We’re totally obsessed with Vera Sweeney. As the creator of the super popular celebrity website I’m Not Obsessed, Vera is one of the top bloggers in the world. We sat down with the Queen Blogger herself to talk about blogging, being a mom, and balancing it all.
Vera, how did you get started in the blogging biz?
Before blogging, I was a business consultant for Accenture. I was involved in website development, doing consulting gigs and traveled a lot in the Northeast. When I had my first baby, I didn’t want that life and wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, which was something that my husband and I had always agreed upon.
After three months of being at home, I was having a really hard time with it. I’m very type A; I was used to working long days and having a very busy schedule, and I couldn’t deal with all the free time. So I needed a job, but something that worked with me being a mom. I was watching television one day and it was a show about gossip blogs, and I was thinking, “What is a blog?” This was 2005, and I took a pen and paper and took down all the names of the blogs that they were mentioning. I looked them up and they were basic as can be, and I thought, “I can build this!” So I called my husband up and said, “I’m going to be a gossip blogger!” and he said, “What’s that?” and I said, “I don’t know, but I’m going to do it!” He let me run with it and it was all really about the timing. I had the hours to do it. I was familiar with the space; I was a gossip fan and it all worked out. I’m Not Obsessed was born and it’s been running and kicking ever since.
Now, ten years later, with so many more sites in the space, how do you stay true to your voice?
It’s a double-sided coin. In order to have a fully functioning celebrity gossip website, you have to spend a lot of money. You can’t steal pictures; the agencies are looking and suing. You have to have accounts with the agencies but it’s thousands of dollars a month. Because of the way gossip blogging became legitimized, it kicked out all these mom and pop blogs because they couldn’t keep up. Because I was running it at full speed for so long, and I had relationships with agencies, I was able to stay afloat.
But now, the players that I’m playing with are People Magazine, US Magazine, so the competition is much harder, but we’re still in it. I feel very blessed to be part of this scenario now. It’s a stronger, competitive circle that I’m part of now.
Do you feel the need to compete, though?
No. We’re never going to play the story before People. I don’t have reporters on the field; I’m not on the red carpet interviewing A-listers. I don’t try to overachieve beyond them; I just try to give it a personal voice and give it a different perspective. It’s a girlfriend talking to you about gossip. It’s not a magazine’s interpretation; it’s a friend’s interpretation.
What I like about the site is that, like us, it’s not snarky or mean-spirited in nature.
When I became a mom, I knew I had to put something out into the universe that wouldn’t bite me back when my daughter went to school. I didn’t want my daughter’s kindergarten teacher to say, “Oh, that’s you? That’s your site?” From the very beginning, we were family-friendly. There’s nothing mean-spirited; you can look at it at work. It was a business decision, too. I didn’t want to be blocked by firewalls because of cursing or inappropriate content.
But by being so positive and having a more wholesome image has led you to some amazing opportunities and brand ambassadorships.
That’s right. Why on earth would P&G want to work with me if I could go online and say something negative? They are a huge parent company and I’ve been so blessed to work with almost every single one of the power brands under their umbrella. I’ve done stuff with Tide and Downy; I’ve done Always and Cover Girl. I’ve done work with Pantene, Venus, Gillette, Bounty, etc. Over and over again, they come to me and it’s wonderful to have formed that relationship with them and that they trust me with their brand.
What is a typical day like for you? What is your workflow like?
It depends on the day. I like to write in the morning when the older two kids are at school, so I’ll write from 8:00-2:00 and then I’ll time-stamp it out to roll out throughout the day, or if I forget, I’ll just put it all up at once. But if something is timely, I will jump online and post something fast late at night.
What do you think of the term “mommy blogger”?
In 2009, I noticed that the term “mommy blog” was hot in the news, and I kept saying to myself, “I’m a mom, and I blog, so what is this phenomenon?” I’m Not Obsessed has been very non-sponsored; it’s just pure content. So I decided to start another site and take my mom blog off of I’m Not Obsessed but I didn’t want to use the word mom. I didn’t want to be categorized like the way I had been seeing. I came up with Lady, and then Lady and the Blog was born. I did more of a lifestyle blog formula; it’s like anything that a woman would want to know about—fashion/beauty, kids’ toys, travel, etc. Lady and The Blog became my one-stop shopping for everything. I linked everything online to Lady and the Blog, and then a couple of months after I did that site, I went to a Disney social media moms conference. I went down to Florida and there were hundreds of women there—all mom bloggers—and a woman sat down next to me. Her name was Audrey McClelland, and we just started talking and we really hit it off. She’s like my sister.
After 25 minutes of sitting together, she said, “I have this idea of having these expos of having women getting gorgeous and getting in touch with brands. Do you want to be my partner?” I said, “Okay!” We barely knew each other, and any business book would tell you that you have to know your business partner inside and out. So we started Getting Gorgeous in 2009, when we had our first blogger expo. Now, everyone does these events, but we started it where we brought brands and bloggers together. We do them once a year now, and we do our Twitter parties together, too. We also do our videos together as part of our web series. It’s just a lot of fun.
How are you balancing it all?
I don’t sleep; it’s a massive amount of work. My secret to this is that I don’t look past the next day in my calendar. It’s so overwhelming that I can only look at tomorrow. I can’t see beyond tomorrow; I just need to know what I have to do for that day. And my husband Bill is an amazing help. He will take the kids to afterschool activities or order dinner. He will help me if I’m stressed out. I’m a huge list-maker and I like checking things off. I work on the weekends, nights, holidays, even on vacations, I work. Like, I had my baby, and I was working in the hospital bed. There’s not a minute that I’m not working.
Your kids are a big part of your blogging, too.
They really are. Many bloggers choose not to keep them as part of it, but when I first started, I wasn’t thinking about Internet security. I started having them incorporated and included, and it wasn’t until a few years later that I saw that my other blogger friends were not showing their kids. I keep a lot of information private, and I am overprotective about them. They are not going to the park on their own; there are no sleepovers. But we have fun together. Natalie, Liam, and now Caleb are all part of this. They will do toy reviews for me and videos on YouTube, too. We go on vacations and they will tell me to take a picture to put on the blog or Facebook. They understand what my job entails. And you never know; they just might be running it in the future.
Do you ever worry that some new technology will change the face of blogging?
Here’s my answer, and this is from my partner, Audrey. “They zig, we zag.” We never do just one thing. That’s an important thing in this business world. I’m heavy on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram—I do it all. Because if one day one of the social media channels implodes, I have the other ones. And yes, it takes me an extra hour and a half every day, but that’s fine. This is my real life and my real job. We continue coming out with something new to do; we just keep trying. But I am serious about being successful, and I want my children to have a comfortable life. If it means being Type A psychotic, then I’ll do it!
Do you ever see a life beyond celebrity blogging?
I can’t imagine myself doing something else. I will never, ever work for somebody else. If I’m 75, maybe I’ll open up a store. For the next twenty years, if this digital world still exists, I’ll be a part of it.