Tim Liew is the blogger behind Slouching Towards Thatcham, which was recently ranked in the top 10 UK Daddy Blogs once again. Covering life as a father of three – with his fitness journey and incredible musical parodies along the way – Tim’s blog is known for its honest and insightful take on being a dad. We caught up with Tim to find out about being able to pick and choose collaborations, the changing roles of fathers in society and his broad range of favourite blogs.
How do you describe what you do to other people?
I often describe myself as ‘a writer who just happens to have a blog’ rather than being a ‘blogger’ in the more commercial sense. I don’t write for a living and I don’t necessarily write to nurture an audience either.
My blog has always been a form of self-therapy that helps make sense of my thoughts and experiences and record them for posterity. If some of my stories resonate with people or reassure them that they’re not alone on the rollercoaster ride that is fatherhood, that’s a bonus – but it’s not why I write. If I’m being pretentious (which I will admit I often am) I would say ‘scribo ergo sum’: I write therefore I am.
How do social channels work with your blog – are any more important than others?
I primarily use a combination of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Broadly speaking, Facebook is for traffic, Twitter for conversation and Instagram for fun.
Determining the ideal mix is really up to you, though. Some people rely on Pinterest a lot. Others will openly admit they just don’t get Twitter but feel they need to be on there. There’s a lot of pressure, particularly for those trying to make a living from blogging, to be always-on on every channel. But my advice to any blogger is to focus on a few channels that you enjoy the most and to share the best possible content across them. It’s better to have a big presence on a few channels than to spread yourself too thinly across all of them.
What’s the perfect Father’s Day?
A little bit of ‘me’ time and a lot of family time. I’m not bothered by material gifts at all. Most years the best presents I get are hand-drawn cards from the kids and their proud grins as they serve up breakfast in bed.
How much does Father’s Day affect your content?
It doesn’t, really. I have often written about my Father’s Day experiences in the past but I don’t make a point of generating lots of Father’s Day content such as gift guides or best days out every year. If I have something original to write, I will, but I don’t force it.
How is the role of dad changing in society?
It still has some way to go but it has changed enormously in my lifetime alone. So many dads are much more involved and present in their children’s lives than our fathers were. And it goes way beyond changing the odd nappy or ‘babysitting’ the children while mum’s out. You can see it in the increasing number of stay-at-home dads or the number of fathers who do the school run or share childcare responsibilities. The lines between ‘dads’ and ‘mums’ have blurred. Increasingly we’re now ‘parents’ and more of us expect – and thrive on – the added responsibility and time with our kids.
What’s the best balance between visual and written content?
A little from column A, a little from column B. Visuals – whether it’s photos, longer-form video or Instagram Stories – are increasingly important and can make a blogger really stand out from the crowd. But – and I knowingly say this with the bias of someone who has always been a writer first – the words are still important. A blogger’s visuals are the equivalent of a film trailer that draws you in but it’s their words that are the movie itself, adding substance to the style. These days you need to be good with both.
Do you accept press releases?
I do occasionally but only if it is something that genuinely interests me or sparks off some creative ideas of my own.
What are the best collaborations you’ve worked on?
I do very little commercial work nowadays so I can afford to pick and choose. But all my best collaborations have been built on two-way relationships with brands I have an emotional collection with. I respond best when working with a brand who is genuinely receptive to my ideas, as opposed to ‘We just need a blog post and an Instagram story by Friday’. And, of course, it’s always easier to produce great content about products you already feel good about. I’ve always been honest with my reviews and I won’t write half-hearted platitudes just to keep a marketer happy.
What advice would you give to PRs/brands reaching out to you?
Appreciate the value that bloggers can bring and treat us as creative partners rather than blank advertising hoardings. Yes, I know you need us to deliver audiences and numbers. And I know you’re talking to 100 different bloggers about ten different campaigns at the same time but treat a blogger well and they will not only deliver great content for this campaign but will be a willing partner for you on future projects too.
What other blogs do you read?
I read several of the other dad blogs in your top ten but I also read across a variety of different genres beyond parenting. As a lifelong Arsenal fan, I religiously read Arseblog and listen to its sister podcast, the Arsecast. I love professional cycling so my go-tos are The Inner Ring for his expertise and Velovoices for their fan-led views (full disclosure: I founded the latter, although I’m not involved with it any more.) And, as a former TV reviewer, my first port of call is often The AV Club for their in-depth and thoughtful observations on my favourite US shows.