Connell pictured with her two kids, Cedar and Posey.
Connell spends close to 40 hours a week updating her blog.
When Karen Connell first started her blog back in 2006, her hope was to create a space for Brooklyn parents to share information. With a six- week-old baby and ambition to spare, Karen set out to preserve the bits and pieces of information that she and other Brooklyn parents gathered over time.
Now, the mother of two continues to run the blog, “A Child Grows in Brooklyn.” With 140,000 monthly visitors, the blog extends much further than the confines of Brooklyn and is viewed by readers nationwide. The blog is constantly growing and changing, but the page continues to be a labor of love.
The Ink sat down with Karen to learn more about her parenting blog.
Tell me about the birth of your blog back in 2006.
In 2006 I had a six -week- old baby and I went to a moms’ group in the park. There were moms there who were saying ‘oh yeah this is a great pediatrician. This is a great lactation consultant, these are the best classes,’ and it was great, we were getting this wonderful word of mouth information. But I had this fear that this information would be lost and I knew it was important for parents everywhere to have access to. So I said, ‘I’ll just put it up on a website and we can all put information on there so we can pass it on to our friends.’ When I started the site had 15 people who were my friends and were reading it and it grew to 100 within 30 days.
How do you choose the content that goes on your site?
I wish it were more logical and rational, but it really isn’t, it’s kind of like ‘gosh I think this would be really interesting for parents to know about’ or ‘I have time to write this up today.’ But I will say the majority of the stuff that I post definitely has a component about being green or organic, that’s always been important to me. So I write a lot about toy drives and where to find electronic recycling locations, that’s a pretty standard thing for me to write about.
Talk to me about the different types of posts you publish.
Three times a week I do Blog Talk. One is for the home, one is for Brooklyn, and one is for parenting. That’s a roundup and those are generally very popular posts. And then on Fridays we publish kids’ music listings. We’re the only site that does that in New York. Everyday I try to do something on all the stages of people’s lives: pregnancy, baby, toddler, and then kid, big kid. And every week I also try to do something for parents, at least two or three times. I have 10 Brooklyn experts who also write for the site.
Who are your Brooklyn experts?
We have a pediatrician, two parent coaches, two psychiatrists, a professional organizer, and a doula. We have a mom who all she does is adventure around so she writes about that. So those people actually provide quite a bit of content. And the reason I asked them to come on in the first place was because people were writing me asking me for advice. It occurred to me that there was this need for a Brooklyn expert to give to Brooklyn parents. I think New York is a very different place than the rest of the country. So I wanted Brooklyn experts to be talking to Brooklyn parents, it makes sense. Brooklyn parents are generally pretty liberal, they are open to listening and learning about different coaching and parenting styles, and they really strive to be educated on parenting.
Who are your readers?
The readers are from all over Brooklyn, from Coney Island to Park Slope. And they are between 27-41. And actually it isn’t just moms, there’s quite a few dads who read which made me very happy.
How do you give readers what they want but at the same time provide them with the information you think they need?
I did a survey to find out what they wanted. What gets the most feedback on my site is typically posts where I write about a parenting struggle I’m having. But it’s hard for me to write about those even though they’re very popular.
How do you use social media to promote your blog and to connect more with readers?
Social media is crucial. I could be writing and nobody could be reading. And then it would be even less profitable but more importantly it would be very lonely. Facebook is very important for my readership because a lot of parents are on Facebook. I think actually that’s the biggest access point for the age group that most accesses my blog. And then I use Twitter to promote the brand of the blog more.
Talk to me about the “Baby Expo” that you hosted in March.
The expo was an idea of taking my online community offline in the real world. Originally the way the blog had started was about connecting parents to resources, figuring out which ones were the best ones. So it made sense to have parents find a way to meet these businesses in person. Also, there’s such an exodus from Manhattan to Brooklyn for families that I think it’s really important for new and expectant parents to see how great their resources are over here. We had 53 vendors and 720 people come. And we had 48 media bloggers attend and 47 articles come out about it.
You’re entering a new stage where you’re finally making a small profit off your blog. Talk to me about that.
It basically means that I accept advertising on the site-traditional banner advertising. I also have a marketplace now, which allows businesses to put their logos on their listing to do coupons and also to update their business information. They pay me a monthly fee in order to subscribe to that service.
What do you think is different about raising kids in Brooklyn as opposed to other boroughs?
The answer is very short. What I love is that I know probably 80 percent of the people on my block. It’s very neighborhood-oriented. The other thing I love is that we go to the park. You just go to the park and you’re bound to know somebody there. I’ve been to the Manhattan playgrounds with my kids on the weekend and nobody talks to each other. It’s very strange. That’s the other part of it, when you bring children up here and you teach them that you walk by somebody on the street and you say, ‘good morning’ or ‘how are you today’ or ‘great to see you,’ that is a great introduction to them about socialization and social manners and I love that.
What do you do when you’re not blogging?
I used to be an artist full time — that was my career before this. I still do that. I really would love to become a good gardener as some point in my life (laughter). But I’m in that garden all the time and I don’t ever get anything to grow. I wish I had more time but most of it’s for the family.
How do you find the balance between blogging and spending time with your family?
I don’t think I have a good balance. I think it’s impossible to feel like you ever have a good balance. Particularly, I think women feel that a lot, I think it’s quite hard for them to be a great mom and have a great career at the same time. I think sometimes I’m better at it than others. I just think that it’s a constant struggle.