April 20, 2024

She created the ‘safest space on the Internet’. She now she’s trying something new.

Joanna Goddard is starting over. She wants you to know that you can too.

Joanna Goddard is starting over. She wants you to know that you can too.

The lifestyle blogger built a successful brand around her idyllic life in Brooklyn with Cup of Jo, the site she launched in 2007. Her posts chronicled how she fell in love, started a family, and navigated everyday challenges. And her readers, most of them women, were on that journey with her.

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The lifestyle blogger built a successful brand around her idyllic life in Brooklyn with Cup of Jo, the site she launched in 2007. Her posts chronicled how she fell in love, started a family, and navigated everyday challenges. And her readers, most of them women, were on that journey with her.

Then, last February, she announced that she and her husband of 13 years were getting divorced. “WOW, Gut Punch!!,” read one of the 1,400 comments on the blog post.

“I firmly believe that there should be loud examples of people who get divorced and do well,” Goddard, 44, said in a conversation in the fall. That’s the goal of her new media venture: a Substack newsletter where we’ll share the details of her new single life.

“I’m not going to criticize my marriage,” he said of his plans for the newsletter. “That would not be appropriate. But I feel like people want to hear that it’s not always easy. And that, whatever happens, it’s going to be okay.”

Goddard was sitting in the living room of her Cobble Hill brownstone, a house as familiar to avid Cup of Jo readers as her own, dressed in flared jeans and a striped button-down shirt. One wall of the gallery displayed photos of her children when they were babies and some scenes of the neighborhood where her wedding photos once hung. In the open kitchen, Goddard had served freshly baked cookies and a variety of hummus and pita.

Aspirational yet accessible (think Madewell denim and dinner party hosting tips), Goddard’s blog is one of the few mid-aughts that still has a devoted following on the web, with 4.2 million pages monthly views and over $2 million in annual revenue. Fans who appreciate Cup of Jo’s hands-on approach to relationships, fashion and travel say the blog offers them a sense of comfort, like consuming a digital bowl of hot oatmeal.

Born to English parents and raised in Michigan, Goddard has Midwestern manners and British tastes. She is warm and personable (quick to smile and share an anecdote) and polite in directing the conversation away from her ex-husband, Alex Williams, a New York Times reporter, who declined to be interviewed.

Goddard said it launched its Substack, Big Salad, to diversify the company’s revenue as the paid newsletter business recovered. For $5 a month, subscribers receive a weekly newsletter from her. Non-paying subscribers receive a monthly edition. Its total number of subscribers exceeds 100,000; She declined to say how many are paying. She will continue to run Cup of Jo, which has three employees and makes money from affiliate links, sponsored content and ads.

Goddard said having a paid newsletter seemed like a safer way to talk about the more vulnerable parts of her new life, like first dates.

“This is a little confusing and scary,” he said. “I just wanted it to be a little more contained.”

For many, Goddard is the model for a certain type of wealthy Brooklyn mother. Robyn Purdie, a teacher who lives in Almaty, Kazakhstan, said she reads Cup of Jo for its shopping selections and gift guides. She said she especially enjoys being able to follow Goddard without having to feel the “mean girl envy” that can come with following other influencers.

Agatha Khishchenko, a 42-year-old Brooklyn lawyer who has been reading Cup of Jo for more than a decade, called it “the safest space on the Internet.” She’s not a mother, but she cited a series about moms around the world as an example of why she finds the site so appealing.

“It’s a lovely place and brings a dose of peace and tranquility,” Khishchenko said.

Goddard, a twin, spent her early childhood in England before moving to Michigan. She said money was always tight in her family. She said she paid for ballet lessons and plane tickets with her own babysitting money while she was growing up, and that her wealth still doesn’t come naturally to her.

She moved to New York in 2001 and worked in publications and magazines such as Glamor.

She started a Blogspot in 2007 as a hobby, writing about art, style, food, and relationships. She met Williams two months later. The couple married in 2009 and have two children, ages 10 and 13.

Cup of Jo grew thanks to Blogspot referrals. In 2010, the site was earning about $85,000 a year (more than Goddard magazine’s salary), mostly from advertising. He left his job to focus on Cup of Jo and hired his first employee in 2014.

The readers are “middle-aged women who want to make sense of their lives,” said Catherine Newman, a contributor based in Amherst, Massachusetts. Christine Pride, who writes a column about Jo’s Cup race, said it is a rare digital space. where “you don’t have to prepare yourself for a certain level of vitriol.”

In the comments section, where a simple question like why random findings do you trust produces 800 responses, readers are eager to “share snippets of their vulnerable experiences,” Pride said.

“The reader feels like they’re in a group chat, getting recommendations from trusted friends,” said Sara Petersen, author of “Momfluenced,” a book about the online culture of motherhood.

The blog’s approachable tone was what attracted Gail Simmons, the Canadian food writer and “Top Chef” judge.

While other publications approach the topics she covers with supposed authority, “Joanna has a certain level of humility in the process,” Simmons said. “She doesn’t claim to be an expert.”

Monica Shulman, a 46-year-old artist from Westchester County in New York, said: “Joanna feels like someone I would like to be friends with.” Shulman said the blog covered topics such as infertility before other women’s media.

“You form relationships with people in the comments section,” he said. “You can’t do that by reading Vogue.”

Goddard has remained consistent with the blog, even as many personalities have moved on to YouTube and TikTok. She still Instagrams flowers in mason jars, blogs quick dinner ideas, and publishes essays on adult friendship. “It should feel like a hug,” Goddard said of her web presence.

Over the years, Goddard has opened up about postpartum depression, anxiety, and grief, deepening her relationship with her readers. She felt she owed them the truth about her marriage, but she said she needed to wait until she and Williams were ready.

“People have asked, ‘Was your entire marriage a lie?’ Nothing was fake, but other things happened too,” she said. In the end, she said, they grew apart.

She wasn’t sure how her fans would take the news. “Would it ruin my place?” she recalled asking herself. “Will it be a fall from grace?”

But the response from readers was supportive—the kind of virtual hug that Goddard had always strived to give them.

Aside from a few hits on Bumble, Goddard hasn’t dabbled in dating apps, but he said he’ll probably try them soon. Some friends want to set him up. He’s been noticing which neighborhood dads he finds attractive. Recently, she said she saw a cute guy at a funeral, but knew it wasn’t the right place to court a new boyfriend.

More than anything, he said, “I’d love to kiss someone on the corner.”

Write to Chavie Lieber at Chavie.Lieber@WSJ.com

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