Sunday, August 5, 2012

Why I Didn't Go To #BlogHer12

I have been at this blogging thing for quite a while now - more than 5 years have passed since I started writing in this space. Over that period of time, blogging has become an industry, and this past week, it's biggest annual event, BlogHer, took place in New York City. If you click through that link, you can see details on just how big this event is. If you didn't click, you should know that the 4,500 conference attendees were addressed by President Barack Obama, Martha Stewart, and Katie Couric over the three day event. There were endless parties and a giant expo hall where bloggers could connect with each other, and connect with brands. And there were sessions about the actual craft of blogging.

For three years now, I've seen a bit of this event from the sidelines, following along on Twitter and in many blog posts both before and after the conference. For a brief period last spring, I considered attending myself. This will sound crazy to those of you that don't blog, and that don't engage in a community this way, but I feel like these are my people. There is something about putting yourself out there online, in a way that makes a lot of people too uncomfortable for them to do, but for me feels authentic and exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. There is a truth to this process, and so many bloggers I admire chose to attend.

But I didn't go because there's also a big part of it that I don't get, and that's all of the brand focus. It's just not what I do here. I don't know how. I've told stories about things I've done and places I've been, but I've never been compensated for any of it. I wrote a post for a friend about taking our car to the drive in, and afterward my car dealership said I could bring the car in for a free oil change. I never did. I'm very fortunate to make a great living, and while a freebie here and there would be nice (hey there, Disney World!), it's just not what I want to do. When I do take part in something, I want it to feel organic. Next month, I'm going to read a book for my friend Jessica's new book review site, because the book sounds really good and because I trust Jessica not to be wasting my time. But that opportunity came to me - I'm not sure how I feel about the reverse.

This dichotomy leads a lot of people to maintain separate blogs, but let's be honest - I barely find enough time to write on this one. So I stayed home from BlogHer this year because I couldn't reconcile this issue in my head and in my heart. But as the conference went on, I noticed a few tweets from people I really admire. They might not have been tweeting as much, which is why they were more difficult to notice. They weren't brand-specific - they were session specific. Mostly, they were supportive messages from the audience at the Voices of the Year session, where bloggers are chosen to read their work to the group. And that's where I want to be, in that community.

I will be attending the Springboard Conference this fall, my first official event in this vein, the first time I'm spending my money on something because of my blog. To say I'm excited is an understatement. But I think over the next year, I'm going to evaluate all of this a little more, and get myself to BlogHer '13. The timing on the calendar looks right, and the Chicago location sounds amazing. So, uh, is it too early to be looking for a roommate? :)


  1. The Expo is entirely separate and it is really easy to attend the conference without focusing on the sponsors. Lots of people do.
    You can even elect to purchase a ticket at full price if you deeply oppose the sponsorship.

  2. I think if you know what you want to get out of it and think it will benefit you, then you should do it! You just have to be confident in yourself. I did not have a very good game plan when I went. As soon as I got there, I just started thinking "Why am I here again?" And that is definitely NOT the right mindset to be in!

  3. You would tell me to do what I need to do and stop worrying about it and we'll figure out a way to make it work, so I'll just reflect that advice back to you.

  4. At the risk of sounding completely corny: that's the spirit!

    There's a place for you at BlogHer. That's not BS, it's the truth. I went into it with horse blinders on. I went to the Expo Hall once to pick up my Moo cards and that was it. I did have one brand connection, but that came to me because of a silly story I wrote.

    I value writing and BlogHer is not the place to make one-on-one connections with brands. Thinking that's what BlogHer is for? It's not and a lot of people get angry because they have an unrealistic expectation.

    Blogging is more than brands. BlogHer DOES get that. I attended sessions that focused on writing, attended Voices of the Year (I was one of them, but not a reader) and surrounded myself with other people who value writing. The Open Mic was pretty spectacular too.

    The key, for me, was go to a smaller conference first to find a tribe and to know some faces and to put on the horse blinders and keep your eyes on the prize. If writing is what you value, try your best to find those circles and sessions.


  5. I've been to BlogHer several times, and while I enjoy seeing friends and making new ones, it has grown exponentially and the content of its sessions has suffered. I just attended #bbsummit12 which was by far a more intimate affair with exceptional speakers. You will love your conference. It will reenergize your writing spirit!