Have you heard of mommy-blogger Heather Armstrong? If you have, it may be because she's been featured in the Times (at least) six times since 2003, most recently in a lengthy magazine profile this week. Let's take a look at Armstrong's much-chronicled life, how it's changed, and how it's stayed the same.
Armstrong writes Dooce, a lucrative and popular blog on which she discusses life with her husband and two kids, and which earned her the No. 26 spot on Forbes's latest list of Most Influential Women in Media. It also earned her this week's profile by Lisa Belkin, a multi-page piece that includes some new material and some that feels strikingly familiar. Below, a tour of Armstrong's journey through the pages of the Times.
2005: "Now about 40,000 people log on to read about Ms. Armstrong's efforts to break her daughter's binky habit and of her concern about swearing in front of Leta."
2011: "Typically, there are 100,000 visitors daily to her site, Dooce.com, where she writes about her kids, her husband, her pets, her treatment for depression and her life as a liberal ex-Mormon living in Utah."
Her hate mail
2007: "Heather Armstrong, a blogger in Salt Lake City who writes publicly about her family (dooce.com), stopped accepting unmoderated comments on her blog two years ago after she found that conversations among visitors consistently devolved into vitriol."
2011: "She had Jon create a new section of Dooce, with a new and separate ad base, where she posted her hate mail and invited readers to scroll through. As they scrolled, the ad revenue accumulated.
The Armstrongs won't say how much money they made from the hate, just that it was 'a large, large sum.'"
Her work habits
2005: "Like most parent bloggers, Ms. Armstrong steals time at the computer when the child is napping, after the baby sitter arrives and late at night."
2011: "Lunch at Blurbodoocery Inc. is a family affair - Heather and Jon, 18-month-old Marlo, LaCaze, and Heather's cousin McKenzie (who baby-sits for Marlo during the day, and for 7-year-old Leta when she is home from school), all gathered around the table in the stone-and-glass kitchen. The ability to blur home and work is one reason they bought this house when the company began to burst the seams of their smaller one. They considered just renting office space, as most start-ups do when they grow. But 'my life is the business,' Armstrong says. 'It wouldn't work without the chaos nearby, without being able to wear my workout clothes all day and nap on the bed with the dogs.'"
2008: "The site, chock full of advertising, is a moneymaking machine — so much so that Ms. Armstrong and her husband have both quit their regular jobs."
2011: "The Armstrongs started small at the end of 2004, with Google ads (the kind that appear on registered sites and pay anywhere from a few pennies to a few dollars, depending on Web traffic). Before long they had contracted with an agency that actively sought display advertisers, making Dooce the first personal Web site to accept significant advertising. When monthly income from the blog exceeded Jon's paycheck for the same period, he quit his job to manage the business. "
And: "This summer, the renovation of the office was sponsored by Verizon, and Jon shot a series of videos of Heather describing the new furniture and the computer wiring. Each one ran as a post on the site, opening and closing with the Verizon logo. Part of the deal was that the Armstrongs had to switch from iPhones to Droids during the renovation. When the sponsorship ended this fall, Heather and Jon immediately went back to their beloved ATT-powered phones."
And most intriguingly, her identity.
2003: "Heather Armstrong, a 27-year-old Web designer from Utah whose blog is at www.dooce.com, might be the ultimate example of blogging gone awry."
"This is where Heather has become a master," Jon told me earlier when I asked him whether a blog like Heather's was sustainable as children grow up and families tire of the magnifying lens. "She has the ability to take a single episode and turn it into an epic, and then, if you go word by word and ask, ‘What did she reveal?' it's really not very much. David Sedaris once said that his stories are ‘true enough.' Blogs, the ones that last, are also ‘true enough.' "
Clearly Armstrong is a skilled blogger and a shrewd businesswoman who's built a big audience in her own right. But at some point pretty early on, she also became The Mommy Blogger The New York Times knows about. And when it comes to having a "blog that lasts," that helps a lot too.
Queen Of The Mommy Bloggers [NYT Magazine]
Mommy (And Me) [NYT]
Dating A Blogger, Reading All About It [NYT]
Woman To Woman, Online [NYT]
Let The Kid Be [NYT Magazine]
A Call For Manners In The World of Nasty Blogs [NYT]