Clive Thompson's "Blogs to Riches" (New York Magazine, 2.20.06) was met by deafening silence among the "A-list" bloggers mentioned and/or profiled in the article. I wonder if some of the more left-oriented bloggers (Atrios, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos, Crooks and Liars) feel guilty about making money and are afraid to publically acknowledge the fact that the new media has become a lot like the old media (like it or not, they've become their own version of The Kewl Kidz of the Beltway).
As a lowly C-list blogger, (D-list is more likely, seeing as there are over 27 million blogs out there), I often ask myself, "Why the hell do I blog?" Blogging is harder than it might seem if for no other reason than the (self-imposed) demand to continually post something new, brilliant and witty (all three of which I usually fail spectacularly at). Then there is the knowledge that I'm more or less blogging in a void in which a relatively small number of visitors actually read, watch or listen to what I do.
So, the answer to my "why blog" question always harks back to the original three reasons for starting a blog in the first place: 01) To share things I love (music, film, TV, weird stuff, websites, etc.) with family, friends and (hopefully interesting) strangers; 02) To do my small part in helping to defeat George W. Bush in 2004 (I began blogging in September of '04) which has morphed into doing my small part to defeat the policies of George W. Bush which has morphed into doing my small part to simply add to the screaming and banging one's head against the wall; and 03) To have a completely uncensored creative outlet (I work in the TV promotion business which, believe it or not, has a lot of rules. For instance, the word "fuck" is frowned upon).
All three of these reasons feel very personal to me and, at the time I started, I naively thought blogging was as personal as it got. But, with the emergence of companies like Gawker Media and Weblogs Inc., the personal for many in the blogging community has given way to the profitable. Of course, it's easy to see why people would be seduced by the idea of actually making money from doing something they loved (what a concept!), but I think the concept gets a little sticky when politics are involved.
In Thompson's article, Elizabeth Spiers, a professional blogger who first found fame at Gawker.com, describes her own about-to-be- launched blog empire as something that will "be more like the mainstream media, really....Blogging is increasingly becoming a survival of the fittest..." But is that what the original bloggers intended or was it something more communal and democratic? The idea of selling your diary entries does seem perverse but once blogs went from "I drunk-dialed my ex-girlfriend last night" to "AndrewSullivan.com needs your support more than ever. Online ads pay for only a tiny fraction of our expenses; reader contributions are still our most important source of income," well, obviously, the paradigm had shifted permanently (See? 9/11 really did change everything).
As a lefty political blogger, I always thought that "we were all in this together" but I've learned that that simply is not always the case. At first I had the good luck of being linked to by bloggers that inspired me to start blogging in the first place, notably World o' Crap and The Rude Pundit (still probably the best, most consistent and funniest political bloggers out there). I also had the good and bad luck of being linked to by both Wonkette and Andrew Sullivan on the same day for a video post of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in "Spin Alley" -- good because the traffic was unbelievable; bad because the traffic was so unbelievable that it literally shut down my web host for the better part of the day (trust me, the best way to lose traffic is to have visitors come up empty when trying to access your page).
It's been all downhill, as far as links go, from there. It's admittedly frustrating but it's sooooo not the end of the world for me. I still blog because I enjoy it. It's just that, every once in awhile, I post something that I wish more people could see or enjoy (for example, my "Best of 2005" music post: I assumed that people would be clamoring for 80 minutes of free music. Silly me). What really gets me though is the sometimes lofty attitude that has formed among some of the more popular bloggers. Many have actually written lengthy, snotty posts about other not-as-successful bloggers who have the nerve to troll for links (guilty as charged but how do they think they themselves got popular in the first place?).
Probably the worst example of the high and mighty attitude for me was when I had the audacity to ask a certain political video blogger how he embedded his videos on his webpage. Here is his exact response:
Thats for you to figure out. lol very tricky and cost a lot of money. I'm still not happy yet, but everyone is stealing our idea to host video and even in some cases stealimg the video outright or linking to our server and not to the site., so we have to keep it as secret as possible.Pretty fucking hilarious, right? "That's for you to figure out." I felt like writing back "I know you are but what am I" but resisted and just wrote back, "Oh well, I thought we were all in this together" (I'm obviously fond of that thought). The best part of his response, though, was the "everyone is stealing our idea" bit. First of all, I posted videos two months before this assclown. Second of all, I would never presume to have an original idea about anything unless, of course, it was, um, truly original. Blogs like the excellent onegoodmove run by Norm Jenson have been posting videos for quite some time now, well before "Mr. That's For You To Figure Out," and I don't see Norm whining about nasty little blogger thieves (as a matter of fact, I recently e-mailed Norm the same video embedding question and he immediately responded with a how-to e-mail; unfortunately, I'm so un-tech-savvy that I haven't been able to figure it out, but someday...).
The only explanation for the tendency of the new Kewl Kidz to want to shut out the lesser-knowns has to be M-O-N-E-Y money (Liz Phair's "Shitload of Money" happens to be playing right now on my iPod and she happens to spell out the word at the end of the song so it just popped into my head. I'm easily suggestible. The chorus actually begins with: "It's nice to be liked but it's better by far to get paid" -- how appropriate for this little diatribe). I'm pretty sure "Mr. lol" has never linked to onegoodmove and I can only assume that it's because onegoodmove is seen as "competition." Once again (everybody this time): "I thought we were all in this together." Seriously, do you want to defeat the Conservative movement or do you want to make shitloads of money?
I don't expect an answer. Or a link...