An Open Letter to BlogHer

Dear Elisa, Lisa and Jory,

First, let me apologize for addressing you by name; however, I did so intentionally and for good reason.  We forget that there are people behind a brand – people who work hard, have feelings and express emotions.  Online, it’s sometimes easier to throw rocks at a brand forgetting that there is a person who has worked hard to create it.  I want to remind myself, as well as others, that BlogHer was launched by three women much like each of us who launch blogs and businesses.

First, I want to thank you.  Thank you, because I had the best time at BlogHer that I have EVER had since first attending your conference way back when you launched it.  Now, you might be scratching your head and saying to yourself, “How in the world could you have enjoyed BlogHer, when you didn’t even attend BlogHer?” But let me assure you I did attend BlogHer.  My bathroom scale confirmed it this morning when it reminded me of all the Garrett’s Popcorn and pizza I ate all week. Not only did I attend BlogHer, but I achieved everything I believe the three founders intended for attendees of the BlogHer Conference to experience.  I met new friends in my space and networked with old friends as well. I learned about new technologies, new brands, new products and new ways of solving the challenges I face as a social media mom.   Best of all, I felt like I was part of a unique and awesome community of women and men (when you count Mitch and Ted).  I can’t honestly say that I have accomplished so much at past BlogHer conferences.  I did all this without my BlogHer pass, which as we all know was revoked on Tuesday night at 11:30 p.m. (I really wish I wouldn’t read my emails in the middle of the night!)

But here’s the ironic part.  What looked like a negative on Tuesday night soon became a positive upon landing in Chicago.  You gave me the greatest gift BlogHer could give me by revoking my pass. You forced me to look at the conference in a new way and you motivated others to act in ways I’ve never experienced before.  I received an invitation to my FIRST-EVER outboard party.  Really!  In all the years of attending BlogHer, I have NEVER been invited to an off-site party.  I am not sure why. I thought I was a nice person, but most people may just think I’m too busy or going somewhere else. I guess once I was labeled an “outcast” from BlogHer, outboard event organizers felt sorry for me and took me in.  I have to tell you, they are fun parties!  I finally understand why so many moms can’t wait to venture away from home and attend these parties.  I have read about them for years. I’ve seen women wait anxiously for their in-boxes to fill up but I never really understood why.  I do now and if you’ve never been to one, I am going to encourage some of the outboarders to invite you next year.

Not having my BlogHer pass opened up my schedule and allowed me to attend some of these “outside” events.  It also forced me to meet new people, socialize in new niche communities of moms and look at the conference from a different perspective.  I had lots of time to listen to the opinions of moms about the conference, sessions, sponsorship policies and events.  Not because I asked, but suddenly moms who I’ve never met before approached me to talk.  It seems being a REVOKED MOM made me more accessible.  It was awesome. I literally met hundreds of women who I would have otherwise walked past in the lobby or rushed by in the Expo Hall.  We had a reason to talk and you provided that for us.  Thank you.  Many of the women expressed support for me – so much so that I felt a sense of community at a whole new level.

What I did miss, however, were my old friends, the experienced mom bloggers who no longer see BlogHer as a beneficial expense.  We all know that for the first time, many of the “old-timers” weren’t in attendance. We need to get them back.  Although their absence forced me to hang out with new acquaintances, their knowledge and guru-ness was definitely missed by not only myself, but I’m sure by women new to social media.  I believe that the richness of our blogging community depends on diverse levels of know-how, assortment of histories and sometimes conflicting perspectives.  Do I like that there are other moms who sell the services to companies that BSM Media provides? No, but these women make me a better business owner. They keep me from getting lazy, they motivate me to constantly re-invent myself and they fuel my engine when I get tired of staying up late working.  When you embrace competition it makes you a better person overall; personally and professionally.

The Dalai Lama says, “Don’t lose the lesson” and I believe that my lesson this week was learned in the sense of community I felt with every embrace, tweet and Facebook comment.  I’ve joked about being revoked.  I’ve worn a fictitious REVOKED name badge and I even tweeted from @REVOKEDMOM, but I want to get serious now.

