The Impossible Economics of Freelance Blogging

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89 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    I don’t think side gig is that bad of model for bloggers. Especially in these days where many expert types blog, having then offer analysis and opinion related to there day job is a good thing. We don’t need dedicated bloggers for most things when people who are reporters or writers can add on some blogging to what they already do. Blogging itself is not the most value rich product to make money off of: short bits of analysis and opinion are not exactly gold. They may be good and useful but there is plenty of it around. Certainly magazines can have a set of bloggers which gives them some support but its really hard to see how many people can really make a living off of just blogging.Report

  2. Avatar j r says:

    Blogging looks like it is going to be a side-gig or hobby from now on unless someone can attach themselves to a larger media organization.

    When I compare the quality of content that I get from professional bloggers to what I read from hobbyists – both in terms of original reporting and interesting analysis, I will say that this does not bother me one bit.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    One of the other functions that blogs provide, particularly blogs that are (directly or indirectly) multi-person operations, is that of content aggregator. A blogger may be only so-so at analysis most of the time, but have an excellent eye for recognizing important things written by others. Or even just the time to read everything put up by the NY Times. For example, on many days Mark Thoma puts up an entry that is simply a list of links to pieces he (or people he trusts) thinks are interesting. No remarks a la Linky Friday, simply the title and author. “Trusted filter” is an important job given the firehose that is the internet, but is also hard to monetize.Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I must confess that I take Sully hanging up the blog a little bit hard because I’d always sort of hoped that it would be possible for at least someone to be able to make a reasonable living doing this. Maybe not me, but if someone was able to do it, that meant that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to do it myself. And how much more fun would it be to blog all day long instead of working at a day job like a sucka? Alas, it looks like we’ll all have to continue pursuing our regular jobs after all.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Honestly, I kept waiting for you or Rtod (or Trumwill) to be asked to guest blog during one of his vacations.

      It’s like losing Culture11 again.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

        Heh. Do you think I’ve got the interns, too?Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’m utterly stricken. There was the initial despair, then the hope, now the despair again.
        Setting aside Sully’s commentary which I’m fond of and have grown accustomed to over near a decade; where the bloody fish am I going to find that level of useful aggregation?
        Is there another Sullivan like site out there? I don’t have the time/inclination really to comb through multiple subject specific blogs. I really would love to have the aggregation. I even offered to up my subscription.

        Objectively I understand why he thinks it can’t work but emotionally I feel like a bloody net orphan. At least I still have OT but it doesn’t do what the Dish does.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I’ve been blogging for six or seven years now and spent countless hours thinking about the blogging community, so take this for what you will. In my opinion it breaks down into three broad camps: 1) Amateur journalists 2) Platform builders 3) Essayists

    The first camp are the people who love breaking stories, doing in-depth analysis, writing long-form articles. Tod has dabbled in this on the site here and elsewhere. These types of bloggers are usually motivated because they want to get in to mainstream journalism or they believe in the concept of an independent press. They usually make their money by running ads related to their content on their site or by selling articles to larger sites to fund their other work.

    The second camp are often people who found a niche by accident and their site exploded. I’m thinking people like The Pioneer Woman, Young House Love and Michael Hyatt. These are the stories we all tell each other might happen to us. How do you make it happen? With a LOT of experimentation, luck and perseverance. If you hit one of these gold mines the sky is really the limit. The couple at Young House Love aren’t even blogging anymore but they built so much material up at their site that they continue to collect a tidy little income from ads. The trick to platform building is to create a product. That product might just be you, but you have to be able to monetize it.

