A group of women bloggers I recently fell in with subscribes to the idea that a blogger’s glass ceiling holds women writers back from the big time in the PF blogging world. How big the PF “big time” is remains to be seen. We know several male bloggers—Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar and J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly, among others—have built sites that earn enough to free them from their day jobs to write full-time.
On the other hand, we know successful women PF bloggers are holding forth, too: Silicon Valley Blogger’s The Digerati Life is going well enough to excuse her from the day job treadmill.
I don’t know whether Squawkfox earns proprietor Kerry Taylor enough to quit the ratrace, but this very day she posted an announcement that the Globe and Mail has her in the running for its Best of Money Blogs poll. Quite a few of the sites on my blogroll are written by women—most of them, come to think of it—but I’m pretty sure none of us is making a living at this business. MSN Smart Spending supports a couple of long-time women journalists, but they’re freelance contractors with no health insurance and, one might fairly guess, frugal wages. On the other hand, plenty of male bloggers aren’t making a nickel and a dime to rub together, either.
Is there some sort of good ole boys’ club out there for bloggers, a virtual country club where men go to play computer golf games together, every day but Ladies’ Day? It’s one of several issues that have been floating around in my coffee cup as I mull over ways to improve on Funny about Money and build its readership. Having reflected on this for a while, I really don’t think so.
Clive Thompson published a fairly nuanced article in a 2006 issue of New York Magazine, reflecting on the permutations of blogger success. He reports on research showing that one key indicator of a blog’s success is the number of links pointing to it, particularly links on large sites. The “A-list,” as he calls the most successful of the monetized blogs, is extremely small; “most bloggers toil in total obscurity.” This isn’t surprising, and by extension it’s unsurprising that lots of women bloggers are among the totally obscure, along with lots of men bloggers.
If you look at the blogs that men write—the ones that seem to be successfully monetized—and the blogs that women write, you see some fundamental differences. Successful blogs tend to be tightly focused; that is not often true of women’s blogs, which characteristically are rather gestalt. I believe that difference stems from men’s and women’s responses to fundamentally different life experiences. Women’s daily lives are gestalt, scattered among a score of conflicting responsibilities, whereas men’s daily lives are often spent on a job where they focus for long periods on the work at hand.
Consider, for example, Peter Rojas, who in 2006 was supposedly “the best-compensated blogger in history.” When Thompson visited him, we learn,
he’s sitting at an Ikea desk bedecked with three flat-panel screens and looking relatively fresh, considering he’s just come off another eleven-hour blogging jag. Like most A-list bloggers, he hit his keyboard before dawn and posted straight through until dinner. “Anyone can start a blog, and anyone can make it grow,” he says, sipping a glass of water. “But to keep it there? It’s fucking hard work, man. I’ve never worked so hard in my life. Eighty-hour weeks since I started.”
It’s about the daily juggle—my career, my commute, freelance work, homework, housework, married life, social life, and parenting—and finding the time to get it all done.
The issue for women is that few of us have 11 uninterrupted hours, or even eight, or even six, in which to develop, write, and market a blog. Observing my own work habits, I can say they reflect a lifetime of adaptation to demands on my time that come from every direction: work, friends, parenthood, wifehood, school, housekeeping, yard care, pool care, shopping, money management, pet care, healthcare, bureaucrats, editors, clients, advertisers, neighbors, cops…you name it, and somebody thinks they have a claim on my time that’s more important than anything I imagine I should be doing with my time.
The natural response to a cacophony of demands like this is to learn to do several things at once. And that is a very inefficient way of working. Yesterday, for example, around trying trying to get my blogging act together I had to…
• Walk with a friend at dawn, dragging the dog along by way of getting two things done at once;
• Call WellPoint to find out where the bill for Medicare Part D is, necessitating another time-wasting turn through a punch-a-button phone maze;
• Check and adjust pool chemicals;
• Wash two weeks’ worth of laundry;
• Read 80 pages of technical copy for a client;
• Rough out a calendar for one of my fall courses;
• Dredge up some old university-level course materials, rewrite and reformat 21 single-spaced pages newly targeted for lower-division community college students, and key them to the proposed new course syllabus;
• Create another single-spaced page of boilerplate copy-&-pastable comments keyed to this material;
• Feed the dog;
• Feed myself;
• Read page proofs;
• Water the plants…
I was in front of my computer more on than off from about 5:30 in the morning to about 11:00 at night. But as you can see, that time was interrupted repeatedly, and relatively little of it was spent focusing on what I thought of as the day’s primary task: learning more about driving traffic to FaM and putting some of those strategies into gear.
