmas Gifts—think Lazy Mom Café!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Don't Worry Your Pretty Little Head....

I heard the report while driving home from the city last night…on NPR, of course, about the new recommended guidelines for mammograms starting at age 50 rather than 40. And they mentioned that the risk factor of having yearly mammograms outweighs the benefits. The first thing I thought was…OMG I have been having mammograms for years now …I will not go into how many, but needless to say—I have had A FEW yearly mammograms and I am dying…perhaps literally…. to know WHAT are the risks?!!

1. squeezing your breast between pieces of cold hard metal actually causes cancer???
2. the radiation from the X-ray increases the risk of cancer?

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY outweigh the benefits of early detection of cancer?

Finally…like they are a Fox news show rather than NPR, they tell us…

Apparently it is the ANXIETY of having the test is the “risk.” And my response to this finding is: WHAT THE F*CK?!!!.

Are we in Victorian England where I may need someone to fetch my smelling salts. PLEASE tell me that this is NOT what this team of highly respected “health care professionals” came up with. AT LEAST MAKE SOMETHING UP. I mean REALLY—we are women who deal with much bigger stresses than this ritualized torture and frankly the mammogram is one of the least stress producing tests because they tell you right then and there--you are good to go or perhaps—we want you to come back in 6 months just to check something. For heaven sakes! The anxiety of the test is a “risk factor?” If that does not have the Health Care Industry bribes written all over it—I don’t know what does? We must protect women from the “stress of the test” and save ourselves millions of dollars at the same time….oh…and a few women out of a thousand will die…but the stress. Oh the horror.

What else are these specialist planning to protect women from. How about seat-belts…they really rumple women’s clothing….How many women actually die in car accidents anyway…compared to say the EMBARRASSMENT of showing up rumpled. Perhaps GM and Ford can get together a group of specialists to study this and make some “recommendations.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Barnacle

I learned the other day in class from a marketing maven that there is term for shoppers like me: Barnacles. Barnacles are people who mainly shop the specials. I don’t MAINLY shop the specials—but I do buy very little in the way of processed food and I do always stock-up on the specials.

I always wondered about that—before we have a party I buy all sorts of junk food—potato chips, hot dogs, sodas and candy and when I do this type of shopping the coupon machine at the register spits out tons and tons of coupons. But now as I am checking out with my vegetables and fruits and old fashioned Quaker oats—no coupons…nothing!

What they are trying to do by not giving me coupons is to encourage me to shop elsewhere. They want to eliminate me from their customer base like a sailor wants to scrape the barnacles from the bottom of their boat. I am a drain on their store because the specials are often sold for a loss by the store in hopes that once you are in the store you will buy more. Is there any wonder why Americans are fat?

I just have one message for those marketers—I don’t even use your stinking coupons! Go market to the stay at home mommy bloggers.