    The last group is basically most of us here. It’s people who are opinionated and want to share that opinion with the rest of the world. At the professional level this is David Brooks, Ross Douthat, E.J. Dionne, etc. Basically, go to one of the big newspapers’ websites and see who is listed under ‘Opinion’. This is the hardest area to make any money at and also the most frustrating. Why? Because we all think our opinions are brilliant and that the world should want to pay us for them. The only way I see to make money there is to do a group site (hint, hint – like this one) and hope that the sheer mass of it will attract attention, then advertising.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Agreed about the benefits of a group site. A good site needs a high flow rate of original content to attract paying customers, too high a rate for one person to produce. A dozen part-timers, maybe.Report

  6. Avatar zic says:

    Personally, I think there’s a vast, unexplored gulf of potential for blogging — citizen reporting. Yeah, some people do it. But most people simply regurgitate some link found somewhere and add their 2-cents; and that’s mostly not really adding of value except dissemination.

    I’d like to see the basic how-to’s of original reporting taught in school. I’d like to see more people doing just that; going out, collecting facts, and presenting them as actual news; and with whatever opinions they might hold on the topic, if included at all, clearly delineated as ‘my view.’

    I’ve thought a lot writing a series on how to be a citizen reporter. Reporting does not require going to J-school; it required informing oneself about 1) how to separate your opinion from your topic, 2) collecting information about your topic to the best of your abilities, 3) organizing that into a logical written piece. The biggest thing is #2, btw, learning where to find information and sources. And the biggest obstacle is that people now think it’s okay to talk to the press but not to citizens. Back in Ben F.’s day, reporters were citizens with access to a printing press. We have a new press, it’s time for an age of new citizen reporting. Just need a bit more of the how-to thrown into the mix.

    If anyone’s interested in a few posts on how-to, let me know. I sorta never thought there’s be much inclination to avail oneself of it.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to zic says:

      Zic,

      The biggest concern I have about citizen reporting is accountability. Newspapers get stuff wrong plenty of the time but they have an ombudsman that is supposed to keep them on track.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I’ve thought of that, but it’s sort-of a meep-meep problem; when you write wrong stuff, the people who you write wrong stuff about generally respond. Believe me, I know.

        And I think this gives wayyyyyyyyyy to much credit for newspaper/network accountability; only the most egregious ever get corrected, and the corrections almost never are as widely spread as the mis-reporting.

        But more importantly, a strong culture of citizen reporting would, in fact, help consumers of news be better at analyzing misinformation, I think. An editor once told me the essence of good reporting is verifying. If you, your very own self, had that in your thought process and a tool in your tool book, when you stumbled upon faulty reporting, you would feel it within your means to verify and correct the record. Goes back to point #2 — how does one get information?

        Take the debate on vaccines and the religious exemptions. Turns out that there are very, very few religions that actually prohibit vaccines. But the meme that it’s common amongst some sects is the conventional wisdom. But even the Amish and Christian Scientists don’t forbid it. Someone reported that on a blog. http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/religions-state-vaccines/Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Okay – so let’s talk logistics. Let’s say that John Doe entrepreneur puts up $10 million to create some kind of community reporting website. Within that site there are all sorts of sub-sites for communities all over the country. Does anyone oversee this? Are the citizen reporters vetted? Is there any kind of editorial control? Who is responsible if someone files a defamation suit? It seems like a recipe for implosion sooner or later.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Let’s say that John Doe entrepreneur puts up $10 million to create some kind of community reporting website.

        You mean like people already have done, resulting in platforms like WordPress? Blogger? Tumblr?

        Does anyone oversee this? Are the citizen reporters vetted?

        You over-estimate the amount of vetting that goes on in the Freelance news market, hugely. Yes, editorial standards are nice; but not necessarily essential. What’s lacking is reporting standards (which aren’t that difficult to learn) amongst the would-be writers of news. We teach how to write a 5-paragraph essay and research papers and lab reports in school; the basics of reporting aren’t any more difficult to teach.

        Who is responsible if someone files a defamation suit?

        I never was an employee, protected by my publisher. Freelancers are always responsible for defamation. You write it, you own it, including responsibility for it’s content.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Mike,
        Okay. let’s take a real life example: DailyKos.
        Everyone writes posts, some are actually quality reporting (some are discussions, some are mindless drivel).
        Everything gets read by the moderators, but mostly with a REALLY light hand (no obviously racist bull, no obvious plagiarism, no obvious “this is really wrong”).