I learned this week that BlogHer, the conference, has a place in the female blogosphere.  It has a place because as bloggers (yes, I am a blogger:  www.bluesuitmom.com, http://www.womenontheirway.com/jane-air/ ) we need a physical place to gather, share, network and learn.  However, we also need an event that evolves with our community. One that offers content as valuable to an old timer like me as to a newbie. A conference that sees the value of empowering its community members with financial opportunities as much as it values building them for themselves.  A community where there’s open dialogue and opportunity for growth.  All of this leads me to my proposition.  I feel so strongly about preserving and growing our community that I’m willing to fly to New York at my own expense and sit down with the BlogHer team to brainstorm.  I want to be part of the solution rather than the REVOKED mom.  There’s so much more for us all to gain by working together rather than tearing each other apart.  I try to practice what I teach my children and in this case, I’d like to see how we can play nicely together.  Email me, even if it’s in the middle of the night.  I’m sure I’ll read it before dawn.

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40 Responses

  1. Thanks for saying this, Maria. I didn’t attend for the first time in many years for some of the reasons you mentioned.

  2. Bravo!! As if my respect and admiration for you were not already high, it has now grown by leaps and bounds. I’m so sorry we didn’t get a chance to actually meet this past week. I did see you at MomSelect event though! 🙂

  3. This is a great post. I didn’t attend this year because I have for the last 3 years and haven’t felt like the conference was a good fit for me anymore. Many of the brands that attend are not there to work with bloggers, but more there to get us to jump through hoops to promote their products socially.

    As a mom who has been running a successful site for 7 years, I want to be inspired by a conference and hear from members of the community who really want to share strategies to take your business to the next level. We are all not starting out. They need to raise the level to meet this tier of bloggers.

    In the past BlogHer has cost more than $1000 to attend. This year I chose to spend that money on my family and do things together because at the end of the day, they are why I do this.

  4. First, I’m in shock that you’ve never had an invite to the parties. Seriously. There’s a personal lesson in that for me…who else are we overlooking? Second, I commend you for posting this and reaching out to create a greater event for all. I missed Blogher this year and it wasn’t the parties or the swag or the sessions–it was just seeing my blogging buddies that I missed most. How do we get everyone together more and make it affordable to do? My brain is churning…

  5. Yet another reason I respect and adore you. Written with so much class and free of sass. You are an inspiration.

  6. Aww. Why were you revoked? I wish I could’ve attended Blogher, the parties both official and off-site look like a ton of fun. And everyone was posting pictures of their Swag…I was jealous.

  7. Such a valuable lesson you took away from this experience. I applaud your words and support you in your quest to develop something for us “old-timers” 🙂 Thank you for being our voice! #TeamMaria

  8. so are you supporting just coming to the city where blogher is located to go to the free parties and not buy a pass to the conference? I’m a little confused by your real intentions here.

    • No, I’m not supporting not buying a pass to BlogHer. In fact, I purchase passes for myself and other moms every single year. I even say in this post that there is a definite place for BlogHer in our community.

      • You dedicate most of your post to how glad you were that yours was taken away and how much you got out of the experience by not having a pass. So it wasn’t clear to me.

        On a related note, do you support the outboard parties?

  9. Very well said! I am hoping to attend Next year. I am glad you made a positive out of a negative.

  10. Never hire me to be a private detective because I saw you three times and never noticed the big red REVOKED on your pass.

    I hope that there can be a mutually beneficial solution to BlogHer’s private party problem. As an attendee, they do add to the reasons I attend BlogHer.

  11. This was my first BlogHer and I have to say that I did a mix of official and unofficial events and I thought it was great. I attended the 2 workshops that most met with my goals. I wandered the expo hall and met a few great people from some great companies. I watched karaoke with new friends. I attended Saturday’s keynote with Sheryl Sandberg. But I did attend several ‘outboard’ parties and had an absolute best time at them and made some new friends, because the venues were smaller and more interactive on many levels. I think the balance of both types of events was exactly what I had hoped for.

  12. Always finding the rainbow is the way to look at things

  13. This is my first year not attending BlogHer since I began blogging. While I enjoy spending time with friends, I’ve come to discover that I’d rather do so (and spend the associated money) at smaller events such as She Streams and Type-A where I feel like I’m also continuing to learn and grow. Something about BlogHer has become stagnant, and the content seems to cater to two groups: BlogHer diehards who are always included in the planning/speaking and newbies. I simply don’t fit into either of those two groups. I’m glad you’re reaching out to them here because you’ve got a lot of knowledge to bring to the table. Hopefully they’ll take you up on your offer!

