I’m writing in the lobby bar of the J.W. Marriott in the L.A. Live complex getting ready for the BlogHer annual conference to commence tonight, Thursday, August 4th. I arrived here in LA on Tuesday night, but went to Long Beach via the metro and a bus on Wednesday to catch a ferry to one of the Channel Islands, Santa Catalina Island.
Yesterday was a personal pilgrimage to a place where a woman who influenced my understanding of what how a woman, a writer and a scientist could combine these constraints. She was a writer of simple, and sometimes saccharine tales of the midwest of her childhood in the mid-late 1800s. Gene Stratton-Porter wrote best-selling novels between 1904 and 1924. She also leveraged her celebrity and ability to sell books with her publishers so that she was able to write and publish an amateur science nonfiction book between each novel.
I grew up knowing about her forays into swampy and wetland areas where she used ethological practices to document the hatching of birds and other previously undocumented behaviors. The techniques she used would not be put into common practice until the likes of Jane Goodall began using non-intrusive methods to document animal behavior. Stratton-Porter also influenced Rachel Carson to work non-destructively within the living systems she loved and documented. Without the generations of influence of women who understood the world in different ways than the male-dominated science and governmental systems that controlled science and our understanding well into this century, we would live in a poorer world for lack of the nuanced understanding they brought to us and interjected about living systems. Their influence is still unfolding. They are all with us still.
I grew up amid remnant bits of swamp in the waterlogged mid-west, I know the settings of Stratton-Porter’s books. I grew up in them. I wanted to see the island she grew to love later in her life. So I took an afternoon trip the day before the conference started to Catalina Island in the Channel Islands off the California Coast.
I whole-heartedly recommend taking the ferry from Long Beach to Catalina. Here is a brief overview of my all too brief of a trip.
This trip oriented me in an unanticipated way for the largely female attended conference I attended over the next three days. For me, and perhaps through me, the past all the way back to the 1800s touched the future of women’s communications throughout the 21st Century. Gene would be proud.
When I want to know how a company is structured, who owns it, and other basic facts about it, I go to government filings that all corporations have to file. Bloomberg captures the essence of these filings in their research snapshots. This snapshot of SheKnows, LLC is available here. BlogHer is not listed, as it was purchased by SheKnows in the autumn of of 2014.
The CEO of SheKnows is Philippe Guelton. He previously served as COO and Exec VP of Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., Inc. A huge publisher of magazines and books that is now owned by Hearst Media. BlogHer is now playing with the big boys.
Samantha Skey serves as President and Chief Revenue Officer of SheKnows.
So what happened to the women who founded, nurtured, and saw BlogHer along until it was all grown up? Well, last December Lisa Stone, Co-Founder and CEO left BlogHer. She wrote A Toast to Building Movements and Challenging the Status Quo on BlogHer last October to announced her departure. She is still associated with the corporation/conference as a member of the BlogHer 16 Advisory Board.
Jory De Jardins is also on the Advisory Board of BlogHer16 but has left the company of which she was also one of the co-founders, and for which she served as President of Strategic Alliances, according to a post she published on Linkedin, Why Mommy Bloggers are not Magic Beans. The article is well worth a read per her assessment of the women’s blogging world. She is listed as SVP, Global Strategic Alliances, on SheKnows Media team page.
Elisa Camahort Page has transitioned from Co-Founder and Chief Operating Office at BlogHer to Chief Community Officer at SheKnows Media. BlogHer is still her baby.
But then you probably knew all that if you have been around the blogging scene and BlogHer for a while.
Now for the scuttlebutt you were hoping to find here… Well there isn’t that much given the fact that SheKnows which was headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ, and still has offices there, is now run from New York where Guelton and Skey have their offices. Glassdoor.com is the place to find out such stuff and hear insider grumblings from the Scottsdale staff about New York management.
My only real concern about the current version of BlogHer a la She Knows is what may be shaping up to be an “all things to all people” strategy. That was my first reaction to the announcement of a 13 year old prodigy DJ who will be spinning at the BlogHer closing party.
The “gone Hollywood” assessment is in the wings, but I will reserve judgement about The Pitch – which is sorta like A Reality TV Show for Content Creators – that will be produced live at the conference.
The Femvertising Awards look quite interesting. They wrap up a week or so after after the conference.
I have to say that I am wondering what I will find at #BlogHer16. I did not attend last year. So this will be the first BlogHer Conference I will attend after BlogHer became a brand.