        People who read something comment on it, and if it’s inaccurate, people are likely to note that.
        Sure, sometimes scurillous gossip gets to the top, but people do start kvetching about that as well. And the bigger a post gets, the more likely real fact-checking is to happen.

        People post about gas explosions that they heard, and then drove out to photograph.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        So if we already have the model (free blogging platforms) and people willing to do the job and no need for editorial oversight…how is that different than what we have today? What am I missing? Some classroom time?Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Mike,
        I know a guy in PR. All he has to do is send in news articles to get them published (under someone else’s byline.) Business writers are lazy.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @mike-dwyer

        Reporting is built on a few things that we don’t do a good job of teaching children.

        1) Public records — what information is out there, is public, and how do I access it? How do I file a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act request)?

        2) If I’m writing about someone, I need to at least attempt to talk to them, and I need to report what they say in a way that’s representative of what they say or that I tried to reach them but couldn’t.

        3) In the piece I write, I source things; I say where I got this particular bit of information so that I’ve shown I’ve verified my writing and so that others can check it out themselves;

        4) If I’m expressing an opinion, I make that clear; be it mine or anothers; an opinion is not a fact, and should be presented as such.

        5) The basics of who, where, what, and when matter; why is good to go after, but not always possible.

        6) Most of what we think we know as truth isn’t. See the studies of news after Columbine.

        7) Your best protection against libel is talk to the person you’re writing about if at all possible.

        8) Take the time to understand your topic. Laws, for instance, don’t necessarily mean what common-language reading of their language suggests. Take the time to research it if you’re not sure. (I learned this the hard way. Assess, once upon a time, included adding properties to the tax rolls; not just determining their values; the law written to require assessing every 10 years in my state referred to adding them to the rolls, and was often interpreted to requiring property values be reassessed every 10 years. If you’re writing about something that’s using specialized jargon, question all the terms so that you don’t screw up.

        9) Statistics matter, if you don’t understand statistics, make sure you run your interpretation of something based on statistical study by someone who does understand, pref. the people who actually did the study.

        10) Editors are good; and relationships where people edit each others work are terrific. Editing isn’t just about picking stories and laying out a page, it’s about the copy and content and dangling modifiers and spelling and consistent usage. Use a style guide if you don’t have an editor. I like APs, it’s the most common, and readers are comfortable with it.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        zic,
        I’d love it if someone was going to write a decent course on Forensic Accounting.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I guess I’m curious what the *point* of blogging is. What purpose does it serve? I realize that may seem like a strange question to ask from someone who is a blogger of sorts, but it seems that we use blogging as a catch-all for a number of things (as @mike-dwyer discusses above) and that perhaps we really need to look at the different categories of digital ink differently.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @zic

        Okay – so let’s assume that modern high school journalism classes are not teaching those things. So we improve the curriculum. Then what? Do we make these classes mandatory? Doe journalism become a until within an English class? Keep in mind, I’m someone who likes mandatory classes like civics and home economics. I just don’t find journalism to be something we should require everyone to engage in.

        So is it that simple? Teach better journalism to the people who want to pursue it and encourage people to do it for little or no compensation but instead out of a sense of civic responsibility?Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @kazzy “I guess I’m curious what the *point* of blogging is. What purpose does it serve?”

        I think part of the reason this question gets asked so much online, Kaz, is that the inter tubes have always taken themselves a wee bit more seriously than they should. It isn’t enough to be data and information and entertainment, the people on the internet have always wanted to see themselves as some kind of Changer of History and Ushers of a New Utopia. (Sullivan more than anyone was guilty of this, IMHO.)

        But at the end of the day, blogging is just writing. That’s all it is, and that’s all it ever was.

        What is the point of writing? What purpose dies writing serve?

