PRO-PORTRAIT: Mighty Girl Maggie Mason--famous among dozens

Maggie Mason’s site, Mighty Girl, started as a side project she worked on when she wasn’t editing WebTechiques, a tech trade publication, now the online site Dr. Dobbs. It was 2000 and Maggie was looking for a creative outlet beyond her role of editor. She launched her blog on Geocities, writing her take on life. The site eventually evolved into a lifestyle destination where she discusses, travel, style, and her life list.

Early on, her humor and insights caught the attention of well-known blogger and designer Jason Kottke, and on the day he linked to her site, her traffic spiked. As she recalls, “it was like having a walk-on part on your favorite TV show, without knowing it’s going to happen.” Her traffic continued to grow over the coming months and eventually “broke” the site.

She moved Mighty Girl off Geocities onto Blogger, and eventually Wordpress. Her audience grew far past what her tagline, “famous among, dozens” would lead you to believe. With approximately 50,000 monthly unique readers and some 25,000 Twitter followers, Maggie knows how to draw and keep an audience.

She made the move to monetize her site by partnering with BlogAds and later Federated Media (where I work), and currently supports herself through the site’s revenue. What’s surprised and pleased her the most in her twelve years of blogging is that she could make a living doing what she loves, essentially having her own personal magazine, a childhood dream. She’ll be the first to tell newcomers, however, that it’s not easy -- don’t expect overnight success, great writing matters, and consistency is essential to keep readers coming back.

She started the first shopping blog Mighty Goods, and later launched sister sites Mighty Junior and Mighty Haus, all of which showcased products she liked. She loved running these sites, but she was stretched, especially when her son Hank came along. In 2010 she announced that she was selling the sites, and they were acquired by Staircase Ventures that year.

Her readers and their active participation on Mighty Girl bring her joy. For Maggie, blogging and having an engaged community is almost like having a direct correlation, a one-to-one dialog with people. She publishes a post, and her readers respond through comments, Facebook shares, and re-Tweets. Though mainly women, she cites having a few male readers, including a British Labor politician who has been reading Mighty Girl from its early days.

Maggie is a one-woman show -- producing content, paying bills, keeping the site running, but she does have a partner in her two annual events under the same brand.

Maggie co-founded Mighty Events, which hosts two annual conferences, Mighty Summit and Camp Mighty.  The invite-only Mighty Summit is in its fourth year, held at a lodge in Northern California’s Russian River area, where Maggie invites thirty women in mainstream and online media for a camp-like weekend filled with discussion, laughter, and celebration. You’ll find a snapshot of design blogger Victoria Smith’s Mighty Summit experience here

Camp Mighty, held in November in Palm Springs, is open to 150 registrants. This is no boondoggle though. attendees are divided up into teams ahead of time and each team is challenged with working towards the Summit’s collective fund-raising goal.  In 2011 Charity Water received nearly $30,000 from attendees efforts and donations.

Maggie is known for her travel, fashion, and music coverage, but it’s her Life List writing that has the most draw. Maggie has inspired hundreds of others to write and live their goals. Intel sponsored her trip to Puerto Rico where she got to fulfill one of her life list goals, swimming with bio-luminescent plankton, covered here.

In between her roles as mother and publisher, Maggie is also a frequent attendee and speaker at several conferences throughout the year. She’s attended and spoken at Austin’s SxSW for over a decade, keynoted Mom 2.0, and moderated several panels at Alt Summit in Salt Lake City, which is a bit of reunion of friends and fellow bloggers where they discuss all things design.

What’s Maggie’s advice for new bloggers trying to start their own site? “Align yourself with people you admire. Engage with them. Guest post on their site.  You need to be creating content on their level. It’s not easy,” she says. “It’s important to get an education on how to produce content. It’s an acquired skill. Once you have that down, building and nurturing your community is next and will follow.”  And for a final recommendation as to how to be most productive, Maggie suggests that you divide your day between content production and business development, and be disciplined about goals and priorities.

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