You know…if you have a wife who’s doing those household tasks and doing battle with the outside world, you have a lot more space in which to focus on your enterprise. And an enterprise—a business enterprise—is what a blog ultimately is. My guess is that men are socialized in many ways to focus more directly on the job at hand and are better at resisting interruption.
As I write this, I’m also dinking with trying to figure out how to get Alexa‘s code into FaM’s header. And really I do need to get up and drive to the oculist’s shop and find out why those glasses that were supposed to have been done last Wednesday haven’t surfaced. And brush my teeth and take a shower and wash my hair and fertilize the citrus trees and…oh, yeah: I forgot to eat, too.
Compare a few women’s PF sites with a few men’s, and by and large you see the difference I mentioned above. Check out the topics of the last few blogs at these Male-run and Female-run sites:
The Simple Dollar (M)
• Walking from your mortgage
• Employees’ attitudes
• Financial advice to readers
• Book review
• Frugal tips
Budgeting in the Fun Stuff (F)
• Monthly household budget
• Splurge on bedroom furniture
• Yakezie Alexa ranking
• Weekly favorites link-love roundup
• Federal legislation re extending tax cuts and unemployment compensation
• Increase on FDIC insurance to become permanent
• Moving a CD ladder to another bank
• Ally Bank’s .25% CD renewal bonus
• “Legal ripoffs”
Out of Debt Again (F)
• Top referrers
• Paperless bank withdrawals?
• Plan to pay off Discovery card
• Review of 2010 Quicken Deluxe
Darwin’s Finance (M)
• Analysis of energy tax credit toward central AC
• Gold bubble?
• Debt & major financial crises
• Saving for college
• Greek debt crisis & the markets
A Gai Shan Life (F)
• Summer travel costs
• Took out a store credit card
• Relaxing; blog challenge
• Weddings & cost of travel
• Freelancing as lifestyle
Five-Cent Nickel (M)
• Mortgage strategies
• America’s worst banks
• Credit card offers
• Traditional vs. Roth IRAs
• Sallie Mae raises online savings rate
Frugal Scholar (F)
• Children’s books
• Pantry remodel leads to domestic squabble, food ruminations
• Cookbook collection
• Pantry project (with literary references)
• Gardening & frugality
Get Rich Slowly (M)
• Home safety precautions
• Personal data collection
• The $20 challenge
• Learning from Baby Boomer experience
• Finishing what you started
(These are all guest posts, since JD has been on vacation)
The Digerati Life (F)
• Nintendo Wii games to cut down her gym costs
• Credit card review
• Carnival of Financial Planning
• How to lower homowner’s insurance costs
• Rant at annoying “Wall Street trader letter” circulating on Web
Notice how tightly focused the men’s most recent posts are? While the women are not exactly off-topic, they tend to write more personally and they often wander from the topic of personal finance in its strictest sense. Counting a discussion of a financial matter framed in terms of the current events in one’s own life as “personal” posts, I come up with this quantitative comparison of subject matter:
• Personal Finance, Economy: 21
• Personal commentary: 2
• Blogging: 0
• Other: 2
• Personal finance, Economy: 5
• Personal commentary: 13
• Blogging: 5
• Other: 2
Sooo… Does this have meaning? Should all us girls who just wanna have fun making a living off blogging start copying the boys?
Not IMHO. But I do think we need to recognize that women have a different blogging style from men’s. Possibly we have different things to say to the world. Moi, I like reading personal takes on personal finance (isn’t that why we call it “personal,” after all?)—but I have to recognize that may restrict my readership to other women.
The other lesson I take from this observation is some of the men’s blogs show how much focused energy is devoted to those sites. Making one of these things fly pretty clearly requires stretches of uninterrupted concentration. You don’t get the sense of gestalt from, say, The Simple Dollar, where Trent is posting at least two articles a day, often lengthy ones, that you do where authors appear to be writing on the fly, while they’re braiding the threads of their lives and can’t let go of even one.