        The answer to those questions are the same as the answers to the ones you posed.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        so let’s assume that modern high school journalism classes are not teaching those things

        How many schools have journalism classes? (Not many.)

        English classes. This should be taught, at least in basic form, as part of English classes. In particular, it pushes against the ‘make it longer’ problem, too; because here, the essence of good reporting is often getting it shorter.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Mike,
        personally, I think teaching basic research/economy of words is far better than doing three paragraph essays.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @mike-dwyer I firmly believe that teaching people how to report news helps them be better consumers of news, too. It encourages skepticism and helps you learn to withhold judgment until you have more information.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @tod-kelly

        I was thinking about how, 30 years ago, we had exactly zero paid bloggers and today we have some amount of paid bloggers and yet we fret that last year we might have had more.

        I’m glad the internet has given more people (including myself!) a venue by which they can have their writing read. And given more people (including myself!!!) access to others’ writings. That is undeniably good. But the reality is there simply isn’t as much of a demand for writing that most people are going to make a living doing it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @kazzy

        “What is the point of blogging?”

        One could also also ask what is the point of making silly videos for YouTube or that crazy guy named Mike Dwyer who enters his pimento cheese in the state fair every year hoping for a blue ribbon and a check for $10. We all have our passions. Blogging is a pretty awesome hobby when you don’t take it too seriously. Sometimes you can make money at it. Most of the time you can’t. The problem is when we aren’t content with the former because we desperately want to do the latter. It’s even harder when we see our co-bloggers start to cash checks. I wrote one piece last year for a site for $50. I thought it was the first of many, many paid gigs. Still waiting for the next one.

        Jon Acuff was very wise about this. He said to ask yourself, “What thing would I continue to do if I never made a dime doing it and no one besides me ever cared about it?” That’s both a way to maybe find your dream job but also a really good way to determine the few hobbies you can hang your free time on.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @kazzy That is absolutely true, and obviously it is also nothing new.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @mike-dwyer

        My apologies if I implied that blogging is pointless or without a value. Rather, I was trying to get at the heart of what purpose — what role — does blogging serve today. When we understand that, we can then begin to think about what blogging should look like. Blogging as a hobby is wonderful for any number of reasons — many of which are enjoyed by people other than the blogger himself.

        I’m just not sure why we are fretting over the reality about making a living off blogging but not other hobbies.

        You hunt. And I’d be surprised if you ever made any money off it. In fact, you probably lay out some money in order to do it. And while you may realize economic benefits in the form of free(ish) food, the reality is you hunt because you love it and it provides you non-economic value. There probably exist some small set of people who can use their hunting skills to make real money. Perhaps winning contests or taking people out on hunting expeditions and the like. But this would make up a mere fraction of the people who hunt. Even if many hobbyists harbor some hope of one day being among that set of people. Yet no one (at least, no one I’ve ever come across), has ever said, “Oh, no! John is hanging up his rifle! He’s giving up hunting for a living! What does this mean about the future of hunting!!!” I mean, this title says it all. Why are we calling it ‘freelance blogging’? Call it what it is… a hobby that a small set of people are good enough at to make money.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @tod-kelly

        What’s new is that this legion of amateur writers can make their frustrations known to the world at large! BLOGGING LIVES!!!Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I guess I’m curious what the *point* of blogging is. What purpose does it serve?

        Cheaper than therapy.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Kazzy,
        You haven’t ever met someone who hunts for food? (as in, literally, doesn’t make enough to do otherwise?).Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @kazzy Going one step further with this thought:

        I think this “internet utopia” thing is also the issue with the whole “sponsored content” issue.

        I’ve never relayed a problem with sponsored content, assuming that it was identified as such (as opposed to someone like Aaron Park) because that tradeoff has always been what’s been required, be it with magazines, newspapers, TV or radio. It’s less that ideal and it has certainly led to less than perfect choices of what things to run or report, but it’s also always been necessary.

