She Made the ‘Safest Space on the Internet.’ Now She’s Trying Something New.

Joanna Goddard’s fans have followed her falling in love, building a family and juggling the demands of daily life. Now, she wants to take them into her next chapter.
Joanna Goddard’s fans have followed her falling in love, building a family and juggling the demands of daily life. Now, she wants to take them into her next chapter.

Summary

Joanna Goddard built a blog empire with Cup of Jo, sharing product recommendations, lifestyle tips and stories about her Brooklyn-mom life. In a new Substack newsletter, she’s getting even more personal.

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

The lifestyle blogger built a successful brand around her idyllic Brooklyn life with Cup of Jo, the site she launched in 2007. Her posts chronicled falling in love, building a family and navigating 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 blog post’s 1,400 comments.

“I feel strongly that there should be out-loud examples of people who get divorced and are doing well," Goddard, 44, said in a conversation in the fall. That’s the goal of her new media venture—a Substack newsletter where she’ll be sharing the details of her freshly single life.

“I’m not going to pick through my marriage," she said of her plans for the newsletter. “That wouldn’t be appropriate. But I do feel like people want to hear that it’s not always easy. And that, whatever happens, it’s going to be OK."

Goddard was sitting in the living room of her Cobble Hill brownstone, a home as familiar to avid Cup of Jo readers as their own, wearing flare jeans and a striped button-down shirt. A gallery wall displayed baby photos of her children and some neighborhood scenes where her wedding photos once hung. In the open kitchen, Goddard had plated freshly baked cookies and a spread of hummus and pita.

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

Born to English parents and raised in Michigan, Goddard has Midwestern manners and British taste. She’s warm and affable—quick to smile and share an anecdote—and polite about steering the conversation away from her ex-husband, Alex Williams, a New York Times reporter, who declined to be interviewed.

Goddard said she launched her Substack, Big Salad, to diversify the company’s revenues as the business of paid newsletters picked up. For $5 a month, subscribers get a weekly newsletter from her. Non-paying subscribers receive a monthly edition. Her total subscriber count tops 100,000; she declined to say how many are paying. She’ll still be running Cup of Jo, which has three employees, and earns money from affiliate links, sponsored content and ads.

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

“This is kind of messy and scary," she said. “I just wanted it to be a little more contained."

To many, Goddard is the blueprint for a certain type of affluent Brooklyn mom. Robyn Purdie, a teacher living in Almaty, Kazakhstan, said she reads Cup of Jo for its shopping picks and gift guides. She said she particularly enjoys that she can follow Goddard without having to feel the “mean-girl envy" that can come from following other influencers.

Agatha Khishchenko, a 42-year-old Brooklyn lawyer who’s been reading Cup of Jo for over a decade, called it “the safest space on the internet." She isn’t a mother herself but cited a series about moms around the world as an example of why she finds the site so endearing.

“It’s a lovely site 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 airfare with her own babysitting money growing up, and that wealth still doesn’t feel natural to her.

She moved to New York in 2001 and worked in publishing and at magazines like Glamour.

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

Cup of Jo grew through Blogspot referrals. By 2010, the site was making around $85,000 per year—more than Goddard’s magazine salary—mostly from banner ads. She quit her job to focus on Cup of Jo and hired her first employee in 2014.

The readers are “women in middle age who want to make meaning in their lives," said Catherine Newman, a contributor based in Amherst, Mass. Christine Pride, who writes a column about race for Cup of Jo, said it’s a rare digital space where “you don’t have to brace yourself for a certain level of vitriol."

In the comments section, where a simple question like what random finds do you swear by yields 800 answers, readers are eager to “share tidbits of their vulnerable experiences," Pride said.

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

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

While other publications approach the topics she covers with an assumed 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 in New York’s Westchester County, said “Joanna feels like someone I’d want to be friends with." Shulman said the blog covered topics like infertility before other women’s outlets did.

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

Goddard stayed consistent with the blog, even as many personalities have pivoted to YouTube and TikTok. She still Instagrams flowers in mason jars, blogs quick dinner ideas and publishes essays about 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 said she needed to wait until both she and Williams were ready.

“People have asked, ‘Was your marriage all a lie?’ Nothing was untrue, but there was also other stuff happening," she said. Ultimately, she said, they grew apart.

She wasn’t sure how her fans would take the news. “Would it ruin my site?" she recalled wondering. “Will it be a fall from grace?"

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

Aside from a few swipes on Bumble, Goddard hasn’t dabbled in dating apps but said she’ll probably try them soon. Some friends want to set her up. She’s been noticing which dads around the neighborhood she finds attractive. Recently, she said she spotted a cute guy at a funeral but knew it wasn’t the right setting to court a new beau.

More than anything, she said, “I would love to kiss somebody on a street corner."

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

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