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Last weekend, more than five hundred bloggers gathered at Moorgate, London, for the biggest parent blogger conference in the UK.
The event, BritMums Live, attracted keynotes from Sarah Brown, Ruby Wax, Cherry Healey, and many respected bloggers, journalists and writers.
The collective power of parent bloggers
Before the event had even begun, the associated hashtag #BritMumsLive was trending on Twitter and had generated more than 5m impressions. This figure had since risen to 32m impressions (at the time of writing), and the conversation is still continuing!
If this isn’t evidence enough of the collective power of parent bloggers (and particularly mumbloggers), maybe the fact that thirty-four high profile companies chose to sponsor the event might be. “There's someone doing market research; these are bona fide opinion formers,” writes Guardian journalist Zoe Williams, who attended the event.
In the UK, we don’t yet have the mega-mumbloggers they have in the US, where some have become household names. In the US there is even a saying, “have you been Dooce-ed?” which means 'have you ever been exposed for something you've written on your blog?' after Dooce, the anonymous US blogger who was sacked by her employer when her identity was revealed.
But there is no shortage of talent amongst UK parent bloggers, and the stage is set to get even more competitive.
One of the opening sessions at BritMums Live, ‘British Blogging Now’, chaired by editor Carla Buzasi from the Huffington Post UK, exposed the shifting balance of power between influential bloggers and journalists.
“There is a massive over-supply of writers in this digital era,” commented Steve Keenan from Travel Perspective. “Bloggers will replace freelance writers who just don’t ‘get’ blogging”.
Political blogger Dan Elton from Left Foot Forward, added to this saying: “We are ending up with people with multiple degrees writing for us for free”. A recent column in The Guardian within its ‘Comment is Free’ section tackled this very issue, asking why creative people, especially writers, are increasingly being “forced” to write for free. “The 'work for free' virus has spread because we lack collective organisation,” author, Jonathan Tasini, argued.
Within the BritMums Live session, another panellist, Sarah Ebner from The Times’ School Gate blog, confirmed: “Behind closed doors, there is an increasingly symbiotic relationship between journalists and bloggers”. She implied that while many journalists would prefer to not acknowledge their increasing reliance on bloggers for information and insight, it is in fact the state of play.
So what does the future hold for British bloggers, and in particular, parent bloggers?
If there’s one thing that BritMums Live confirmed, it’s the tremendous appetite that individuals across the social web have for parenting stories and opinions.
This is extending into the book publishing space, with an increasing number of book agents and publishers scouring the blogosphere for potential up-and-coming writers, who have a strong social following and an interesting story to tell. In a book agent’s eyes, this is an extremely marketable offering, delegates were told.
BBC presenter Cherry Healey, who delivered the closing keynote for BritMums Live, disclosed that TV producers are also taking a keen interest in the parent blogger space. “Lots of people here have blogs which have massive telly potential...that are perfect for a wider audience,” she admitted.
She warned bloggers to be wary of TV producers who may run with their ideas and content if given the opportunity. “The perception of bloggers has really changed. Bloggers have huge power now”.
When it comes to the topic of blogging for the greater good, great optimism was expressed for the combined impact that bloggers might hold. A panel of charities including ONE, Kids Company and Give as you Live, jointly agreed that the parent blogger community could mobilise a small army if it wanted to.
Cherry Healey encouraged all bloggers present to call on the support of relevant celebrities and well-known figures via Twitter to champion their causes. One very valuable piece of advice was offered though by Polly Gowers from Give as you Live: “If you wouldn’t talk about it [in conversation], don’t blog about it”.
For charities, this is worth taking note of too. Don’t begin working with a blogger until you are reassured that your cause genuinely sings well with them.
Brands and business that exist in the parenting space should certainly be breaking into this thriving blogging community, if they haven’t done so already. “It’s no longer twee and silly,” admitted Cherry Healey.
Thinking intelligently and creatively about how you approach with and work with parenting bloggers is paramount. Currently, the majority of parent bloggers are PR friendly; but as their power and influence intensifies, they are likely to get harder to reach and engage with...particular if the UK follows in the footsteps of the US.