        I think the reason it’s become such an issue on the internet is that people on the internet had somehow convinced themselves that because the medium was new and emerging that somehow none of the universal laws of business applied to it.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @tod-kelly

        I think it also has to do with what we choose to romanticize. I heard an interesting conversation wherein one party argued that the Kardashians traded their pride and dignity for dollars. The other party said that this has always been the case: people have routinely done jobs they otherwise would have rather not done for a paycheck. The latter party discussed his father and how he did manual labor and sacrificed a certain dignity because he had to do things he would rather not have done and put up with shit he rather would not have had to put up with in order to get paid. The former person — who had a background in labor — said that this was categorically different from the Kardashians who just did a bunch of dumb shit to get paid.

        To me, it seemed that the former party was romanticizing a field close to him and thus saw it as pure in a way that he didn’t seem something foreign to him.

        So I think you are spot on with what you say and I think it gets at this idea of romanticizing things. They balk at sponsored content on blogs but do not apply the same animosity to other forms of sponsored content because blogging is special… different… unique.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to zic says:

      zic,
      I’d love to see something like this posted up on DailyKos.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kimmi says:

        I haven’t used my dkos account in seven or eight years; I stopped for good reason (site too partisan, creeped me out,) and I have no intention of starting up again there. None whatsoever.

        I quit it because of incredible anti-business bias, and have absolutely no interest in re-building the credibility necessary to be successful there. I couldn’t build that credibility, I’d be incredibly critical of much of the most-valued group think, which isn’t so much liberal as tribal. Some good stuff, and some terrific writers have used it as a springboard, but it’s much to uncritical and unaware of its own shortcomings to be a community I’m at all comfortable participating in on a regular basis.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

        zic,
        last time I was on it seriously was around the Gulf Oil Spill, when they had competent industry experts sweating bullets with the rest of us.

        When kos is cloudcuckoolander, it’s really crazy. When it’s not, well, it can honestly get some good reporting from people who know better than most reporters (subject matter experts).Report

  7. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Read some of Charlie Stross’s screeds on the business of writing and publishing novels. As I recall, he estimates the number of authors who “make a living” out of such writing in the low hundreds in the English-speaking world (and only a handful who become rich at it). Most are people with another source of income: spouse, retirement, non-writing day jobs, paid writing gigs that aren’t fiction.

    I admit that I am regularly awed by the volume of stuff some of you with day jobs produce here.Report

    • Avatar morat20 in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Go visit fanfiction.net. 🙂 You’d be even MORE amazed.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Michael,
      I sincerely doubt that. Don’t they still have stables of ghostwriters for stuff like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys?

      I figure there are probably at least a hundred writers in scifi alone who make a living out of being an author (I’ve seen the “Feed the Author” pages). And there’s probably at least quadruple that in romance….

      Note: I’m discounting spouses who are forming less than half of the household budget. That’s not -really- another source of income.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kimmi says:

        Don’t they still have stables of ghostwriters for stuff like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys?

        That’s a good question on multiple levels. The Hardy Boys have always been ghost written; in the early days, it was often a side gig for newspaper reporters. Then there’s the level of what to call someone who grinds out a dozen books a year using someone else’s characters and plot as piece work. I met a guy once who wrote bodice rippers — as I recall his description was along the lines of “It’s a job. It pays the bills. But it’s about as creative as auto repair.”

        It would be fun to see Alan Dean Foster’s revenue breakdown. How much does he make writing novels with his own characters and story, how much for screenplay novelizations, and how much for cranking out Star Trek and Star Wars series books?Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain says:

      @michael-cain

      Where do academics/teaching come into this? There are lots of well-respected published novelists who have academic day jobs in English and Writing departments around the United States.

      I would personally consider someone a working artist or writer even if they did teach classes.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        If you earn most of your money as a teacher, you’re not a writer. You’re a teacher, and you might as well take the standard writerly advice, “get a job.” (The Idea being: you ought to write what you know, and getting a job gets you exposure to a lot of things).

