Advanced Composition. Tough course, but opened my eyes and keyboard to some new twists to include while I'm writing. If you'd like a gander at my final paper which is relevant to blogging and might be quite TLDNR for most, for others I hope its up to your standards of reading my words here and elsewhere.
Warning! ACHTUNG! CUIDADO! This is not in APA-format so if you require such things and are not my professor, I suggest you ask for an Irish Hot Chocolate next time you're at Starbucks.
On with the show:
Titled: The Future of Blogging: Viable Media Outlet or Online Personal Diary?
Just fourteen years ago a man named Peter Merholz broke up the word “weblog” to bring the world a new era in writing that played off the evolving usage of the internet. Little would people know that random musing on message boards and personal websites would turn into a viable source of journalism and profits. Today, there are over 152 million blogs in existence (Pingdom, 2011) where a person can learn about artificial limbs from a scientist, read the adventures of a first-time mom in suburban Los Angeles, or catch up on the latest video game rankings. But, have blogs become too cumbersome in the newest age of instant news (Twitter and Facebook)? Will they continue to bring debate to an open forum? Will blogs remain a viable way to writers to earn a living? As shown by the amount of major media outlets that continue to drive web-based advertising and hire bloggers, the medium of blogging will continue to a viable route for aspiring journalists, subject matter experts, and amateur writers to get their voices heard and paid for their words.
The road to blogging for money is a long and treacherous one for those wanting to cash in on their labor. Many factors come into play for writers seeking a paycheck or recognition for their contribution towards a certain subject. Being an expert in a certain subject matter is often the road to becoming a paid blogger as search engines such as Google and Yahoo! look for key words and list the webpages according to their importance on the subject at hand. As David Hall from Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Inc. explains “To really understand the methodologies that are used to achieve top rankings, we should first put ourselves in the shoes of the engineers at Google. When a user types a keyword or phrase into the Google search box, that user is requesting that the search engine returns a list of webpages that will provide the answer or information the user is looking for” (Hall, 2011). Hall is explaining the phrase “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear, does it make a noise?” as it pertains to blogging. If no one knows you are writing, does it matter what and how polished your content is? Blogging is not all about drafting the next Hemingway novel, or banging out a 20 page presidential election synopsis, it is about gathering readers to you. Buried within those 152 million blogs may be the next Edward R. Murrow, Einstein, or F. Scott Fitzgerald putting out content that would land the person behind their laptop a Nobel prize or a fat publishing contract, but if no one is attracted to the web site how do you get a start?
This author makes some side cash from a job for an online poker site which employs several bloggers to write wraps (or recaps) for their major tournaments. To get to this point, I spent several years writing about poker for a personal blog with no pay, no advertising dollars, nothing to motive myself except for my love of poker. Then, a small job opened up writing poker content at $5 a post, which was gladly welcomed as my name started to be included in this niche group of poker writers who were also being courted to cover the tournament circuits such as the World Poker Tour, and grandest stage of them all, the two-month long World Series of Poker held in Las Vegas, Nevada each year. Fast forward to today where there are several companies within this small community of gamblers, which employ these writers full-time to travel around the world and cover both live and online tournaments. Another success story would come from local Minneapolis blogger Aaron Gleeman who started AaronGleeman.com back in 2002 as a personal site to muse about his favorite pastime of baseball, and specifically the Minnesota Twins. After showing his expert grasp on the subject as well as entertaining non-baseball talk for years gathering several thousand followers, and appearing on different forms of media such as local sports talk radio and podcasts, he was tapped by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) sports division to write for their baseball blog called “HardballTalk” @ http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/.
Success stories are easy to find since they are front-and-center but knowing how those success stories came about is the key for future bloggers if they wish to find their way into making blogging a potential career. Having a passion for the subject matter is the number one key to good blogging and the easiest way to get noticed. Much like many literature and creative writing books will outline for those striving to improve their skill, without knowledge and an extra drive to write about the subject, the person reading the blog will feel that energy of lack thereof while pouring though a blogger’s recap of a recent scrapbooking convention. Anyone can write, anyone can start a blog as all it takes is an email address while signing up at one of the many blogging platforms such as Blogger, Moveable Type, or WordPress but if the blogger’s intent is to make living from their words, having the drive to continue writing well when no money is on the line is the key to connecting to and growing an audience.
Not so fast, says Nick Denton whose name is synonymous with blogging as he owns several large complication blogs under his Gawker media umbrella such as: sport site “Deadspin”, “Lifehacker”, “Jezebel”, and the self-named entertainment/celebrity following blog “Gawker”. In a short interview by Dan Duray of the New York Observer, Denton says “I don’t really see a blog business” (Duray, 2011). Other writers such as The Awl’s Choire Sicha chimed in the same article “It always has been an embarrassing word, first it was embarrassing because bloggers were these dirty, horrible people, and then it was embarrassing because our grandmas have blogs, God bless them” (Duray, 2011). This is the slippery slope that bloggers can fall into, once you plan to crank out content, you need to stay on top of the subject of which is the source of the blog or the hundreds of other bloggers out there covering the same topic will shadow your work, thus devaluing anything published. People like Kevin from blogtipz.com can give you insight on how to achieve the goal of a profitable blog. ““Natural” bloggers find the task of starting a new blog, finding guest posters (to alleviate everyday work), and managing their collection of blogs easy. They have a set of procedures that they follow and adapt to achieve periodic goals. Overnight, they hadn’t become perfect, but by evolving their schedules and knowledge on each step of blogging, it became easier to match each of their previous goals and expand upon their previous figures” (Kevin, 2008). But, even a well-put together blog is useless in today’s blogging arena if the content is not fresh and unique, and despite using Kevin’s nine highlights of a successful blog and blogger: “perseverance, time and content management, the looks, contemplation, don’t exhaust yourself, honesty, good social and networking skills, persistence, and pessimism and/or optimism” (Kevin, 2008) a blogger can find themselves without an audience and without direction if they do not catch that lucky break of advertising dollars or getting a contract to write for a larger blog.
