Editorial growing pains

By on Sep 24th

So this week is "soft-launch" week for Offbeat Mama — the login (mamasays / timeforbed) has been distributed to a few hundred folks who've expressed interest in the site, and it's already giving me the anxieties. I forgot about how, when a site is just starting out, every single post is part of defining the editorial direction. I've been so focused on the design and tech and ad sales side of getting OBM up and running that I forgot to freak out about the editorial!

We already had our first parenting hot topic land mine on the site: circumcision. Commenters really did do their very best to stay civil and no one got ranty, but the fact that people felt the need to post anonymously (grumble) and counter debate (oh yeah? did you think about THIS?) and even say things like "I'm surprised that THIS SITE would say something like THAT" (sigh) made me realize that really? I have NO INTEREST in hosting a site about parenting hot topics. I don't want Offbeat Mama to be the place where people come to debate and make arguments — even if they're doing it constructively! I had this immediate wave of fatigue and was like "Oh fuck. Time for more cute kid pictures and steampunk booties!"

I have to keep focusing on the site being super extremely positive and light. I don't want to talk about why people make decisions AGAINST certain things — I want to support people making choices TOWARD things. It reminds me of when I first started the Offbeat Bride Tribe and within a day people were using it to complain about how no one liked their wedding theme ideas, how their parents were pressuring them, how frustrated they were. I spent a huge amount of work in those first few months (and even year!) tweaking the tools and hammering home the brand so that the community wouldn't become a cesspool of offbeat bridal negativity. Even dipping a pinky toe into Offbeat Mama land, I can already see that there will be similar cultural challenges there. I already knew this (hence the decision NOT to have a forum) but the reality of dealing with it is still daunting.

Luckily, I'm better prepared this time. It's not a surprise when people submit guestposts that are like "Why are the other moms looking at me and my daughter funny? Just because I have tattoos and piercings? IS IT BECAUSE THEY'RE JEALOUS!?" Oh the persecution! Tone down the bitchery and focus on the positivity. It's a site to support mothers feeling good about themselves, NOT a site to air grievances about how harrrrrd it is being nontraditional.

Let us now all pause to bow our heads and say a prayer for poor Erika, who's helping me with Offbeat Mama. She gets, like, 500 emails a day from me rambling about the offbeat brand, seo techniques, editorial direction, monetization advice, comment moderation thoughts, research to do about offbeat subcultures, etc. She takes it all in stride, but let's just acknowledge that working with me on a launch isn't easy and leave it at that, hmmm?

And yes, I went through a similar learning period with Offbeat Bride … but the difference was there was almost no one reading in those first few months when I experimented with Perez Hilton-esque captioning (scroll down) and other stuff I'd never do on OBB now. Offbeat Mama has the luxury of starting with a bit of an audience, and the last thing I want to do is get things off on the wrong foot. It needs more subcultural color and positivity! Less debating and reactionary-ness!

  • whine* HARD!