        It’s only the visual/sculptural artists (as opposed to the narrative ones) that don’t get this advice.

        I’ve read scifi stories that went into EXHAUSTIVE detail about how to make an irish coffee. You could TELL the guy had either bartended, or had paid a bartender to write part of the story.Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I”m not sure I understand this new concern. Has there been an assumption up until now that blogging was someday going to turn into a somewhat commonly profitable business venture? That it is *unlikely* that you will be able to support yourself and your family blogging is — and always has been — true. That being said, the idea that no one can make money doing it, I think, requires the same kind of ignoring of reality as the idea that everyone can.

    The thought that Andrew Sullivan proves you can’t make money blogging is somewhat silly: He did it for almost two decades. His most current incarnation of The Dish has had revenues of between half a million and a million dollars a year. He isn’t shutting it down because of money; he’s shutting it down because of his health and because he’s burned out. And after 15+ years doing the same thing day after day, who wouldn’t be?

    (Side note: Another reason I suspect Sully is hanging up his hat is because, as a writer, I don’t know how satisfying a legacy being a aggregator of other writers’ content would be. The notices he’s made that I have read have all said he wants to do some other kind of writing, and as someone who blogs primarily so that he can write this makes perfect sense to me.)

    Beyond Sully, however, there are a bunch of people who have blogs or quasi-blogs that make money; you just haven’t heard of most of them. I read the internet a lot these days, including aggregators like the Dish, and two of the biggest blogs I have come across (YarnHarlot and SmittenKitchen) are things I would never, ever have heard of if my wife hadn’t stumbled upon them looking for very specific niche things.

    The thing I have noticed, however, is that when *most* people want to be successful bloggers they don’t want to be like the women who started those two blogs. I wrote a post a while back that talked about how most people I’ve met who regret not being able to play music professionally don’t actually want to play music professionally; they want to be a rock star, which is a very different thing. Writing for the internet seems to be the same. I know a hell of a lot of writers who spend the majority of their their time on Twitter, trying to engage/enrage more famous bloggers, and writing things designed to get clicks because what they really want to be isn’t a writer, it’s a degree of fame. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but at the same time being famous on the internet isn’t the same as being a professional writer or blogger.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Being a Z-List celebrity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
      Just ask Channel Awesome.

      “I have fans! I have Fans! I Can’t WAIT to meet them!”
      More experienced, deliberately non-famous person, “Just Wait Until you do meet them…”Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      “I know a hell of a lot of writers who spend the majority of their their time on Twitter, trying to engage/enrage more famous bloggers, and writing things designed to get clicks because what they really want to be isn’t a writer, it’s a degree of fame. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but at the same time being famous on the internet isn’t the same as being a professional writer or blogger.”

      This.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      @tod-kelly

      Here is the reason why I think it is somewhat concerning. We are losing places for writers to really cut their teeth especially journalists.

      You used to become a journalist by starting in a small market and covering stuff like school board meetings. Emily Bazaleon started her journalist career at small newspaper in the East Bay. These avenues are drying up and dying. So people need to blog but that doesn’t pay the bills either anymore and Sullivan did blog for 14 years but most of that time he was connected to major media outlets with deepish (or at least deeper) pockets. He couldn’t make it as an independent venture.

      I also have a lot of sympathy and compassion for people in artistic careers because of my background and this goes into my ideal world/real world conundrums. People (especially neo-liberals and libertarians) talk about a post-work utopia where people can dedicate themselves to art, learning, and knowledge but we also like to relentlessly mock those who try to dedicate their lives to such pursuits now and laugh at anyone who though of considering an M.F.A. I find this odd.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        How many young artists have you patronized? Who are you giving your money to? Do they have a website? A list of people that you think “hey, this guy is making freaking amazing art and you can see some pictures of it, or watch a youtube of it, or listen to an MP3 of it here” would be helpful. (Maybe we will like them enough to buy something from them.)

