The BlogHer annual conference is the largest event centered around bloggers in the country. The original conference was actually the catalyst to creating the popular website eight years ago, since there seemed to be such an obvious need for this type of community gathering both online and in the real world. The question the founders of BlogHer were asking themselves was "where do women blog?" They wanted to investigate how to best aggregate women bloggers in order to network more effectively the voice of female expertise.
According to co-founder of BlogHer Elisa Camahort Page, "The first conference we organized was about forging this community. The idea was 'working together to move mountains.' From the community we got the inspiration to create BlogHer.com as a central place, and then ultimately we launched the network to help those folks make money." The BlogHer founders recognized the need to work with women bloggers to help publicize their perspectives as well as the opportunity to create a system that was financially viable for their writers.
The BlogHer conference that will take place this August in New York City is a chance to meet bloggers, to network, to hone your writing skills, to get advice on blogging business skills and to connect to the community. Martha Stewart and Katie Couric will be keynote speakers at this year's event. As Page explains, these two media powerhouses truly exemplify the spirit of BlogHer:
Both Martha and Katie have had ground-breaking careers, but have also smoothly adapted to the new world of social media. They embody the ability to grow with a platform that is radically changing all the time. When BlogHer started in 2005 the landscape was very different. We have had to keep adjusting to the shifts in order to stay at the forefront. You have to be flexible when your business model keeps changing in front of you.
The blogging community has become an essential branch of the media that many people rely on for information. BlogHer is a unique platform because the site is dedicated to a variety of topics, but looks for the wisdom of women experts. There is a high level of diversity in the content that is created, but the female perspective on world issues is what is being represented.
The social value of BlogHer can be seen not only in their efforts in supporting women, but also, more broadly, in their dedication to transparency. When a media platform's business model is contingent on the support of corporate advertising, it is often a conflict of interest from a reporting perspective. Many media companies do not want to bite the hand that feeds them, and as a consequence the news that the public receives is often censored through a corporate filter. BlogHer directly tries to address this problem by disclosing any connection between content created and relevant relationships to advertisers. According to Page,
People like working with BlogHer because they don't have to worry about selling the ads. They can just focus on their content. But for us what matters is full disclosure. If a blog post involves someone who has been an advertiser of BlogHer, we disclose. We make it clear. Because people should know.
In order to maintain a democratic approach towards media, BlogHer also directs massive attention to their comments section. This is important to Page because:
When I look at mainstream news websites you can't even delve into their comment sections. There are a lack of guidelines and moderation that doesn't serve the reader. For us at BlogHer, the community moderation is our number one priority because it can allow for civil discourse, including when we disagree. It is a model for how we can have heated debates, support intelligent bipartisan discourse, and have it remain civil within the community.
Although we live in a post-modern world where much of our social interaction is through different-sized screens, it is still important to talk to each other and not just type. The BlogHer conference is a great opportunity to connect to others who share similar interests. There is a great value in placing a face to a screen name and forming relationships. As Page notes:
We want to take advantage of how large an event is, but focus on how to help people meet their tribe. It is a once-a-year opportunity to see the real community of women in action. They are the new influencers, pace-makers, critics and reviewers of the world, and this conference helps them operate in a way that is true to their audience and to their goals.