By AML Publisher
Photography Courtesy of Bernadette Uzcategui, BUP Photography
Know a mom blogger? We do too. Except Jana Mathews is a bit special. Mathews has one of the most prolific and popular mom blogs in the country. So what? Well, consider the crowd she is standing out in. There are millions of mom blogs on the world wide web. But there is only one ‘Meanest Mom.’
In the spring of 2008, The Meanest Mom Blog (themeanestmom.blogspot.com) began with Mathews, 33, a Los Angeles native who now resides in the Philly burbs, jotting down her daily experiences with her four young children. Her posts were cleverly presented and purposefully humorous. Mathews sent the link to a close knit group of friends on a whim. “For the first couple of months it just built very gradually. I literally sent the blog out to five friends. They passed it on to their friends and within a few weeks I had a few hundred people reading it,” said Mathews.
Seven months after she launched, in December of last year, Mathews, who says she does not pay “that much attention to my Google analytics, I just tend to write and move on,” noticed that she had reached a consistent 5,000 unique visitors a day. With 60,000 eyes reading the Meanest Mom Blog each month, her husband, Tim, prodded Jana that those numbers translated into one very respectable audience in a crowded (blog) world. “I guess when I stopped and considered, and we really saw what those numbers meant, it was a heck of a lot of eyes. Now, those numbers typically range from 8-10,000 a day,” explained Mathews.
Jana Mathews grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, the oldest of seven children. Jana and her husband, Tim, were college sweethearts and married shortly after she whipped through an undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University in two years. Mathews also holds a PhD in Medieval Literature from Duke University. Mathews’ blog does not focus so much on the Philly region as on her daily experience as a stay-at-home mom to four children six and under: Six-year-olds Camber, Kellen and Cortlen and one-year-old Cameron.
Since its inception, The Meanest Mom has some staggering traffic numbers. Mathews was even voted Parent and Child Magazine’s Best Mom Blog of 2009. Advertising revenue? You better believe it. Mathews has joined forces with big corporate names like Sears, Western Union, General Mills, Body Shop, and more.
And corporate America clued into the gold mine of moms online years ago. According to Emarketer.com, 34 million moms (across the country) make up a very active group of consumers online who resource the web at least once a month. A survey by Razorfish and CafeMom found that websites, referrals from friends and family, and information from search engines were the most common sources online moms used to make a purchasing decision. The moms were less likely to use TV, magazines, newspapers or radio. And, according to Experian Simmons, 70% of online moms made a purchase online in the past 12 months.
Mathews’ blog is superbly written, clever, funny, unpredictable and brutally honest. Jana always adds in a strong dash of self deprecation about the Mathews’ experiences: “People just take motherhood now so seriously. It’s gotten to the point where everything is so intense and we beat ourselves up with every little thing that we do and our children do. As parents, I really think we internalize every little problem that we have on a daily basis and make them bigger than they are. I wanted to provide a forum through which we could start to laugh at ourselves, our own feelings as parents and our own mistakes. In turn, this has helped me to step back and take perspective of my own life as a mother.”
AroundMainLine.com: Why has the Meanest Mom Blog resonated with thousands of moms across America?
Jana Mathews: I don’t really know why exactly people are drawn to my blog. I really hope it’s because of the writing, I’m a writer by trade and certainly there is a difference between academic writing and blog writing. I hope that people like the stories I tell and they keep coming back because the writing is good. That’s really what I take the most pride in; that the style of writing is as good as the story I am telling.
AML: What is your business background?
JM: In a previous life, I was a college professor. Now I’m a stay-at-home mom, a job which has proven to be way more psychologically demanding.
AML: How did Meanest Mom the concept come about?
JM: My kids accuse me of being “the meanest mom in the world” on a daily basis. I’ve been called it so much that it’s now permanently etched into my identity.
AML: Ok, so I know you have a lot, I mean a LOT of traffic. Let’s talk numbers.
JM: I rarely check my blog stats for a couple of reasons…including the fact that I have no idea what half of the numbers on most stat counters mean. I’m honored and excited that people want to read my blog, but I never want to get to the point where my self-worth is tied to the number of people who read or comment on each post. I write this blog primarily as a record for my kids. My mom passed away from breast cancer when I was 15 (she was 39). She didn’t leave much in the way of a written record of her life, and I don’t want the same for my kids.
AML: You have a national following and very loyal fans and followers. What kind of emails have you gotten that are interesting?
JM: I am blessed with amazingly supportive readers who send me super funny emails about their own personal mishaps and blunders, experiences raising small children, living with chronic illness (I have Crohn’s Disease and talk quite openly and often about it). The emails that I like the best are the ones that say “I read your blog and I almost peed my pants laughing” and “Today’s post made my day.” In almost all cases, laughter really and truly is the best medicine.
AML: Talk about the cult following you established with some women at Bryn Mawr College? I thought this was very interesting.
JM: A few months after starting my blog, I got an email from a student at Bryn Mawr saying that she found my blog and loved it. A few weeks later, I got another email. And then another. And another. Quite unexpectedly, I’ve acquired quite a substantial following of college-aged women across the country. I’m thrilled to have them, of course, but was initially confused about what they found interesting in a so-called “mom blog.” One reader, who I think speaks for many, told me when I posed this question in an email, that she reads my blog because it reminds her of her past and provides a glimpse into her future. I like that! Though with the stories I tell, I have to wonder sometimes if my blog is promoting motherhood or serving as a kind of birth control.
AML: You had a recent contest on Meanest Mom where you had over 2,000 votes cast. What resonated?
JM: All of my contests are classy and sophisticated. Case in point: my Ms. Chronic Disease of America e-Pageant, which I hosted in August. Hundreds of women (and a few men) afflicted with chronic illnesses ranging from Rheumatoid Arthritis to Lupus to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome nominated themselves or their friends for this illustrious honor. A panel of judges read the entries and narrowed the contestants down to five finalists. The contestants presented their cases (why they deserved the crown) and 2,000 readers voted. I’m happy to announce that with 32% of the votes, Ms. Psoriatic Arthritis was named the winner.
AML: Tell me about two or three of your most popular posts!
JM: My most popular post by far is the story of when I got semi-nude pictures taken at the dermatologist’s office. Other favorites include the story of when my son ran away from me in Macy’s and they had to close down the store (we finally found him in the women’s dressing room) and when my kids accidentally drank boxed wine at a neighbor’s Labor Day picnic (in my defense, the wine was placed next to the fruit punch).
AML: What advice would you give other Mom bloggers?
JM: Be yourself and know your audience. This sounds cliché, but it’s absolutely true. Figure out what you do best and do that and that alone. This was hard for me when corporations and PR firms started offering me all sorts of cool stuff in exchange for reviewing their products: expensive cameras, fancy trips, gorgeous clothing, fun gadgets. I had to make a decision early on about what my blog was, and what it wasn’t. While of course I would like free stuff (who wouldn’t?!), my blog is not a review or shopping blog, and to include such elements would be distracting to say the least. Every time I am tempted by a fabulous offer that appears in my inbox, my husband steps in as the voice of reason and reminds me that “there are other blogs for that.”
AML: What is next for the Meanest Mom?
JM: At some point—probably sooner rather than later—the blog will run its course and have to end. That will be a sad day because I’ve grown rather attached to my blog as a forum for my creative expression. I try not to think about the future too much. Everything happens for a reason and in due time. I’m sure that I’ll know what to do when the time comes.
Jana Mathews’ blog can be found at: themeanestmom.blogspot.com