        If you don’t have any young artists that you patronize, I think that you may have more insight into why people don’t give money to people in artistic careers than you’re communicating.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I laugh at MFAs, not because I don’t think that education is a good thing in the arts, but because I don’t think most people get it at upper-level university. And, pardon my ignorance, but I don’t think an MFA is free (PhD in physics is essentially “free with stipend”).Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @saul-degraw

        “We are losing places for writers to really cut their teeth especially journalists. You used to become a journalist by starting in a small market and covering stuff like school board meetings.”

        Maybe, but I doubt it. I’m not convinced that covering school board meetings for five years is something you need to do to figure out how to become a good journalist. And even if it is, I don’t know that it has anything to do with blogging. That a thousand people with a pixel-microphone can vent and give us their personal opinions in ALLCAPS may or may not be good for society, but it was never good journalism. There are some exceptions, obviously, but the people I see who have springboarded from blogging to network/cable news, print media, or web news sites are overwhelmingly terrible, terrible, terrible journalists.

        “He couldn’t make it as an independent venture.”

        He had revenues of between half a million and a million dollars. Of course he could make it.

        “People (especially neo-liberals and libertarians) talk about a post-work utopia where people can dedicate themselves to art, learning, and knowledge but we also like to relentlessly mock those who try to dedicate their lives to such pursuits now and laugh at anyone who though of considering an M.F.A. I find this odd.”

        I don’t. I have found that when most people say things like that, what they really mean is that they want to be able to do that.

        Show me a room filled with 100 bloggers who want lament that they aren’t paid for what they write, and I’ll show you a room where 95 of those bloggers were rooting hard for Andrew Sullivan to fail.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Oh, and I forgot this:

        “Sullivan did blog for 14 years but most of that time he was connected to major media outlets with deepish (or at least deeper) pockets.”

        This is different from writing and journalism throughout human history how, exactly?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @saul-degraw

        “We are losing places for writers to really cut their teeth…”

        I disagree pretty strongly with that. WordPress says they have about 74.6 million sites. In fact, I just checked and for the bargain price of $0 you can have http://www.sauldegraw.wordpress.com. That’s how I started out and believe me, I am glad I had that site with its readership of 25 loyal fans (about half of whom I was related to) where I could start to learn this craft that I am still working really hard to figure out.

        If what you really mean is “We are losing places that someone else has built where a new writer can jump on board and get exposure to a bigger audience,” well then I would direct you to our guest posting policy here and our site statistics. You know how many people we reach and I believe you took advantage of the guest posting opportunities here (just like I did) before we were both regular contributors. There are lots and lots of sites out there just as willing to pay it forward. It’s how the blogging community works on its best days.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        What am I missing? Yes, we are losing newspapers and that affects the demand for journalists. What is the exact connection with blogging though?

        All the successful bloggers that I am aware of either had day jobs, worked for big media companies, or were independently wealthy. Was there ever a point where young people starting out in writing or journalism could support themselves by blogging?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        “I also have a lot of sympathy and compassion for people in artistic careers because of my background…”

        It seems you are remiss that others do not share your sympathy or compassion.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @j-r it is to your advantage to have a reporter sitting in the room when there’s a public hearing on some government activity. Do you have any idea how rarely this happens? Most of the time, it’s the legislators and a few interested lobbyists.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Saul, neoliberals and libertarians talk about people doing art full time as an answer to the question of what people would do in a post scarcity society. We’re not in one now so people trying to make a living in those fields have a difficult row to hoe. You also don’t find neolibs or libertarians mocking, so much, people seeking to make a living in those fields or follow esoteric high degrees in those fields as you find them/us mocking the idea that people doing those things should be subsidized or should be entitled to lucrative salaries. I repeat: we’re not in a post scarcity world yet. Sorry.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @zic

        @j rit is to your advantage to have a reporter sitting in the room when there’s a public hearing on some government activity. Do you have any idea how rarely this happens?

