Ree “The Pioneer Woman” Drummond vs. Heather “Dooce” Armstrong

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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?

27 thoughts on “Ree “The Pioneer Woman” Drummond vs. Heather “Dooce” Armstrong”

  1. My sister calls PW the “Martha Stewart” of cattle ranching – paints an idyllic portrait that bears little resemblance to real life on a working ranch. I’m mistrustful of zealots and sycophants (& the people who inspire them) from all corners of the earth.

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  2. My favorite, relatively unknown blog is

    shenkitup.com

    Not because it’s hilarious, informative, or entertaining but because it’s a wonderful mix of all three. You never know what you’re going to find when you go get ‘shenked’ and to me that makes it an awesome blog.

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  3. Dooce I don’t care for. I’m a big PW fan. I’ll admit it. She’s a fun writer which is what I like. I think the intention of her blog is just that, to entertain, from her daily ranch happenings to her recipes to her homeschooling. She does lead a very nice life it seems, and it would be easy to be envious. You have to just take it for what it’s worth.

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  4. I’ve read both and might go back once in awhile, but I’ve found more interesting reading over at the little guy blogs.

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  5. Interesting observations being shared here. I visit both sites from time to time, mostly for inspiration. I’m a sucker for photography and they both have plenty to offer a wannabe shutterbug like myself.

    I seem to drift around the web depending upon my mood, what I’m working on, etc. Right now I’m working on a dog photography site so I’m gravitating towards dog photo blogs

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  6. PW is superficial and bubbly, and that’s exactly why I like her blog. I can go there and know that the post will make me laugh and amuse me for a few minutes before moving on throughout my day. If she were to start tackling tougher issues I’m not so sure I’d enjoy her blog as much as I do.

    I’ve never even heard of Dooce, but I will probably check her out now.

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  7. I do Dooce, don’t do Pioneer Woman – I tried her but it just didn’t stick. I think Dooce is so popular because either people relate to her & her issues, or they don’t – and like going back to be reminded how lucky they are NOT to be dealing with what she is. I, like others have said here, find new favs to follow by reading what blogs the bloggers I like are reading. That’s how I found you!

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  8. I just found your blog, clicking through Dogs with Blogs and arriving here in some very random way — yes, bored at work. I will be back; I am intrigued. I love Out with Ari (http://outwithari.blogspot.com/) and Patience-please (http://patience-please.blogspot.com/), keeping in the “doggie” theme, and will start broadening my blog horizons a bit. Many of these are fun reading, especially those that share an honest view of real life that is really different than mine.

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  9. I never have read Dooce and from the comments above, I don’t think I will. PW is one I check once in awhile for the photography, but I am turned off by the treatment of the cattle, and the continual reminding of the “hardships” they are “suffering.” PW reminds me of the wives I get stuck with when we visit other farms. Not involved at all, and playing up the domestic role too much. Sorry, I’m a tomboy farmer. My favorite that isn’t local is Just Another Day on the Prairie and of course there is one that the name escapes me – something about a lady and Aussie named Kiera!

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  10. Ah yes…the two ‘big ones’. I read PW…not the cooking, but the photography and some of the confessions. I tried reading Dooce, but was turned off by the vulgar language…maybe I’m just a prude at heart :)

    Most blogs I read are relatively unknown…and I prefer those. It reminds me of being in high school. Some blogs act like those popular kids you knew…the ones that were pretty and shiny on the outside, but didn’t amount to much when you got to know them. Other blogs are like the wallflowers…treasures waiting to be found.

    I love Just Another Day on the Prairie and our friend EDJ (above) at Planet Nomad.

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  11. I was just about to mention Daily Coyote when I noticed that Carol already mentioned it above. Awesome site!
    I do read both Dooce and PW from time to time. I can’t necessarily relate to either one and as everyone has already stated they are like night and day but I do enjoy them for different reasons. Although sometimes, like with any blog, I find myself turned off a bit by some of the posts. But that is the nature of blogging….

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  12. “I’ve tried giving them both a spin at various times but I haven’t been able to stay with either for different reasons.”

    Same here. I think I read the blogs I read because because the writers have become like friends to me. I too haven’t run any ads (althought I will someday.) I’m in it for the community and I’ve made some great friends – and to improve my writing.

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  13. I read PW. Never heard of Dooce, she sounds depressing. The problem I have with PW is that she seems too uninvolved. As a ranchwife myself, I’m a partner here. I ride, I drive tractor, I work alongside my husband. My hands are often covered in poo and heaven forbid if Ree gets shit on her! I enjoy her writing though, light-hearted as it may be. Obviously they are richer ranchers than us… richer ranchers than any other ranchers I know! Yea, I’m jealous. I’d like to write a short story a day… get advertising and make money at it… extra income would be welcome here! We’re remodeling too… but we are doing the work ourselves and I’m amazed at the amount of money they spend on a place they won’t live in. It also is a sad state to read comments on those posts when her children are working. My children did the same things and more… but it is the number of people who are totally clueless… whose kids don’t do ANYTHING… it makes me worried about the next generation. My only other blog is another out-of-the-chute hit. Daily Coyote. I know Shreve – she lives 25 miles from me.

