Fishbowl Five With Lisa Stone, Co-Founder of BlogHer and Chief Community Officer at SheKnows Media

Q&A with the inspiring co-founder of BlogHer.

LisaStone-2Lisa Stone has always been ahead of the tech game. In the late ‘90s when everyone was still figuring out dial-up, Stone was mastering HTML and working for sites like WebTV and Women.com. She later went on to become the first online journalist to be awarded the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. After that, she co-founded BlogHer, a global network of female bloggers and an annual conference, with Elisa Camahort Page and Jory Des Jardins.

BlogHer soon exploded in popularity, and was recently acquired by SheKnows Media, making the combined company the number one women’s digital lifestyle brand, with nearly 84 million monthly uniques and 150 million social media fans.

We caught up with Stone to chat about the early days of the web, the secret to female leadership and what life is like post-acquisition:

FBNY: I know you started your career in print journalism and were one of the earliest adopters to online media. What prompted that transition for you?

Stone: In 1997, I started work as a reporter in the Bay Area and clawed my way up through various print outlets. When Time Warner acquired Turner News, I did two things: I left the traditional newsroom and I also left my marriage. I had a one-year-old baby and I was fascinated by this thing called the internet. And so I took a job at WebTV, learned HTML and began my experience working in content development and start-ups.

Later, I was recruited to Women.com, which I loved. My frustration with traditional media was that I felt like I was so far away from my sources, my sources being the readers or the viewers. But at WebTV and Women.com, we were working with a subscription audience and in message boards all day long. I realized that the conversations happening between our readers and viewers were the single most valuable research I could get.

FBNY: How did you end up co-founding BlogHer?

Stone: In 2001, Women.com was purchased by iVillage and at that time I declined the opportunity to come to New York. Instead, I accepted a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard. I spent half a year at MIT studying the gamification of media and content and trying to understand the emotional connections I saw people generating. During that time, I developed the model that BlogHer used in its first initial massive distributed network.

I was introduced by a mutual friend to Elisa Camahort Page, who had nine blogs at the time. I asked her whether she was interested in doing a conference together and she said, “Let’s do it.” We then met Jory Des Jardins, our third co-founder, who had experience in sponsorship. In four months, we pulled together the first ever BlogHer event and 305 women came from four continents. We accidentally made $60,000. We were shocked.

FBNY: BlogHer exploded in popularity after that. Why do you think it become so successful so fast?

Stone: I think the secret to leadership with women online is, ask, don’t tell. Women online are talking about everything under the sun, from parenting to politics. The value of having a place where you can come for quality conversation is so key. From the beginning, across our network, we’ve insisted on community guidelines, but we’ve also said that disclosure of any sponsorship is key. We celebrate only civil disagreements. Of course that’s great for brands, but what’s really important about it is that it cements the trust between our communities.

FBNY: With the recent acquisition of BlogHer by SheKnowsMedia, your role changed from CEO to chief community officer. Can you tell me more about that?