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The New York Times Meets Dooce

The paper of record profiles Heather Armstrong.  Here is how it started.

She is the only blogger on the latest Forbes list of the Most Influential Women in Media, coming in at No. 26, which is 25 slots behind Oprah, but just one slot behind Tina Brown. Her site brings in an estimated $30,000 to $50,000 a month or more — and that’s not even counting the revenue from her two books, healthy speaking fees and the contracts she signed to promote Verizon and appear on HGTV. She won’t confirm her income (“We’re a privately held company and don’t reveal our financials”). But the sales rep for Federated Media, the agency that sells ads for Dooce, calls Armstrong “one of our most successful bloggers,” then notes a few beats later in our conversation that “our most successful bloggers can gross $1 million.”

By talking about poop and spit up. And stomach viruses and washing-machine repairs. And home design, and high-strung dogs, and reality television, and sewer-line disasters, and chiropractor visits. And countless other banalities of one mother’s eclectic life that, for some reason, hundreds of thousands of strangers tune in, regularly, to read.

I lost my job today. My direct boss and the human-resources representative pulled me into one of three relatively tiny conference rooms and informed me that the company no longer had any use for me. Essentially, they explained, they didn’t like what I had expressed on my Web site. I got fired because of dooce.com. FEB. 26, 2002

Today the sleek headquarters of Blurbodoocery Inc. — the corporate identity of Heather and Jon Armstrong’s company — is on the 1,000-square-foot third floor of their sprawling six-bedroom home on a cul-de-sac in Salt Lake City, where they have lived since June.

In one corner is the glass-walled office of their newest employee, John LaCaze, who came aboard a few months before that move, and whose job description — everything from answering e-mail to ordering lunch to making sure that time is not wasted because, after all, it is money — has earned him the nickname “Tyrant” on Heather’s blog. Next to LaCaze’s office is the studio, equipped for audio and video. In the center are Jon and Heather’s work spaces, each dominated by two enormous computer monitors and an array of cartoons and kitsch.

Next to the door of the office is etched “Heather B. Armstrong, President,” but by her desk is a nameplate that reads “Heather Hamilton.” That was who she was in February 2001 when she wrote her very first Dooce post. She was 25, with a degree in English from Brigham Young University and a job at a start-up in L.A. “In those days when you said you had a blog, people thought you had a venereal disease,” she says now.

Dooce was a nickname that grew out of an inside joke — a takeoff of “dude.” Unlike many bloggers (particularly women) whose initial goal was to update family living far away, her postings were never meant for her relatives. She wrote of the liberation she felt leaving her parents’ Mormonism behind, of sex and caffeine, of dating and work. In the summer of 2001, Armstrong’s site was receiving 58 hits a day. On a whim she e-mailed Jason Kottke, one of the earliest online aggregators (whose own site was still a hobby and had not yet become kottke.org) and asked him for technical advice. He linked to Dooce, and her readership leapt to 2,000 daily hits.

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