Student Researcher insights: History of Mommy Blogging by Whitney Hahn

About the Study:  #MomBlogStudy is an ongoing research project run by Elizabeth Kerns, Assistant Professor of Public Relations at Central Washington University.  With her student research group, they are researching the impact of social media moms and an inside look into the world of “Mommy Bloggers”.  To see an updated quick time line, visit http://momblogstudy.com/timeline/.

History of Blogging

by Whitney Hahn, Student Researcher

Since 1994, blogs have taken over America.  Today, if you plug “mom bloggers” into a search engine, you’ll come up with thousands of moms who chronicle their daily lives online. Mommy Blogging became popular around the year 2003 since moms were able to share stories and tips about single parenting, adoption, home schooling and more.

“Mom bloggers are hugely influential because they represent the authentic voices of other moms,” says Jennifer James, founder of mombloggersclub.com, a community that’s 10,000 strong.

In October of 1998, Bruce Abelson launched the blogging site Open Diary.  He had found that blogging provides immediate gratification.  We see this today in blogs, where moms are allowed to connect with like-minded moms. If you are a Christian mom, you might follow Lori Seaborg’s blog, Just Pure Lovely, and if you are a New York mom you may follow the posts on Mommypoppins.com, where Anna Fader celebrates her New York upbringing by sharing the fun of raising a baby in Manhattan.  Mr. Abelson saw blogging as a tool allows any person to retain more of their own individualism.

Soon after Open Diary was established in 1998, Live Journal was created in 1999, and in May 2000, the first corporate blog was created. Microsoft heavily influenced the rest of the industry with its corporate blogs.  The Microsoft blog allowed employees to speak their minds and broke perceptions and barriers for Microsoft.

Volunteer, not company sponsored, Microsoft heavily influenced the rest of the industry with its corporate blogs. The growing blog culture helped to influence critics after the Microsoft court case with the US Government, instead of being seen as just an anonymous large company, individual employees spoke their mind and broke perceptions and barriers for Microsoft. Robert Scoble became the first social influencer made famous through blogging .

In July 2001, Blogdex was created by Cameron Marlow and Elizabeth Wood.  Blogdex was an online resource for understanding hot topics of discussion in the blogosphere. It gathered this information for over 4 years, and autonomously tracked the most contagious information spreading in the blog community, ranking it by recency and popularity.  This is where both Cameron and Elizabeth started to see a trend of “mom-bloggers” and the popularity of their online diaries.  After seeing this, Elizabeth researched further into “mommy-blogging” and found that there were a high number of mothers seeking to express themselves and share opinions about interactions with their kids, their likes and passions, the things that they buy.  This was a major transformation in the very inexpensive nature of getting involved through social media.

Only about a year later in 2002, the first popular mommy-blog that is still in full gear today, took off.  Melinda Roberts founded The Mommy Blog in 2002 to capture fleeting family moments. She flaunts her flaws and keeps her “real mom” quotient high, writing her family’s memoirs as they go along. As a single parent, she’s managed to found a design company and become a spokeswoman for the mommy blogging community. Melinda is also a founding panelist on Momversation.com and has self-published a collection of essays from the blog in her book, Mommy Confidential: Adventures from the Wonderbelly of Motherhood, through lulu.com.

She is generally recognized as an influencer in the mom blogger community, and have participated in blogger events hosted by Disney, Johnson and Johnson, Pampers, Google, and Clorox. She has also spoken at Chicks Who Click, Self-publishers conferences, and GMN.

But it wasn’t long before the first “daddy-blog” came to life in February 2005. More and more researchers were finding that blogging for mom’s and dad’s had become the new baby book.  Keeping an online journal about your family and your experience as a parent was an excellent form of documentation. This moment, like all others, will pass; but with so many parents blogging about the precious moments of their children’s childhoods, those moments may live on forever.

In 2007, one man, Tim O’Reilly, created the Bloggers Code of Conduct.  He created this code of conduct because he thought many bloggers were stepping over boundaries that needed to be set.  O’Reilly has said that frankness does not have to mean lack of civility. The Blogger Code of Conduct was made to create a culture that encourages both personal expression and constructive conversation.  The Blogger’s Code of conduct prohibits blogs to be used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others, libelous, knowingly false, ad-hominem, or misrepresents another person, infringes upon a copyright or trademark, violates an obligation of confidentiality, and violates the privacy of others.

The Blogger’s Code of Conduct didn’t pass, but bloggers have taken notice and have produced their own “Code of Conduct.” One blogger, RJ Smith, author of the blog Satisfying Retirement states I welcome your comments to anything I say. But I will not allow others to use my blog to vent their bitterness. As long as you comment by my Code of Conduct below I will post them for others to see.”

RJ says that all bloggers decide if they want to permit comments to be left after a post. Some decide the blog is more of a personal journal, so someone else’s comments don’t really fit. But, most blogs encourage and actively solicit comments.  It is certainly OK to disagree with a blogger. It wouldn’t be very interesting if every comment simply echoed whatever the post was about and agreed with everything that was said. A different point of view can open up a meaningful exchange of ideas and solutions to problems.

But, if you spend anytime at all reading blogs, you have probably come across comments that are downright nasty. The blogger’s ideas aren’t just disputed, but the attacks become personal. Name-calling and denigrating someone’s honesty or integrity take place. RJ spells out what he considers the basic rules you should follow if you expect him to allow your comment to see the light of day.  This is one of the many examples of bloggers that have adapted their own kind of “Code of Conduct” from Tim O’Reilly’s 2007 version.

The use of mom blogs allows marketers to maximize the influence of mom mavens. This group, as we know, has long shared information about products, retailers and services with other mothers. According to CBC, “five years ago, toy companies handed out 98 percent of their samples to TV stations, newspapers and magazines. Today 70 percent of those free samples go to bloggers.”

And of the almost 4 million Mommy Blogs in North America, a handful have considerable power and reach.  Today with the help of the Internet, they can reach thousands, and in some cases millions, of other mothers.

As moms turn away from traditional advertising and megaphone top-down messaging and have discovered they have these voices that they can garner really substantial audiences who aren’t just listening, but acting based on their posts.

The rise of the blog, has created an incredibly powerful movement that’s sweeping up hundreds of thousands of moms as writers and millions of moms as followers and commenter’s. It’s an incredible tipping point for an otherwise local mom, can go on Twitter or start a blog and mobilize really large attention for the issues and brands that they care about.

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