Now that the dust has cleared and Blogging While Brown has successfully concluded another year, founder and creative director Gina McCauley is contemplating the future of the blogging conference.
McCauley, 38, who held the first Blogging While Brown in Atlanta in 2008, only a year after she started her popular blog, WhatAboutOutDaughters.com, says the annual event is orchestrated by a small team of four that she leads. And it can be a bit overwhelming.
“It’d be nice if somebody else ran it. Blogging While Brown or whatever it turns into, I’m going to stay committed to black bloggers. Blogging changed my life and I want people who look like me to be able to fully participate in this digital world,” shares McCauley who works full-time as an insurance attorney and is also known as the “Blogmother.” “And in order to do that they have to have a network, connections and the skills and knowledge. And they have to have somebody to back them up so they don’t feel solitary.”
And that’s Blogging While Brown’s primary objective. Unlike journalists who can join a number of trade organizations such as the National Association of Black Journalists or the Society of Professional Journalists, black bloggers don’t have a professional organization to support their efforts. “So now blogging conferences are the closest thing you have to institutional support for bloggers,” she says.
Though Blogging While Brown has corporate sponsorship, McCauley is quick to point out that it is “blogger-run, blogger-centered and blogger-controlled.” And its attendees seem to like it that way. More than 300 people registered for this year’s Blogging While Brown, which has held June 27 and 28 in Harlem, New York. That’s more than quadruple the 71 attendees who registered for the first conference. Those numbers may pale compared to the estimated 4,000 attendees the 2013 BlogHer conference reportedly garnered but McCauley says that Blogging While Brown’s intimacy has its advantages.
For one, the smaller crowd allows for attendees to have more face-to-face time with each other, which could be beneficial for a novice seeking more advice from their blogging idol or a more experienced blogger. During a 15-minute break between sessions, blogger and entrepreneur Arsha Jones was seen offering a few blogging- and branding-related pointers to Jacque Reid, a veteran TV and radio journalist, who attended the conference. Conversations such took place throughout the two-day event.
The conference also serves as a continuing education institution with sessions more targeted to bloggers’ overall interests. “Six Ways to Make Six Figures from Blogging without Ad Revenue,” “How to Get Invited to Speak at Conferences” and “Visual Blogging” are some of the sessions that this year’s Blogging While Brown offered.
First-time attendee Marquita Peters, who started her blog “Island Soul City Dreams” in 2011, says she really enjoyed BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort Page’s session “The New ABCs of Growing Your Business.”
“It is a business at the end of the day even though I don’t make money from it but she gave some really good insight,” says Peters, who wanted to learn more about monetizing her blog.
McCauley says blogging conferences aimed at people of color are integral because “a lot of people still feel intimidated by going to some of these other social media conferences and they may be the only black person in the room. Or there won’t be any black people speaking or on panels or included in the conversation and they don’t feel acknowledged.”
Reid agrees with McCauley, adding that the conference is necessary because “we deserve to be successful in this realm as well.”
“Blogging While Brown gives you all of that under one roof. I learned so much in the past couple of days about how to grow my blog, how to be a better blogger, how to deal with my content, how to connect with my audience better. I’ve learned so much,” she continues.
As for next year’s conference, McCauley says she’s meeting her team this week to begin planning but is certain it will be in Austin, Texas with a June target-month. She says they’re also looking at collaborating and is open to partnering “if it makes sense.”