What do women want? The founders of blogging network BlogHer discovered a groundbreaking solution to the age-old question: just ask.
"We didn't build a business model and lure people to it," says cofounder Elisa Camahort-Page. "We built a community and asked them what they wanted, where they wanted to go, and then made a business model based on that. It's why this works—we were already in their trusted circle."
In 2005, Camahort Page, along with Lisa Stone and Jory Des Jardins, hosted a conference for female bloggers; the passion of those in attendance spawned the BlogHer community. And what did they want? More conferences, links to more female bloggers, and a way to get paid for their work. Just five years later, BlogHer has grown into a network of 2,500 bloggers—women and men—and 21 million readers.
From its beginning, the BlogHer Network has required its members to follow strict editorial guidelines, including the separation of church and state, transparency, and full disclosure of any sponsors. "Those have really protected our ability to go forth in the community, both to bloggers and to sponsors," says Stone. BlogHer's lasting relationships with brands make it possible for the network's writers to cash in on their talents. "A lot generate enough money to pay their hosting fees. The blogs with good readership can pay some serious bills," says Des Jardins. "Are some bringing in enough to pay their mortgage? It's not the norm, but it's definitely possible."