Interview with Liz Gumbinner of author of Mom 101 and co-founder of Cool Mom Picks
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 Forbes.com'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.