Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Hmm. Want to talk about it?

After I saw Sherry's post about "blog addiction," it got me thinking back to a Businessweek article I had saved from last November by Jon Fine called "The Winter of Our Content."

There are some people who are quietly wringing their hands with glee that some of us are addicted to blogging -- and most of them aren't bloggers.

While some may be deluded into thinking we are pioneers in the noble pursuit of information dissemination, the democratization of opinion once generally dictated by MSM white, newspaper men (maybe with the exception of Lois Lane), it's clear when you stand back and look at things from an economic perspective that the major winners here are the techies.

Think about it -- blogs, myspace -- we're providing the content for free so that the techies can reap the rewards of ad revenue, just for starters. And the rewards we're speaking of aren't nominal.

The fact that so many are so willing -- and I'm going to put myself out there and say often for merely for the sake of ego-stroking -- to write for free is really driving down the demand -- and price -- of the freelance writer like myself who prefers to be paid for my writing.

So though we may feel empowered by all of the freedom -- we are slaves of the techlords.

Nothing can turn that tide now -- because, for all the ego we have, their humility -- and cash flow -- is exponentially stronger.

P.S. Writing this post just slashed my going rate by another .003 %.

Go head, cut me, Mick.


  1. Good post. Yes, presently, I think you could say that we are being exploited, but it is a transitory thing and after all we are all deriving some perceived benefits from what we do.

    Just wait until the first wave of pgh bloggers start getting picked up by the corporate media and getting "paid". Then you'll start seeing some serious exploitation, I fear, and for a while some really crappy product.

  2. i think the pluses far outshine the minuses right now, in many many areas.

    we will have to see what the furure brings. most everything in life has 2 sides.
    i have some more thoughts on this but not much time right now.

  3. This is an interesting thread. I came into blogging to "write for free" with no intent of leveraging this into some sort of mainstream project.

    Frankly, I'd love to see blogging bring more voices from Pittsburgh's subcultures into the conversation. I'm not as concerned about the being paid bit.

  4. i came to blogging at first thru my poetry and being a member and then a list administrator for the PK list, the inhouse workshop for the PK site:

    many of the members had their own website. i had no idea how to go about setting one up and managing one but a blog seemed much easier to put up and add to as i chose to.
    i was one of the 1st. to have one. now we have an entire listing of blogs.

    anyway, since the members are international and i had been with them for quite some time, their views on global politics and how we in america are viewed and how our policies affect them became more of an issue to me. i've always been political, being of the vietnam generation, it's pretty much a given but being in touch with others via e-mails from all over really sent me in search of political blogging and letting my opinions be known. i've found out a lot over the past few years via blogging and i would be lost without it. i really think so.
    so, tho my blog is fundamentally a lit blog it has grown into more of a reflection of the whole of me. something i was going to do to show how a poet thinks, how ideas come about but has also become more of an activist blog as well.
    i supposed it changed as i changed.

    yes, as far as my poetry goes, i love the fact that i have reached a nice sized readership(and oh god, if only someone would say, "hey, we love your stuff. we would love to publish you."

    fat chance of that. i know damn well a poet has to shop their work around but i've never been good at self promotion. a blog is a forceful as i get.

    the political stuff? that's from my heart for free! i give it gladly. i push issues and causes that i am passionate about. i love how blogs can be an instant call for action.

    a big bonus has been all the people that i have met thru blogging. tho not in person, it still have opened up my world and enriched it.

    it has also saddened me to read some of the foolish and hateful remarks and attitudes that are blogged but it has made me wiser( i hope)

    so all in all for me the good far outweights the bad.

    just my thoughts.

  5. The bloggers who want to grow up and be Tony Norman make me giggle.

  6. How are growing up and being like Tony Norman even remotely related?

  7. Just wait until the first wave of pgh bloggers start getting picked up by the corporate media and getting "paid".

    Just curious: Are you aware of any markets in which this is happening? I'm not necessarily looking for situations in which a blogger got hired on by a daily -- that can happen even to disreputable alt-weekly types. You seem to be predicting something more widespread than that; if so, I'm curious about the basis of the belief.

    -- potter


    There, three magazines that have multiple and celebrated bloggers. At some of the magazines, the bloggers pull considerable hybrid duty with the rest of the news organization, but I don't see how that's a contradiction. One can be a blogger who works in ink sometimes.

    I think we're already there with magazines, I think we're only starting to see it with newspapers but it's there.

    By "are you aware of any markets", you probably meant local. No I am not aware, but I should do some research. Plus, it's gotta start somewhere.

  9. When we start seeing Google ads on bathrobes ... then we got something going on ...

  10. I think Bram should come to Blogfest wearing his robe. I'll give him $5.

  11. By "are you aware of any markets", you probably meant local.

    I did. I think the economics of national publications scale differently.

    Anyway, I'm not sure the Time magazine thing supports your point. From what I can tell, with the exception of Wonkette, all those people in Swampland are correspondents who worked on the print side and expanded into blogs. That's an Early Returns-type approach -- "corporate media" types moving into blogging -- which I gather is the opposite trend of what you're talking about. (As for the other two examples, I couldn't really see any stuff on the National Review site at all, and Andrew Sullivan is the sort of exception I had in mind earlier -- the isolated blogger who, like the disreputable alt-weekly scribe, lands a gig elsewhere.)

