Today I am very pleased to introduce you to an amazing Female Internet Entrepreneur that runs the blog network, blogher. Her name is Lisa Stone and today she has been kind enough to spend some time teaching us about being a successful Internet entrepreneur.
Could you describe what you do and how you earn your living Lisa?
I am one of three co-founders and the CEO of BlogHer, the leading participatory news, entertainment and information network for women online. In addition to the usual duties of a chief exec, I work across the organization to advocate for bloggers and marketing partners that fulfill the company’s vision.
You have such an interesting past, you started as a print journalist where you worked for many years and then went online. How did you make the transition from offline to online journalist? Which do you prefer?
I love both! Do I have to choose? After college, I worked my way up through various San Francisco Bay Area newspapers until I became a transportation reporter for the Oakland Tribune and broke a series of Freedom of Information Act stories on the FAA. I transitioned to CNN for two years in strategic planning, analyzing programs and producing pilots, until 1997, when I decided to move online. After helping develop Women.com as executive producer and then editor in chief, I was awarded a Nieman Fellowship by Harvard University. I’ll always be grateful for that fellowship, which gave me the opportunity to start studying and developing new media business models.
You are the founder of BlogHer which is a large community for female bloggers, what inspired you to create it? Where are you with it now?
Elisa Camahort Page, Jory Des Jardins and I co-founded BlogHer in 2005 to answer the question “Where are the women bloggers?” What started as a labor of love with a conference for 300 bloggers looking to connect with other women online has become an organization that now produces a conference series, a Web community and news hub featuring a directory of more than 20,000 women’s blogs and a publishing network of more than 2,500 bloggers reaching 14 million unique visitors per month.?Our mission is the same: To create opportunities for women who blog to pursue exposure, education, community and economic empowerment.
I understand that BlogHer reaches more than 14 million women monthly through its conferences, Internet site and publishing networks, how have you managed to build such a huge following?
It’s amazing what a community of people will tell you about what they want, if you just ask. Elisa, Jory and I were bloggers who wanted to develop something for the community of which we were and are part of, so we kicked off BlogHer in listening mode – by asking other women who blog what they wanted, not telling them. That’s a key differentiator that allowed us to support the community first, then figured out how to grow a business model to serve the community. So many companies build a business model – or, in traditional media, a newspaper or a magazine or a show – and then push it into the market and try to figure out how to get people to buy into it. When the user is in charge of her online experience and her habits evolve daily, it’s better to develop organically.
You do a lot of blogger meetups, why should other bloggers and Internet entrepreneurs consider meeting up? What’re the advantages?
While we focus primarily on BlogHer’s annual conference, we also have more informal meet-ups. These get-togethers are great opportunities for our community to get to know each other better and really put faces to blogs, and also for us to connect with our members and hear valuable feedback on our work. It’s one thing to read someone’s blog religiously, but another to be able to talk to people in person – nothing replaces it. Elisa, Jory and I absolutely love meeting our members and finding out how our site and conferences can better serve the community.
So many people start blogging to make money and because of that, they don’t blog about their passion. Why should new bloggers blog about their passion before making money online?
Blog technology is like a printing press – it’s a tool for people to do with whatever they choose and it’s not my role to judge any blog’s priorities. If you’re asking me why passion matters and can help create a blog that attracts readers and enough revenue to pay the writer for her time, I definitely have an opinion! If you blog about topics which you are passionate about, it is pretty evident to your readers. When you write about something you are truly interested in, you tend to offer more value, your enthusiasm shines through your words and your readers sense that and get excited along with you. It makes readers return to read your work again and again, which helps develop an engaged audience with more value to any sponsors. I find that many bloggers really are passionate about their writing, and making money is a bonus.
BlogHer was founded by yourself, Elisa Camahort Page and Jory Des Jardins, I know you find having partners a huge benefit to your business. Why should other Internet entrepreneurs team up and go into business?
I’m very lucky to have amazing co-founders, and our ability to work as a team is definitely a critical component in our success. I would encourage Internet entrepreneurs to team up and go into business if they can find what we have. We have complementary skills, diverse backgrounds and, amazingly, identical drive and energy. It’s great to have partners to bounce ideas off of, share the stress with and basically make each other smarter. I really enjoy Elisa and Jory, but I now think the most important ingredient in any working relationship is integrity – we trust each other and are able to be honest and up-front with each other, about the good stuff and the tough stuff.
What advice would you give other women considering to make money online or blogging?
Love what you do – that’s not a cliché. You have to love what you do enough to want to write about it long-term – in my case, writing about women and politics, media and current events. Once you love what you do, conduct yourself professionally. Does everything you write pass the “homepage test,” where you’d be happy if it were published on the front page of Google News for the world to see – or could it embarrass you later? Having policies for your site and following very transparent ethical guidelines about everything from how you manage comments on your blog to how you monetize it, should you choose to do so, will maintain your credibility and earn even more respect from your readers.
Over 53% of all Internet users are women, can any women come online blogging and be as successful as yourself?
My answer depends on how you’re defining success – blogging is a wonderful personal platform from which women can springboard into success in many ways. Any woman can go online and become a successful blogger. Success for some is being able to express ourselves and exercise our writing talent. Others are thrilled also to be able to cover our hosting costs or even our monthly grocery bills. BlogHer, on the other hand, is not just a blog; BlogHer is a media company. And the entire media landscape is in flux these days. You have to be a marathoner to develop a community that sticks together for years – not to mention to win in the media business, which changes daily. We hustle!
Running an Internet Business gives you choices and freedom to do what you want, when you want. Would you say the Internet Lifestyle is for you?
The freedom of living an Internet Lifestyle is that my work is portable and allows me to bring it with me when I travel – and, back in 1997, allowed me to leave the traditional newsroom when I had a baby and couldn’t travel as much but still wanted to work in news. But being a co-founder of a company like BlogHer, of any Silicon Valley start-up, really, doesn’t give you much time to “do what you want, when you want.”
What would you say is the biggest single reason for your success?
Leading through listening. BlogHer’s success is all about our ability to grow and maintain our community, as I described above. We like to say that the BlogHer Conference is the “conference the community built,” and that’s the test we apply to everything we do.
Working with the end in mind is something I think about every day, where do you see yourself in a few years time? Do you have an exit plan in mind?
Right now, we’re still growing and developing BlogHer as a company, so we are really focused on meeting our goals, especially in this tough economic environment. We’re not going to take our eyes off the proverbial ball to think too much about an exit right now.