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  14. This is an interesting topic. I have been fascinated by bloggers over the last year or so, though I really don’t visit many blogs at all. I think, if truth be told, many find blogging cheaper then therapy! Where else can you bemoan life, whine about your circumstances and do a form of stand-up comedy, AND inspire the masses? Right at your computer, in your own little world and usually for free. I had not heard of PW or Dooce before, so I paid a visit to their blogs. This is what struck me: Dooce is the voice of many disgruntled, (current and former) Mormen women I’ve known. I lived in Utah for twelve years, and while I’m not Mormen myself, I ran into many Dooce’s while there. Believe me when I say they need this type of catharsis! PW is living a “perfect” life, suspect at best, but maybe my cynicism is taking over, maybe life really is “grrreat” on the prairie. If I lived that life (and I have wanted to live that lifestyle before) I would want to share it with others too. Either way, bloggers are looking for that proverbial 15 minutes of fame, and/or maybe simply a needed form of expression….the closet philosophers among us. But it is a phenomenon to behold the shear amount of blogging that’s going on out there! But I must agree with the above comments, your blog is one of the ones that suits my style. You resonated with me immediately, I recognized you as a kindred spirit….and I thank you for that, Karen.

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  15. Stopped reading PW because I’m envious of her cameras and printers and in-laws who sponsor art shows for her and that she seems oblivious that most people don’t have a huge cattle spread and rich relatives, and the fact that she seems to have zero empathy for her kids at times when they are pretty obviously being mostly neglected. Stopped reading Dooce when it became a freakin’ soap opera.

    I like reading real things from real people who are honest about their lives, but not obsessive about them.

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  16. I only read Dooce once because I followed a link on somebody else’s blog and at the time I’d never heard of Dooce. She’s not my cup of tea and I’ll leave it at that; and those who know my story will understand the rest without me putting it into print.

    I had never heard of PW until today. I raised cattle as a teen for FFA projects and I’m really done with serious farm life so I didn’t even go over and lurk for the sake of argument.

    That said, I also tend to be one who discovers new authors to read by following links or checking the blogrolls of the blogs I am currently reading.

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  17. My favorite blog, without exception, is Margaret and Helen. Two old, opinionated women with razor sharp wit. They’re just obnoxiously blunt.

    I’m not familiar with PW…and after reading your post I have no interest in reading her blog. Both sides of my family have been ranchers and farmers for as far back as we can research. I was raised on a working cattle ranch – I’m talking sections, square miles, not acres. I own a small (100 acre) farm that a neighbor works. Believe me, if her blog is how you represent it, she’s blowing major amounts of smoke up everyone’s ass. At the best of times ranching is a brutal lifestyle and a cut-troat business. Sure the land is beautiful…often breath-taking, but any time you raise livestock for consumption it’s ugly and you had better have your emotional walls up. How can it be otherwise when the entire purpose is to eventually slaughter or send to slaughter what you have raised? I don’t eat a lot of meat, pork, chicken…but when I do, I do it knowing EXACTLY where it came from and how it ended up on my plate. Honestly, if I had to raise and/or kill what I eat, then I would probably never eat animals again. Just my opinion.

    I do pop in and read Dooce once in a while…probably because a family member of ours suffers from the same mental illness. Her blog gives us hope that things can and will be better. I love the photos of Chuck. All of her photos are great, but Chuck just cracks me up.

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  18. I read PW for the photography tips and the photos. I never enter any of the contests, someone other than myself probably needs that prize more than I do. I do read the entries for the “name that photo” contests though….they are often *really* funny.
    I didn’t know about Dooce, went there from here, not my style. Too much ….. something. I get enough of tough women, tough men and tough situations in my real life work. Don’t need that at home too.

    You, however, I will be back to visit. If you love your kids, love your dogs and are a critical thinker….far more my style.

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  19. Ree is cotton candy. Heather is sushi.

    Best non-famous blog. Your’s of course. (I’m guessing from your lack of advertising that you haven’t crossed over to the dark side.) No brown-nosing intended. You just strike me as eminently sane and, in these days of insanity, I appreciate that.

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  20. I think the reason some good blogs get famous and some don’t is luck and being in the right place at the right time. Dooce, for example, got in right at the very beginning; she wasn’t competing with 1000s of 10,000s of others at the time.
    I read PW sometimes and enjoy the pics but you’re right–lightweight. I used to read Dooce but didn’t stick with her; I’m not a big fan of reality TV and she was just a bit too raw for my taste.
    However, I just discovered a blog I think you’ll like. It’s called Resident Alien. The writer is an ESL teacher in Turkey at the moment. I’m sure part of my enjoyment is how much I relate to her life, but she’s also humorous, self-deprecating, and an excellent writer.
    All my fav blogs aren’t huge.

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  21. I’ve visited Dooce more than one year ago and never came back to this day. She’s changed it: now it’s like a reality show, a well-done and carefully thought one, so there’s no wonder it sells good. There’s a trend nowadays for people to enjoy reality shows, where normal people like them make the ordinary things we all do seem extraordinary. Only think of American Idol and all the madness that comes with it.
    I didn’t know Pioneer Woman existed until now. So far, I’m impressed with her photos and her ability to tell a story in pictures.
    Both of them put a lot of work in their blogs and it shows. However, I don’t feel like visiting them again. Maybe the fact that I’m not a mom and most probably I never will has a contribution to this: there’s nothing in there I can relate to and I won’t relate to in the future, as I’ll never face the challenge of raising a kid.

    My favorite blogs are two: yours and http://www.inspirationbit.com.
    I’ve discovered your blog thanks to your lovely Finnegan (I think he was playing the piano by that time – is he still performing?).
    I enjoy your blog a lot. The difference between you and the two ladies mentioned here is your approach of raising good children. I like the relationship you have with Cait. I like your lifestyle. Maybe I’m resonating with you because I’m bored with living in a big city, crowded and dirty, and I dream of a day when I’ll move closer to the nature. I’ve always felt like if we were neighbors, we could have been very good friends.

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