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From the Mailbag:  Emma writes: I don’t get it. I read lots of blogs from the “famous” Dooce  (who’s a little too, I dunno, b*tchy for my tastes), and now Pioneer Woman (who seems like a lightweight one-trick pony/cow), to obscure blogs on personal subjects that interest me. And I gotta tell ya, I think some of the more unknown ones are much better written and much more interesting. I’m wondering why you think some blogs that aren’t particularly well-written make it to the top when others that are better don’t? And do you read the only two mom blogs in the Top 100, The Pioneer Woman and Dooce? Do you like either of them? I notice neither are in your blog roll. If you were to compare/contrast them, what’s your take as to why they’re at the top?

Dear Emma, there are all kinds of reasons why some blogs break out of the pack and land at the top while other lesser-known, equally worthy blogs don’t find fame. And I agree that it’s a shame that so many wonderfully written blogs languish in anonymity. But that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. That’s why I like exploring bloggers’ blog rolls as a way to discover hidden talent. But then I’ve always been one to head off the beaten path.

Most of the really successful blogs get there through a combination of circumstances. They pick a hot niche, put in the hard work, and then get a helping hand from somebody else who’s already “famous.” And a heavy dose of dumb luck never hurts — the proverbial “being at the right place at the right time.”

Regarding the two blogs you mention, Dooce and The Pioneer Woman, I believe they started off with a small, loyal following before getting a turbo boost from another famous blog/award that gave them instant mass exposure. But, rest assured, they wouldn’t stay at the top if large numbers of people didn’t continue to enjoy them.

I’ve tried giving them both a spin at various times but I haven’t been able to stay with either for different reasons (which is why I haven’t added them to my blog roll). So my observations certainly aren’t the final word on either of them. That said, it’s not hard for me to see why they’ve both struck a chord with large audiences.

If I were to compare/contrast them, I’d have to say that both profess to love their husbands, kids, and dogs, both hate being told what to do, both have become good photographers, both are funny, both are attractive with attractive spouses and kids, and both spent some time in LA way back when.  That’s about where the similarities end.

Dooce has more of an edgy, take-no-prisoners feel, with a fairly self-revealing look at her emotional life as a wife, mother, and (ex?) Mormon. Pioneer Woman has a more light-hearted, breezy, self-deprecating style; she doesn’t tread into very deep emotional waters. I suspect that’s why she strikes you, to use your words, as a one trick pony–she keeps the life she shares with her readers very uncomplicated.

Another significant contrast is that Pioneer Woman seems to genuinely like and include her readers/commenters. She invites their questions and opinions. Dooce seems to have more of a prickly love/hate thing going on with her contingent.

Visiting The Pioneer Woman can feel like a trip to Disney World where, on the surface, everything is nearly perfect, life is grrrrrreat!, everyone is happy and doin’ their thang, there are plenty of rides (both 4-legged and 4-wheeling) — and, if you visit regularly, you’ll be rewarded with a generous flow of give-aways and prizes. You’ll see many photos of a working cattle ranch, including calves being castrated, tagged, and branded, and cows with a vet’s arm up their nether regions being “preg-tested,” and you’ll see lots of gorgeous open plains.

Visiting Dooce feels like a cross between a Seinfeld episode and a Reality show. Especially now that she’s pregnant with her second child after just recently adding a second dog. All this, by her own admission, while she’s dealing with a very obstinate and difficult first child, and managing to keep her clinical depression at bay with the right meds. Such is the stuff that makes up the fodder that fuels her blog. She’s complicated and messy, like real life. She’s often reflective and insightful. And, just as often, laugh-out-loud funny.

What is it about each of them I like, and why did I ultimately move on?

I love Pioneer Woman’s photos of the land; I can feel my lungs expanding just by looking at them. I also think Ree is a hoot and I appreciate her upbeat attitude.  I moved on because, being the sap about animals that I am, it’s hard for me to watch how their cattle are treated. Yes, that’s her Reality Show, and yes, I eat meat. But I buy it from a farmer I know who raises his few cows from birth to death on his own farm, and he humanely kills them himself . There’s no rough handing, no hideously smelling, overcrowded “finishing” grain lot, and no terrifying trip to the slaughter house. Nothing personal Pioneer Woman.

I appreciate Dooce for her honesty and fearlessness. And she can string words together and twist them into side-splittingly funny riffs like nobody’s business. While Pioneer Woman has a “don’t rock the boat” philosophy, on that same boat, Dooce runs from side-to-side to see if she can get it to tip over. In other words, she doesn’t shy away from controversy. She also loves her dogs like family. I moved on because, as a life coach and writer, I get enough of hard-hitting reality during every working day, so that’s not really how I’m looking to unwind with what little free time I have. Nothing personal Dooce.

So, dear reader, if you read Pioneer Woman and Dooce, to what do you attribute their success? What do you like and not like about their blogs? And, lastly, since I’m always on a treasure hunt, what’s your favorite non-famous blog and why?