        Huh? My comment was about Saul’s comments about bloggers. Saul’s comment was from the point of view as blogging as a way of developing young writers and journalists, not from the point of view of wondering who is going to do the reporting.

        The latter issue is separate and I’m not sure what the end of The Dish has to do with it.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @j-r I’m think I caused unnecessary confusion in my reply, which should probably have been to the general conversation.

        Blogging as a platform to train writers, to my mind, isn’t much different from gigging at the local bar to train musicians. My complaint here has been that blogging hasn’t really adopted the habits of journalism; there is some, of course, but mostly it’s been about re-sharing original content or opinion as original content, not actual journalism; generating news in the place where you live. Much of what the press (newspapers, local TV/Radio news) used to do isn’t done anymore; there’s no body in the room to report back. For bloggers, this actually would potentially be a stream of income. I can easily see how I could earn income from reporting on events at my state capitol, if I lived close enough to make that possible.

        There aren’t nearly as many reporters as there used to be, and much of what happens (particularly in government, but not only) goes unreported while we focus on really big national stories or local stories that become national. That the newspapers surviving (though not necessarily thriving) still independent of large corporate media tend to be local weeklies even as independent dailies die out is indicative of the need for local reporting; and blogging that has a habit of reporting, which seems mostly missing to me, would be a great benefit to people and help some writers actually earn money, like some musicians, building an audience and providing worthwhile stuff.Report

  9. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    @kazzy

    No offense taken. I understood that to be you playing devil’s advocate (or, as I like to say it, you threw another of Kazzy’s Question Grenades). I agree 100% that this wringing of hands seems unnecessary.

    As for making money hunting… other than professional guides, television hosts and hunting bloggers, yeah, I lose a significant amount of money every year. The dollars per pound of meat I bring home is obscene. I could seriously eat like a king if I spent that much on everything in my freezer. Obviously I do it for the pleasure of it (I would call it more than a hobby – but that is a question of perspective). So I agree again that for 99.999% of bloggers this will never be more than a fun hobby and we should be okay with that.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      @mike-dwyer

      Kazzy’s Question Grenades! Egads! My reputation… is 100% accurate! :-p

      I debated referring to it as your “passion” rather than “hobby” but figured better to let you self-identify what it means for you. But, yes, we should be okay with people engaging in that which they find value in.

      There is also a strange bit of entitlement that seems to be creeping in, which I think is what @tod-kelly is getting at in his response above. “What do you mean I can’t make money blogging???” Who the eff ever told you you could?

      Sidenote: I’m surprised to learn about the economics of hunting. I’d have thought that one could make it financially worthwhile but it sounds like just the opposite is true. I, for one, would be interested in a post exploring this and learning more about the economics.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:

        Ah – hunting economics. Lots to be said on that front. I will take that under advisement.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

        Kazzy,
        I’m pretty sure that it’s fishing that makes the big bucks (say $90 a day, gross if you’re pulling the limit on trout).
        Still, at 72 lbs per buck, you’re looking at $500+ gross income. I think deer hunting is a lot more profitable than birding.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:

        There are some people who are paid sharp-shooters that cull deer herds in certain areas. ‘Market hunting’ was made illegal in 1918 and for good reason. It caused the extinction of at least one native species and nearly a dozen more. No one hunts deer for meat to be sold commercially. The FDA won’t allow that. If you see venison on a menu in a restaurant it was farm-raised. If you buy buckskin, it was also farm-raised.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        @mike-dwyer

        They do deer culling where I work, but that is because the fences erected to create the original game preserve were really effective: they keep the animals in!Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy suburbia is deer utopia, except for the cars. Yes, culling works. Most places no longer have a predator that preys on deer. Around here, a winter with deep snow, and they starve to death.Report

  10. Avatar North says:

    Well I am posting this as an open bleg: does anyone have a site to suggest to replace/stand in for the Dish? Good frequent aggregation is one of the principle desires, interesting opinion and arguement would be nice too of course.Report