  14. Wow, Maria. That was amazing. I think most of us don’t understand why you were used to set an “example” since you are such an approachable person and a great example of how to go from “blogger to business.” It’s refreshing to see that you found some positive out of the situation. I have to admit, I’m one of those moms that always thought you were too busy to chat with or invite to events. After interacting with you the past few months, I’ve learned that you are a great person to talk to, ask for advice and learn from. It’s a shame that you couldn’t share that wisdom within the actual conference. I hope the BlogHer team takes you up on your offer; I think it would be beneficial for everyone involved, especially us bloggers looking to learn from the veterans.

  15. This is a great post, Maria. I feel the same way about the absence of the old timers and I admire your courage in stepping up, offering to help make Blogher a better conference. I sincerely hope that they take you up on your offer.

    There are many of us in my group of blogger friends that are not planning to attend the conference again. This was my 5th Blogher Conference and I am honestly not sure that there is any more that I can get out of it. It pains me to say that because I look forward to this conference every year.

  16. Good for you Maria! I have to say that you are totally spot on! I was happy to see you mingling about at Toy Party and other places that I spotted you throughout the weekend! It is sad to see BlogHer really digging their own hole in this matter which can only come back to haunt them in the future. Although I wish them the best perhaps something better will be established for those of us who have been around a while and find that BlogHer is not really beneficial for us.

  17. It’s hard to give an unbiased response to your open letter because having known and worked with you for years, the first word that comes to mind when I think of you is Integrity. And then I feel the gratitude for when your staff asked you what to do when a guy asked to join the network (me). You said, Why Not? You helped me and there was no reason for you to do so.
    Your letter reminds me that when one door closes, another opens. And I hope the ladies of Blogher listen, because they do need to rejuvenate their brand, and one way of doing that is by embracing everyone, not excluding people. It seems to me that is a big part of what the female blog world does and what sets it apart and keeps its standards high.
    Mitch

    • Ditto the ubersmart Mitch … who btw, was out shaking his booty this weekend, and he shakes it so well.
      A conference makes me feel both embraced and empowered. I connect with the people from my screen, who have loved and laughed and supported me through both the amusing and the heartwrenching.
      Once I step foot inside, I take a deep breath and I truly feel my community.

      But the truth is – really … they are my people, my tribe.
      And we are all growing together.

      Thank you Maria, wise words – we should all be evolving.

  18. I don’t understand what happened. In four years, I’ve never been invited to a party, but how does BlogHer revoke? Don’t you just buy a conference pass? I don’t get what happened. So sorry, just not clear to me… I bought my conference pass last August.

  19. It was so great meeting you in person! =)

  20. Maria, I have no idea what happened other than what you mentioned here. Having known you for as long as I have, and worked with you and for you, I see you as a valuable asset to BlogHer, should they accept your offer. I could say much more, but will limit it only at this: I am glad that you walked away from the experience with a positive message and outlook. And I am thrilled that you embraced the courage to share your thoughts openly. So few people lack the ability to do so. Bravo my friend.

  21. Nicely done… classy response to an unfortunate incident. But what happened was telling and representative of an event that needs to find itself again. Kudos to you for offering to be a part of the solution… a much needed innovative evolution to add life back to an event that has meant so much to so many. Count me in if they take you up on your offer… happy to assist. Sincerely, Ted

  22. I love your post, Maria! This was my second year away from BlogHer. Both times, I didn’t miss the conference at all. The things I really missed were seeing my friends, meeting new people and networking with brands. I found it much easier to network and socialize at the outboard events than at the noisy, crowded BlogHer parties!

    I think BlogHer has a lot to learn from people like you and Danielle, and I would love to see you work together.

  23. Wow! This post is way nicer than mine would’ve been. As someone said above, when one door closes another door opens. Kudos.

  24. I love that you turned this experience into something positive, and hope that you’re invited to New York to discuss the next steps.
    With regard to BlogHer, I had a blast when I went in San Diego – but I won’t attend again for a while because It was a big party. It was wonderful, but not something I can justify doing again and leaving my family for.
    I’m really interested to see what happens in the next year! Good luck, Maria!

  25. I didn’t attend (mainly because I don’t enjoy flying during the third trimester and I have three young kids at home) and I don’t know all the details of your situation. So, without commenting on that, I’ve often wondered if Blogher would consider an off-site event level of sponsorship–one where BlogHer blesses off on an event, maybe even gives access to an opt-in list of attendees, in exchange for some control over times… and money. Not sure if this is feasible or not…just a thought.

    At any rate, a classy response…hope they take you up on your offer!

