Utah blogger makes Forbes' influential list
When Heather Armstrong told her father this week she hit the No. 26 spot on Forbes ' list of "The Most Influential Women in Media," outflanking such heavy-weights as Soledad O'Brien and Andrea Mitchell, she said his first question was if the ranking included any conservative women.
"I told him Ann Coulter didn't make the cut, but couldn't bring myself to tell him that Rachel Maddow did," said Armstrong, who was raised in a conservative LDS home in Memphis, graduating 1997 from Brigham Young University with a degree in English.
That Armstrong's Web site, Dooce, launched in 2001 while she was working for a California Web design firm, currently shares the same neighborhood of prominence with Oprah Winfrey (No. 1) and Katie Couric (No. 9) is testament to both the growing influence of Internet media, said Mary Ellen Egan, managing editor of ForbesWoman . It also signals the increasing importance of social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, where Armstrong currently commands a following of more than 925,000.
"Her Facebook and Twitter following really put her over the top," Egan said. "For a blog started by an unknown, she draws 300,000 per day. That's sizable for a single, non-celebrity blog."
The first-ever list, released July 14, is an exercise the magazine plans on issuing annually, Egan said. Armstrong is one of three women listed who came to prominence through the Internet, rather than by mainstream media outlets such as television and print publications. Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post , ranked No. 12, while Tina Brown, the seasoned editor behind The Daily Beast Web site and formerly the influential editor of The New Yorker , floated just above Armstrong at No. 25.
"I'm as baffled as everyone else," Armstrong said Friday from her Salt Lake City home. "I think it's completely nutso. I'd really love to meet several of these other women and get together for beers."
Armstrong's frank, wry and humorous Web postings first gained prominence in 2002 after her words caused her to be fired from her Web design firm, leading the word "dooce" to become slang for termination. After she moved to Utah, she took her blog in a new direction, chronicling her experiences with pregnancy and, later, as a first-time mother in irreverent, off-the wall narratives that garnered her a large online readership, and feature stories in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal (headline: "The Blogger Mom, In Your Face"). Last year, one blogger called Armstrong the "Senior Class Prom Queen of the blogger world."
In 2005, she and her husband, Jon, parlayed that loyal following into a business, when they began accepting online advertising. Earlier this year, Armstrong published a memoir, It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita .
Armstrong gave birth to her second daughter, Marlo, five weeks ago, adding further cache to her prominence as a so-called "mommy-blogger." Egan, however, said the term doesn't do justice to Armstrong's wide appeal. "Her work was well-known even before she was a parent," Egan said.
Armstrong enjoys writing about motherhood, an enterprise she describes as "important, joyous and complicated," but sometimes receives feedback from people "who think a stay-at-home mom shouldn't have any influence at all."
"They also think I'm exploiting my family," Armstrong said. To which her husband Jon, in the background of the phone call, cried "Help!"