More On Dooce And HGTV: Is The Future of Mommy Blogging An Expansion of Platforms?
At Mom 2.0, I asked Heather Armstrong if she saw the kind of multimedia expansion she’s currently doing with HGTV as being the future of blogging. Her response was to say that she felt that her move to HGTV was an “expansion of the platform,” and she did not elaborate beyond that on whether she thought that this was the kind of thing that would be happening with more and more bloggers as time passed.
As much as I would have liked a more in-depth answer to work with, I think that this is probably the smartest way of answering that question, because the truth is, asking if other bloggers will be able to build their own brands to the extent that she has is like asking if any extra in a film is going to be able to pull off building an A-list acting career, as well as a production company on the scale of Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment.
Or something like that.
Because who the hell knows? Nobody on the web at present has the kind of crossover opportunity that Dooce does, except perhaps Ree Drummond (of Pioneer Woman). That includes all the big male web celebrities like Seth Godin, Jason Kottke, John Gruber, Merlin Mann, and whatever other SXSW regulars you feel like including in that mix. In terms of media appearances, they are small potatoes when compared to Dooce: they don’t get put on Time’s lists, they don’t get on Oprah, they don’t have multi-billion dollar conglomerates banking on building their web presence around their popularity. Even within the mommyblogosphere, where there is decidedly less hero-worship of Dooce, the number one search term on blogs with search widgets is Dooce. And while I’m sure this annoys people beyond belief, it also gives them traffic.
It would be impossible to say if expansion to TV is where bloggers are going, because, well — are any other bloggers going to where Dooce is going?
As part of her deal for content collaboration with HGTV, Heather Armstrong is writing weekly on the Design Happens blog at HGTV. Her first post went up on the evening of February 25, 2010. In short, the post documents how Dooce’s design choices are not always practical, using her choice of putting decorative butterflies (projectile butterflies) on the wall of her newborn’s room did not turn out to be the best of choices, because her second daughter, Marlo, is far more fidgety than her first child, who would never have grabbed something off the wall in this manner. In short, she ended up having to remove all of the butterflies because having projectile butterflies around a changing table is not a practical choice for a newborn’s room.
The post is pretty typical Dooce fare — take an everyday dilemma and make it funny by juxtaposing Heather Armstrong’s legendary perfectionist tendencies with the chaos of a life with young children, mix in a pinch of hyperbole, season with a few expertly processed pictures and a well-placed reference to the enduring practicality of Jon (her husband) and bake for 1000 words. The post deliberately begins with a design dilemma, which is of course part of the effort to meet the constraints of the Design Happens blog on HGTV.com, and presumably, the post is free from any kind of expletives as a result of its context on HGTV.com as well, though the title of the blog itself, Design Happens, is a pretty decent fit to the Dooce brand, even if it’s cleaned up, because by reference to a well-worn phrase, “shit happens,” HGTV has managed to capture the kind of edginess for which Dooce is known, even without the explicit use of a word that might be objectionable to the middle Americans in their audience.
The Design Happens Dooce might be cleaned up and more restrained, but there’s no question that it is Dooce. And, as far as I can tell, her post matches HGTV’s intention for the blog, which is to “[not] let bad design happen to your home!” by allowing “The HGTV team [to share] design inspiration to help you on your way to design victory.”
But what is fascinating about the post is not so much its content, but the different feeling one gets from reading it — the overall experience of reading it, that is — when removed from the experience of Dooce.com. The Design Happens blog is smaller than Dooce, more corporate, less visually appealing. And while they might be allowing Dooce to use some (corporately approved) pictures, they don’t let her present them in the full glory as they appear on Dooce.com, where even pictures that appear smaller are linked to huge, glossy versions of their originals — the kinds of pictures that make your mouth water, or want to crawl up inside of them with a good book, and buy all of the products depicted within them immediately.
On Design Happens, these are pictures of any old house, or any old newborn’s room with ill-advised wall projectiles. I suppose this blog is meant to funnel people to HGTV for the more deluxe content, but if Dooce is in charge of “convergence,” I have to wonder why they aren’t letting her do what she does best?
But I haven’t even got to the most interesting part yet.
The community engagement is the astonishing part. Bear in mind that Dooce gets hundreds, sometimes thousands of comments on her posts at Dooce.com. As of the time that I started writing this post this morning, Heather Armstrong’s post at Design Happens had 21 comments, which is not too shabby of a number of comments for a typical blogger like, say, oh, me. But I would imagine it felt a little strange for Dooce to have so few comments. And more disturbing was that, after the first few supportive or “I’ve been there!” kind of comments, the chorus of Dooce detractors take over the comment section, as they often do, whenever Dooce does anything on the internet. But what’s odd here is that the smaller number of comments make these Dooce detractors appear to be far more powerful and significant here than they do on Dooce.com — possibly far more significant and powerful than they actually are, actually. And to a certain extent, it doesn’t matter how powerful they actually are, because so much of what happens on the web and how power and money is allotted has to do with illusion.
The illusion, after twenty one comments, was that Dooce was not a good choice for HGTV. In fact, it was so overwhelming that I — of all people — felt compelled to leave a comment about the design technique depicted in the post. My comment, if not explicitly supportive of Dooce, was at least constructive and not detracting from the message of her post, and served to further the conversation (I thought) and downplay the significance of the other comments like
So is your point, hi I’m Heather, I have no common sense myself so let me tell you how to make dumb parenting design choices too? I just doing get it.
Is this point of this post supposed to be, “Be ye not so silly or stupid?” If it’s not, I can’t really figure out what the point is. Although, with some certainty in my opinion, I can tell you that it is not funny nor remotely interesting. Epic Fail HGTV. [by Kristen.]
WHO are you?
Heather you had like 400+ comments telling you what a bad idea this was. Oh but you knew better! We don’t have a design show, but it didn’t take much common sense just good parenting to know, that the flowers above her changing table were a horrible idea. Just like the pictures above her crib.
HGTV this is not your voice, this is just awkward This entry should have been something Heather put on her website, because no where in here is decoration advice. Just Dooce doing what she does…whine and defect.
I’m not sure why I felt compelled to do this, but I think it has something to do with this: on Dooce.com, I don’t really pay attention to the people who detract, because there are so many supporters, and the whole Dooce brand appears so powerful, there’s no reason to feel bad for her. But in a new context, Dooce is a beginner of sorts — she’s got a new set of people to contend with, and yet she’s still getting beaten up like she’s the pro that everyone wants to bring back down to their level.
It’s funny what context can do.
As I kept writing, I noticed that Dooce came in and commented on the Design Happens blog, something she rarely (if ever) does on the comments for her own posts on Dooce.com. So my guess is the effect was not lost on her, either — bloggers who are starting out always comment back and forth in their comment section, and they find it hard not to comment when somebody shows up to say something negative. In a way, Dooce is back to her roots.
I cannot wait to see what happens next.