  26. What an amazing piece of writing! I’m glad you took a negative and made it into such a positive.

    I fully agree our online digital lives make us want to connect in person. For years BlogHer and conferences of the sort have been that for me.

    I think outboard parties highlight a large issue with “official” conference parties is the cost the brands are willing to
    Invest doesn’t jive with the price tag the conferences are setting for their engagements.

    In the end the brands get the value that they pay for…. And yearly events get reputations based on swag, or food, or simply how fun it was… Which is how cheeseburger party started right?!

    Maybe we need to remember the past to reflect on the future.

  27. I had the privelage of hearing you give a keynote here in San Diego at the Moms in Business Unite Conference a few years ago. You are indeed one who can roll with the punches, think outside the box and really champion success for everyone. I don’t know the ugly details, but I sure hope some collaboration is birthed from this open letter…. bloggers and business women both would benefit from seeing that transpire.

  28. The outboard parties are actually what I look forward too, I feel most of the brands at Blogher don’t want to talk, they just want to give me swag in hopes of writing about it. The sessions are always overfull. The outboard parties or “Mom Select Swag Suit are the main things I look forward too.

  29. […] one of the bloggers whose pass was revoked. She attended Blogher anyway and followed up with this post in response to having her pass taken away at the last minute and her experience of attending […]

  30. Your children are lucky to have a mom like you, Maria. I agree wholeheartedly about embracing rather than shunning outside event. I even said that in my post-event survey.

    I hope they see the benefit in your gracious offer and take you up on it. It may make the difference between whether many of us return next year or not.

    I’m proud to call you a friend and mentor.

  31. Great post… And so necessary!

  32. As a conference organizer myself, I study other events and what works and what doesn’t. It sounds like BlogHer was a great opportunity to observe what is obviously flawed, so that you could work on the solution. Even if that solution doesn’t lie in meeting/ working with BlogHer, you can always make sure you incorporate what you have learned into SheStreams. As I mentioned to you a few years ago, I have my own thoughts on making a good blogger conference. Even if BlogHer won’t sit with you, I sure will. Oh and I am cool with Ted joining in too! 🙂

  33. I do not attend BlogHer or know much about it or you….with that being said I am utterly impressed with this open letter and will be sure to read more of your blog! I commend you for what seems to be you saying what many others felt! Nice work…you have gained a new follower!

  34. A classy and goddessly post. Bravo! I have attended the last 3 BlogHer Conferences and did not go this year. Quite frankly, nothing about last year’s event in New York made me want to get on a plane and head to Chicago. I applaud the organization for having grown to such a large event, but my feeling then was it had lost the personal touch. And – as so many have said already, for an experienced blogger there was very little to offer in terms of sessions.

    That said I hope they take note and work to get back on track.

  35. You have shown a lot of grace, and humor, about the situation and it is inspiring to hear how you found the positive in a predicament that had the potential to sour very quickly. I hope the ladies take you up on your offer as there is a great opportunity to bring the community closer together again.

  36. I still am in awe that the you weren’t invited to outside events before!! I’m SO thrilled that you did come to BOTH of ours on Thursday.

    I personally DID buy a pass to Blogher & how you and a few others got yours revoked and I didn’t? I’m still trying to figure it out. But I do have to tell you, if I wasn’t asked to host those ‘events’ I would have never bought a ticket to Blogher and I wouldn’t have gone. I agree. I have spent enough of my hard earned money over the years that I just don’t care to see the SAME speakers and hear the SAME ‘first timer-story’ at every session. It doesn’t do anything for me professionally.

    Although, personally I LOVE the intimate events of Blogher. And unfortunately those are the ones getting their hands slapped.

    Hugs to you. I’m sure Blogher and the humans behind the business could learn a LOT from you. Your grace in this whole situation sure taught me something.

    On another note, Blogher isn’t the only conference that I’d not attend. Type A, even Advanced wasn’t what I thought it would be. Maybe I’m searching for something that just isn’t even out there yet. I enjoy ‘seeing’ and hanging out with the wonderful people I share this space with…but none of the conferences are doing it for me right now. I’m considering Blogher Pro but fear that is going to be the EXACT thing that I’m NOT looking for.

    Tough decision all around. All though, I sure do like a good party. =)

  37. I’ve read this over and over just because it’s so true an well written. I only went to BlogHer once but I felt like I was a bad person for wanting to go to the smaller events and “out boarding”. But truth is I felt more like myself in the intimate settings. I think BlogHer could learn from these events and realize being one of the largest blog conferences may not make you one of the best.

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