    Given media economics, the Early Returns/Time magazine approach seems a far more likely approach to me -- at least for now. The advertising market online has matured to the point where a newspaper's web site can support itself and make a little money ... but only if the payroll expenses are picked up on the print side. I'm sure that will change ... and maybe brighter minds than mine will find a way to accelerate the process. In any case, if you come across some examples, let me know. Maybe I'll show them to my publisher to encourage additional online investments.

    -- potter

  12. Let's have a blogger bathrobe fashion show to raise $$ for starving bloggers. We can auction off the bathrobes and donate the money to the Thomas Merton Center which hosts us...

  13. 1. Well, if you take the top two examples at the Vanguard of our field (Sullivan and Wonkette) and disqualify them for some reason, then yes it will be harder to illustrate my point.

    2. I think the economic difference between the two fields is partially one of laziness. I'm sure if you took a hot-ass advertising sales rep and put them on the task of selling space on a blog for a week, two weeks, by week three she'd have figured out a way to keep her feet in leather boots, assuming the content was living up to its end, which I'm saying it can.

    3. You don't invite auto mechanics to work on your helicopter, unless you just want to display that you OWN a helicopter and show it off once in a while by spinning the blades. If you'd like to get in that thing and use it for travel, commerce, or combat, you want someone who has devoted their career to helicopters, because they are different machines with different subtleties.

    4. Really, it's a matter of whether or not you think there is such a thing as excellence in blogging, or if it's all just transient crap the kids will probably lap up anyway. I realize this puts folks like me maybe 10-15 years ahead of our time, and I'm fine with that.

  14. 5. Also, I'll grant that in order to develop an audience in a brand new market, it would help if news org started off with a splash of publicity -- in the print publication, on billboards and buses, on talk shows and at special events. Doesn't need to happen that way, but sometimes new things need support.

  15. ALSO also, if you're going to talk about a Time Magazine approach, they didn't get into blogging until they elected to pick up the cherry blogger on top of the blogging world's pyramid, in order give their print-journalist-led venture plenty of guidance and street cred.

    I'd argue that is different than the Early Returns approach, which is to put as little effort as possible into an infrequently updated blog that mostly sucks.

  16. Well, if you take the top two examples at the Vanguard of our field (Sullivan and Wonkette) and disqualify them for some reason

    I'm not "disqualifying" them, but Wonkette is the ONLY (former) blogger I see in the Time page, and Andrew Sullivan is the ONLY blogger I see on the Atlantic. So it's hard to square that with your claim that these are "three magazines that have multiple and celebrated bloggers." See? And like I said, I'm mainly interested in the local markets anyway, which face special challenges online. (Not least of which the fact that local advertisers are less likely to invest heavily in the kinds of rich-media ads that support national brands like Time-Warner-AOL-Disney-Fox-GE Corp.)

    And I never thought I'd see the day when I'd rise to the defense of my sales department, but ... suggesting laziness is the problem here is ridiculous. Nationwide, print ads made up more than $10 billion in newspaper revenue last year. Online ads made up less than a tenth of that -- about $600 million. Do you think that's because of some sort of nationwide epidemic of lazy sales reps? Or could it be that the online ad market is still in its infancy?

    Of course, $600 million is nothing to sneeze at, and the growth online is rapid, while print revenue has been stagnant. Like I said from the outset, I'm sure the change is coming. But for the time being, this is an industry-wide problem. Much as I like to blame the sales staff for all my problems (and much as they like to blame me for all of theirs), the issue is so much bigger than that.

    -- potter

  17. Correction: I garbled two sets of numbers I was looking at re: advertising revenue,.and partially edited out the first one, resulting in a bad figure. The sales totals were for the first quarter of 2006, not all of last year. Apologies.

  18. The "laziness" I was referring to was a laziness of imagination -- to experiment, to find angles to sell, product placement in the content, blogger-written advertisements (much like talk radio hosts), contests, sponsored features, et cetera. I didn't mean to call your sales staff lazy. I meant to call them tarts.

    Also, I might have been playing games with "multiple and celebrated", but I also assumed that some of those other people had to be blogging specialists, or at least are operating that way now.

  19. product placement in the content, blogger-written advertisements

    Judas priest, man, don't give them any ideas. That'd be an ethical disaster. The rules that govern radio folks are totally different from the rules governing print. And that's the thing I would least want to change. We run American Apparel ads and worse, so it's not like I'm claiming any sort of purity here. But this would be a nightmare.

    -- potter

  20. Does American Apparel sell bathrobes? I can't stop talking about bathrobes today ...

  21. You see, Potter? You can cash your checks from American Apparel, and meanwhile turn around and sell City Paper's own apparel from the Bram Reichbaum line of Social Justice Sleepwear. I can be at work at 8:00 AM Monday.

  22. I see what you're saying now about MySpace, Ms. Mon, and I was just thinking about Facebook. And yes, Ms. Mon yes on Facebook the users are DEFINITELY being exploited. It is one of the pillars of the reasons that Facebook has an ill feel.

  23. Yeah, right ... it's you techies what are doing the exploitin'!