Another hurdle for bloggers is overcoming the negative connotations from traditional media and the public in general. Take noted sportswriter Rick Reilly’s comment about bloggers from a Newsday article republished by Deadspin’s A.J. Daulerio “If you suddenly change who you are, the other half will hate you. I don't really care what people holding down couch springs do or say" (Daulerio, 2009). This is the public’s perception of a blogger cranking out content in their parent’s basement drinking cases of Mountain Dew while playing World of Warcraft for 18 hours a day. But, even the skeptical Reilly has come along for the blogging ride with regular postings as a “columnist” at ESPN.com, and traditional media noticing the power of social media outlets being viable ways to get their voices heard with the decline of newspaper readership and advertising revenue. Mashable.com showed a huge drop in newspaper revenue from $37.8 billion in 2008 and $27.5 million in 2009 while online advertising revenue continues to increase (Parr, 2010). With these sorts of trends, bloggers, tweeters, and those who know their way around Facebook will continue to become more and more valuable to companies that are moving away from traditional media outlets such as television, newspapers, and magazines.
Even the newly created social media writers are split up into different competitions between each other for media dollars and contracts. Writers on Twitter need to be up to the millisecond with trending information in order to stand apart from the 60 million accounts that are actively being used. Also, unless you are Shaquille O’Neal, Lady Gaga, or another famous celebrity, finding real followers to your Twitter feed could be too daunting to continue establish an online presence in that form alone. Same with Facebook, which is generally used to connect friends, unless your friends are in the media or publishing business, getting a six-figure contract from McGraw-Hill from a status update about a weekend keg party does not seem likely. The savvy blogger however can use these medium and conjunction with their blog and self-advertise. For example, noted blogger and co-creator of Grantland.com (which is owned by ESPN) Bill Simmons can tweet about the most recent articles on the website, drawing traffic from those who read him, or those who read him and re-tweet the links to their readers creating a reverse pyramid of readers and reaching thousands instead of relying on Google or Yahoo! to put those blog postings at the top of their key word rankings. Simmons could also hop over to his Facebook account and post a link with a description of best-selling author Chuck Klosterman’s latest musings on Grantland.com to entice those who do not use Twitter on a daily basis and capture even more readers.
While blogs have lost ground to people’s fascination with news in under 140 keystrokes and uneducated opinions, they provide things that other social media mediums cannot. Blogs can be geared specifically to the writer’s content, whether is it a company website describing the latest products, or starving artist showing off his grasp on dark poetry. The freedom to shape those words and the message going out with no restrictions will allow blogs to live on as Facebook and Twitter become mediums to draw readers to blogs as sort of funneling system towards the real money maker. Without blogs as a foundation in the social media package, people are left with half quotes and no content, like having the ingredients for the perfect mixed drink without a glass to pour it in and drink from.
Daulerio, A. (2009, February 20). Rick Reilly Still Unimpressed With Blogs, But Wants Everyone To Know He Actually Likes The Sports Fella. Retrieved September 9, 2011, from Deadspin.com: http://deadspin.com/5157404/rick-reilly-still-unimpressed-with-blogs--but-wants-everyone-to-know-he-actually-likes-the-sports-fella
Duray, D. (2011, February 01). The End of Blogging. Retrieved August 30, 2011, from The New York Observer: http://www.observer.com/2011/tech/end-blogging
Graveris, D. (2011, January 1). Revolution and the Future In Blogging World - Art Direction Trend. Retrieved August 27, 2011, from 1stwebdesigner.com: http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/inspiration/revolution-future-blogging-world-art-direction-trend/
Hall, D. (2011, August 15). Relevance and Importance for SEO. Retrieved August 27, 2011, from SEOinc.com: http://www.seoinc.com/seo-blog/relevance-and-importance-for-seo/
Kevin. (2008, June 16). Principles to Achieve Blogging "Perfection". Retrieved August 27, 2011, from Blogtipz.com: http://blogtipz.com/2008/06/16/principles-to-achieve-blogging-perfection/
Parr, B. (2010, March 26). The Dire State of the Newspaper Industry [STATS]. Retrieved September 9, 2011, from Mashable.com: http://mashable.com/2010/03/26/the-dire-state-of-the-newspaper-industry-stats/
Pingdom. (2011, January 12). Internet 2010 in Numbers. Retrieved September 9, 2011, from Pingdom.com: http://royal.pingdom.com/2011/01/12/internet-2010-in-numbers/
Schwendiman, H. (2007, August 21). Direction, goals, and blogging. Retrieved August 27, 2011, from Hollyscorner.com: http://www.hollyscorner.com/blog/2007/08/21/direction-goals-blogging/