Every detail of Valerie Illguth’s life is potential fodder for her blogs.
She started her travel blog, 51 Cent Adventures, six years ago to write about all the unique and under-the-radar places her family visited on vacations. Over the last few months, she has been writing about all the details of Yellowstone National Park that they encountered while living in an RV near the park last summer. In December she joined the newly started Idaho Falls Moms Blog as one of a team of volunteers writing about her life and the area. Her most recent post talked about the effects of her son’s autism.
Why did Illguth enjoy blogging enough to write for two sites?
“I don’t know,” she laughed. “It’s a good hobby. I don’t need to have any other items around than my laptop.”
It’s easier than ever to create a website and share your writings online. WordPress, one of the world’s largest blog-supporting websites, sees more than 70 million new posts every month.
Not all of those blogs will draw in a ton of traffic or earn their creators money — the average WordPress post gets fewer than six views a month— but most bloggers aren’t looking to make it rich as long as they attract some community of readers.
In the last year, a handful of new blogs have started adding their content to the web out of Idaho Falls. One is a collective effort from more than 20 women looking to help local families, while the other is one woman’s attempt to expand her platform to speak about her disease.
The Moms Blog
In August, Idaho Falls became one of the 92 cities represented by the City Moms Blog Network. Idaho Falls Moms Blog, staffed by nearly two dozen volunteers from in and around the city, is the only city in Idaho, Utah or Wyoming to join the network.
“We’re kind of a dot on our own over here,” Idaho Falls founder Heather Jarrell said.
Jarrell started the blog as a one-stop location for parents like her to see what the opportunities are for families in the city. The blog gets a lot of traffic from its roundup of the weekend events that will be happening and the guides offering advice on where to find splash pads or host a kid’s birthday party.
“I felt like I was hearing about all these great things that were happening in town and wanted to get all that information in one place,” Jarrell said.
The blog is run by a team of volunteers, many of whom only post once a month. It gives them freedom to write about any subject, whether it’s recent things that happened with their children or advice on what to do during the summer. Some posts are sponsored by local businesses — Jarrell said health-related events have proven especially popular.
Some of those contributors also manage blogs of their own outside the Idaho Falls Moms Blog. Valerie Illguth started her travel blog six years ago while her husband was stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. She said her friends enjoyed hearing about the unique places she would stumble across with her husband and children, so she began writing about them online to get a wider audience while her husband was serving.
“He was deployed to Korea and I was at home with four kids. I would turn on ‘Toy Stor,’ and I would sit and write so I would feel like I was communicating with the outside world,” Illguth said.
The Illguths live outside Pocatello and she isn’t the only mother from outside the city limits writing for the Idaho Falls Moms Blog. The blog posts generally shy away from controversial topics or politics but the differing ages and experiences of the writers allow for some variety in the writing styles. Contributing writer Kim Lewis thought that style combined with the local focus of the blog has helped to grow its audience.
“It’s validating to hear from others in the community that are dealing with the same things,” Lewis said.
Hailey and a Spoon
Hailey Williams has been managing a YouTube channel for five years, since around the time her second daughter was born. Her videos were focused on parenting and her family life until she was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2016.
She switched the focus of her channel to gluten awareness and advocacy. She cut back her number of videos to just one a week but saw her subscriber count rise from just over 1,000 people to nearly 6,000. Last month, Williams used that momentum to launch her own blog called Hailey and a Spoon. She admitted that, before she had launched a blog of her own, she hadn’t been that interested in reading food blogs.
“I know if I was going to do blogging it would have to be my style. If I’m not going to like writing that, why would anyone want to read it?” Williams said.
That shift in the focus of the blog is not unique to Williams.
Former Post Register commentary page editor Katie Stokes ran her own ‘mommy blog’ in Idaho Falls for several years, around the time that blogging first peaked early in the days of the Great Recession.
“It was an easy way to women who were staying home with their kids to pick up some income,” Stokes said.
Since then, Stokes said a lot of parents have dialed back on the details they shared about their children. The blogs would stay online forever, meaning an embarrassing story from when a child was 3 could follow them for the rest of their life. Stokes deleted her blog a few years ago in an attempt to remove some of the more personal details she had shared.
Williams’ husband recently earned his technical degree and began working as a mechanic in town, but her YouTube channel and blog has become her main source of income. She runs the occasional sponsored video reviewing a gluten-free product and works with the local gluten-free store Mom’s Place. Last month, she traveled to Utah to create videos and meet representatives from celiac-friendly brands at the Nourish Festival.
Traveling to Utah also allowed her to connect with other people who blog about the same subject. Gluten-free recipe blogs are much more common in Utah than in eastern Idaho, which has made it tougher for her to befriend other local bloggers.
“There’s not a lot of what I do here. I have a niche, so it’s harder to make an acquaintance or friendship easily,” Williams said.
Creating a website over the last month and becoming a blogger has led to changes in Williams’ life. She had to learn about website design and coding without any formal training on the subject. Her schedule moved around to let her post regular weekly content — Monday nights are preparing for her YouTube videos to post the next morning and Friday nights are the final touches for her Saturday blog posts.
The trade-off for those nights of work, however, is that Williams can easily spend time with her kids at home or take them wherever they need to go without worrying too much about her schedule.
“I can work from the house, the park, the garage. I like being able to work from anywhere,” she said.