I recently posted a thought piece around the question: 'Have We Seen the End of Blogging as We Know It?'
A few days later I spotted this interview by Tim Lince with Karen Andrews from Miscellaneous Mum reinforcing my theory there's a bit of action happening out there in the blogosphere. Some bloggers are becoming bona fide multimedia content creators; they're building a trusted personal brand, gaining a committed tribe of followers and becoming more and more professional (and influential) by the day. The more committed are starting to monetise their efforts.
Exciting times! Enjoy the interview.
GUEST POST: Tim Lince, Influencing.com.au (follow on Twitter - @influencingau).
Influencing has a chat with Karen Andrews, the founder and editor of Australian parenting blog Miscellaneous Mum, about how the Australian blogosphere is evolving and how bloggers are creating a brand from humble blogging beginnings.
Andrews is part of a revolution in Australia at the moment, with a number of popular blogs being offered the chance to move to other mediums - such as Lorraine Elliott at Not Quite Nigella signing a book deal with Penguin Books recently. So there’s no doubt the whole scene is growing in popularity and, crucially, in influence.
Miscellaneous Mum is another blog that’s breaking the mould of no longer being just a digital-only platform, and Andrews has moulded a brand and actually created subsidiaries with the ‘Miscellaneous’ title - such as Miscellaneous Voices, the first book about the Australian blogging scene, and Miscellaneous Press, the book publishing arm of the business.
And it truly is a business now, with more books and developments planned in the future. But the beginning of the blog, and brand, began just five years ago.
“Miscellaneous Mum came into being in August 2006, making it one of the more established Australian ‘Mummy Blogs’ around,” Andrews explains. “I set it up for three reasons - to talk about my post-partum depression, to revive my writing life and to keep my family, who all live interstate, up-to-date on what we’re doing.”
She worked in events management before the creation of Misc Mum, before leaving to do freelance writing and concentrating on forging the Miscellaneous blog into a free-standing brand.
The first important decision that had to be made - the name.
“When I sat down to think of a title, which is quite hard to do, I thought about who I am and what I like.”
“I like everything - ‘miscellanea’ - and coupled it with what I am - a ‘mum’. Back at the start, the title was ‘Miscellaneous Adventures of an Aussie Mum’. I put the Aussie in to differentiate it from US blogs. They were most prevalent at the time.”
One particular US blog, ‘Dooce’, was a major influence on Misc Mum from the very beginning. It’s one of the most visited ‘mummy blogs’ in the world, and Dooce’s founder Heather Armstrong is especially well-known for forging one of the first commercially viable parenting blogs and also starting various debates (such as this andthis) that have shaped how PR have approached blogs, both in the US and Australia.
However, blogs are an especially hard avenue to craft a unique regular audience from, especially in the days before a large Australian blogging community.
“Those were the days when blog carnivals and mass-participation memes were new and fun and generated a lot of traffic. But that was ‘bounce’ traffic, wanting reciprocity (you go back to their site). It was time consuming and not what I was after. I was after a committed readership, the kind good writing makes.”
“I first noticed traffic about six months or so after I began. But more than traffic at first was comments and attention and friendships I’d created, because they left more of an impact.”
The first off-shoot of the blog was the creation of Miscellaneous Press in 2008, and Andrews confirms that the name “was a deliberate repetition to capitalise on the brand I’d already spent time growing”.
Major PR offers followed a year later, as Andrews explains.
“The first major PR project I did was working with Soup to road test the new Renault Koleos and do an iPhone giveaway. That was 2009. Since then I’ve worked with many different agencies on many different campaigns, although I am selective about what I choose to do, insofar as I keep my blog’s interests at heart.”
Since then, Misc Mum has partnered with PR professionals on giveaways, sponsored posts and has attended networking and PR-oriented blogging events. Andrews is inundated with public relations offers each day, in fact.
“I get at least 50 press releases a day, every day, and I rarely act on them. Pitches are better than press releases, usually, because a pitch at least is more personally tailored.”
The blogosphere as a whole is a goldmine for PR, especially as it continues to grow, and Andrews has advice for working with bloggers.
“A ‘one campaign to suit them all’ approach isn’t always the best. Honestly, some bloggers don’t like being offered to do what 10 or 20 others have already been given,” she explained, “but depending on the brand, yes I’d say blogging is a great alternative for brands to reach an audience with. I would say that those focused on a ‘mum’ demographic would do especially well.”
One crucial aspect that blogs are developing increasingly well is a strong brand - something that Andrews was aware of right from the start - and it’s something that PRs and advertisers are starting to take serious notice of.
“Taking steps as to developing what a 'brand' is and what it stands for in relation to your online (or creative, or both) work is something people are having to address sooner and sooner these days - or at least, that's how it seems to me,” she said.
“I was on a panel at the 2010 Melbourne Writers' Festival called 'The Author as Brand' where we talked about this shifting dynamic. From designing a blog header, to business cards, right down to the very niche you're choosing to write in, up and comers are coming in with very specific ideas and direction.”
“This stretches as far as the personal blog world - which I identify with more than a 'mum blog' - where elevator pitches and media kits are important means of communicating what it is you do and why people should notice. Where once we might have typed away in obscurity, suddenly women are discovering and leveraging their power in an economy which they're realising is partly dependent on the way they shop, how they shop, and how they talk about products. Not only are companies listening, but soliciting their advice.”
As blogs increasingly spread across different mediums, Andrews acknowledges that the social networks are playing an important part in shaping the brand - saying that Twitter and Facebook especially are “increasingly critical to a blogger’s network and means of communication”.
Moulding a brand around subjects that are often uncomfortably personal requires a certain type of character, Andrews claims.
“I’m an open person and think secrets can be harmful. Besides, when writing, I have to be open to being raw and vulnerable - at least, at times! Negative repercussions have happened, but I’ve been somewhat lucky in that respect and I have a pretty tough skin.”
Miscellaneous Mum, and the Miscellaneous brand, is going to continue evolving in the future too, with more books and even a possible smartphone app on the way.
“I’m writing a memoir which is based a lot on the work and some of the better posts I’ve done over the years. I’m also developing a ‘how-to’ book which is blogging related. I do have an idea for an app (which could also be a book, now I think of it). I have lots of things to do, basically!”
And in terms of the future of the blogging medium, with growth showing no signs of faltering, Andrews is more positive - noting one big change she predicts will arrive in the near-future.
“No doubt blogging will continue to evolve. I predict film will play a bigger part, but these vlogs will have higher production values. Design is crucial – regular templates just don’t cut it anymore. Younger people will come through and will be savvier, quicker. My daughter even wants to blog!”
You can find out more about Miscellaneous Mum, Miscellaneous Press and Miscellaneous Voices at their websites, and you can follow Karen Andrews on Twitter. Influencing subscribers can also find Misc Mum and Karen Andrews on the Influencing database.