Career Crossroads: BlogHer Co-Founder on Shattering That Online Glass Ceiling
Sometimes you have to go with the courage of your convictions when facing pushback.
That’s what happened when BlogHer 2016 planners announced the name of a potentially controversial keynote speaker: Kim Kardashian.
The decision was met both with anger and support.
Elisa Camahort Page, chief community officer of New York-based SheKnows Media and co-founder of BlogHer, listened to the social conversation for 13 hours following the announcement. She responded to concerns and explained the group’s rationale.
“We understood their perspective, so it was worth spending that time and being transparent with them,” she said. “But [Kardashian] has creative longevity in a very fickle media landscape. She’s a business leader and entrepreneur.”
BlogHer officials weren’t going to change their minds.
In the end, the conference took place this summer without a hitch in Los Angeles. It drew 2,500 attendees.
And that Kardashian keynote? It was standing room only; the room was packed.
Once Upon a Time
Everyone knows the BlogHer brand.
But BlogHer wasn’t always the BlogHer it is today.
It began more than a decade ago as a “labor of love.”
Camahort Page lived through the whole dotcom boom. Her background is in technology.
But at the time, there was no community for women online.
So, Camahort Page and her co-founders Lisa Stone and Jory Des Jardins got together and produced a conference to address this need. They paid for it on their credit cards.
“It wasn’t even a company yet,” Camahort Page said. “After the first conference, we found there’s a community here. They want to meet in person.”
So, the duo scheduled the next conference, created a website, and pulled together a member directory.
BlogHer was born in 2005. Its mission: How to help women make money with blogging.
She Was Watching
BlogHer was created to answer a question: Where are all the women who blog?
Camahort Page said there was an assumption that women weren’t blogging or using technology. That there were no female engineers or women couldn’t speak to issues like technology or politics.
The point was to bring thought leaders into the same space and share ideas.
It caught the attention of New York-based women’s lifestyle digital media company SheKnows Media, which acquired BlogHer in late 2014.
“The media landscape has so dramatically changed in the last 20 years,” Camahort Page said. “There was no smart phone, Twitter, or Facebook.”
SheKnows Media had a mission of women inspiring women. It also invested in great websites and in building video capabilities.
BlogHer invested in a distributed network of sites and building social community.
“We filled in a lot of each other’s blanks,” Camahort Page said, of the merger two years ago. “We decided we’d be much better equipped by bringing that together. Now, we’ve got the full portfolio.”
It was a great match.
The Essence of Online Community
SheKnows Media works with 20,000 experts, bloggers and influencers, reaching 80 million women a month.
So does this ever get overwhelming? Certainly.
“You have to listen to everybody,” she said. “You don’t always tell them what they want, but you tell them what’s happening and why. It can be overwhelming to manage all those voices.”
That’s what happened with the selection of Kardashian last summer.
Camahort Page said a lot of brands say they want online engagement. But the kicker is that you don’t control your brand. Your brand is how your customers define you, she said.
BlogHer officials already are planning the next conference, which takes place in Orlando June 22-24, 2017.
Among the keynote speakers? New York Times best-selling author Luvvie Ajayi.