Many of my midlife friends will not be attending the conference this summer as they feel that ROI isn’t large enough for established bloggers. As someone who closely follows shifts in women’s culture, I think I will have a great time observing one of the vortices of change in our rapidly evolving women’s culture. I will share what I find out about how the female content creator community is being served by new media moguls.
A conference that attracts thousands of women content creators and thousands more individuals employed by vendors and publishers that work with, or in support of, those women creates a massive vortex, for lack of a better word, of women’s energy. This exists beyond the corporate entities that control, coordinate, and sponsor the media sites and conference.
This is akin to what I think of as the difference between 1) the thing and 2) the concept of the thing. As an anthropologist I am interested in culture. Women’s culture is, obviously, an aspect of human culture. I like to think of this as a distinct level of information that exists as part of our living system.
All the relationships that are initiated at a conference, the knowledge that is created and shared, and the way these are incorporated into people interacting at the talks, and on the show floor, and at the coffee shops and bistros, meals, and parties can have a huge influence far beyond the time and place of the conference.
At the Bloggers at Midlife Conference, which I attended this April, in many ways is progeny of BlogHer. Over the years at BlogHer there were “birds of a feather” luncheons with tables for mid-lifers and baby-boomers, and “rooms of one’s own” for those same groups. Virginia Debolt facilitated the first of these sessions I can remember attending. Judi K. Freeman coordinated a second. Patricia A. Patton was a coordinator in the last one of these type of sessions I attended in 2014. Then Bloggers at Midlife, a conference with no commercial or corporate connections to BlogHer, began in 2015.
I will soon see how BlogHer has settled into its new role as a brand within another corporate entity. Will there will still be a place for all women of all ages and reproductive statuses at the conference? This is one of the aspects of the conference about which I will report back. It is a big conference and I will not be able to evaluate every track, as I have my own agenda and tasks for the conference, but I will do my best to provide an overview from the over 50 perspective.
From what I have seen thus far the vendors and sponsors contain corporations and partnering organizations who work with our demographic although not solely with us. There are no tracks that speak directly and only to us, but there are as many divergent interests and approaches to bloggers of a certain age as there are in younger and more child-centered groups.
Lifestyle bloggers, business bloggers, and bloggers with a cause have much in common across age ranges. This cross-section of ages is one of the most promising and perhaps least utilized offerings of BlogHer. Elder experience combined with youthful energy and excitement could change the world. Women working together toward shared vision can change everything.
In the next post I will get down to the brass tacks about how the BlogHer of today is distinct from the BlogHer of yesterday.
Okay, right up front – this post revolves around #BlogHer16. Every year that I am fortunate enough to be able to attend this conference, I try to write something in preparation before heading out to the conference. I am writing it here this year as WLP would not exist without BlogHer. Allow me to explain.
I joined the BlogHer online community, under the user name of ArtPax in 2006, and started planning to attend that same year – but as I say in my capsulized story of the personally turbulent time, “I wanted to stay married,” so I did not attend in 2006. By 2007 I was in Indiana taking care of my mother in her home so she could transition from this life.
BlogHer was in Chicago that year, just after Mom’s funeral, so I decided to attend. It was a wonderful, and much needed, experience that allowed me to integrate a positive and forward looking perspective back into my life. At some point I started using my own name to post.
When SheKnows Media came into the picture, I developed a third associated identity under my first and last name. This last one is associated with a SheKnows account. When I returned to my home in Arizona, I had turned 50, my mother was gone, and my daughter was in college. My whole life had re-0rganized itself, without my overt permission. Within a year, posting once a week was more than I could do, and I was dropped from their publishing and advertising network. My online presence and identity expanded, but posting on a personal blog diminished in importance. I was changing. Blogging was changing. And BlogHer changed too.
I’ve followed the changes in BlogHer for quite a while. I attended BlogHer Conferences in 2007, 2008, 2011 (two BlogHer conferences that year,) 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Without the influence of the BlogHer Community and Conferences I would not be connected with the amazing, intelligent, eloquent group of midlife bloggers and businesswomen, online and digital writers, that I count as a very important part of my life that has brought me to a place where I am developing the concept of the Women’s Legacy Project for you, for me, for all of us.
I am writing about my overall experience with BlogHer to provide context for the next article that will look at what BlogHer is today. I also will cover the path I have watched it take to its current corporate incarnation.