Friday, April 18, 2008

Blogging the Write Way: Blogged to Death

A recent New York Times article noted that two major bloggers died of heart attacks and another, at just 41, survived one. Some are calling bloggers "the sweatshop workers of the new age."

I'll be honest with you: blogging is my main source of income, but I do not make tens of thousands of dollars doing it. I could, theoretically, if I spent a lot more time doing it, invested a lot more money into it, and bothered with more of the technicalities - but while I love my job and work at it rather obsessively, I just cannot see myself going to the lengths some of my peers do.

I have taken more of an interest in many of these things lately, and I will be sharing that information with you along the way (to some degree - this is a competitive field and most of the people in it don't belong here), but I cannot imagine blogging driving me to a heart attack! However, I have felt that kind of pressure, especially early-on.

Another article discussed how, even though there are more "reporters" and journalists working today with the explosion of the blogging market, more of the news is coming from the same sources. I find that a bit misleading, since all news comes from two major sources anyway (AP and Reuters). Still, the concept is solid, because I certainly can't be everywhere at once and can't afford to pay roving reporters or anything like that; most of my information comes from articles I read online or in the trades.

But I'm going to let you in on something here, and you can call it an "opinion" or my "personal outlook," or even a "philosophy" if you like, but it's true: bloggers aren't supposed to be traditional journalists. Blogs are online journals and you aren't going to find a lot of diaries that read like newspapers. The best blogs are somewhere between breaking news and op/ed columns.

If you are under the impression that you have to "break" news in your blog in order to attract visitors, I can lay that one to rest: you do not. Besides, unless you have massive resources at your disposal, including a solid business plan and organization, that just isn't possible.

Take a look at my coverage of the Harry Potter trial. I certainly can't attend the legal proceedings and, even if I could, what would be the point in trying to compete with the major news sources for "The Scoop"? Any and everything that is going to happen in that trial is going to be widely-reported in multiple mediums across multiple media - all of which get far more views in an average day than I do in a month! Even if I did beat them all to "The Scoop," who the hell would ever know it?

People aren't coming to your blog to read the latest news. They are coming to get your take on it; they are coming for the news they missed because it wasn't deemed important enough by all those "major sources" who were falling all over one another to get The Scoop; they're coming to interact with you and other regulars. And when you lose sight of that, your blog becomes just another "news site" where the comments are the "forums boards" and you are busier counting subscribers and hits than actually blogging.

When all is said and done, blogs are not supposed to be traditional news sources and that's part of what's wrong with the whole thing today. This surge of complete non-bloggers has turned the whole concept into something that it isn't and never will be, because it never was. And while definitions change and things develop over time, nothing is going to transform traditional blogs into news magazines; what were originally blogs may develop into online news magazines over time, but you are never going to hear, "Major sources, from the New York Times to the BBC to CowboyBob666's MySpace blog, say..." did not start as a blog; did not launch as a blog; neither qualify as a blog - and I think we can all agree on that. Yet many of these successful "blogs" that are being touted as the new news sources are organized and read far more like either of those sites than any blog. At some point, many of these "big-time" blogs quit being blogs and became full-fledged websites or magazines. And because the concept has become so bastardized by the press, media, and masses, more and more people are under the erroneous impression that these are the standards to which they should aspire.

I find the entire notion ridiculous. If you want to be a traditional reporter, then go the traditional route. Major newspapers and news outlets can provide you with far more resources for doing that line of work than you are ever going to amass on your own and you are never going to actually compete with any of them on a sustainable basis. If you want to cover the war, you can't effectively do it from your living room, no matter how hard you try, and you're going to look damn silly running around the battlefield in your khakis, furiously texting on your Crackberry between bombings.

Don't kill yourself blogging, people. That's just stupid and it isn't blogging, proper; reporting and blogging are not the same thing and you need to immediately divorce the concepts in your mind!

Kill yourself after announcing it on a social networking site or in an AOL chatroom like everyone else does.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008


  1. One thing I meant to mention in this post but didn't is how widespread the practice of using blogging software as a "Content Management System" for a website has become over the past few years. In fact, I have even adopted a similar method with certain parts of The Weirding - and Weird Ink is a prime example.

    This blog constitutes the whole Writing section of the site. Originally, there were several pages dedicated to specific aspects - a markets page, a genre page, a reviews page, etc. - and then there was this blog. It occurred to me that this was overkill; why not just handle it all through the blog? So that's what I set about doing when I decided to redesign.

    Basically, since most of what I have to say and provide on writing is in text form, what's the point in developing entire, individual pages for that when I can simply make them separate blog entries? Instead of having an entire webpage dedicated to characterization, with links to other places on that page and secondary pages, etc., I'll simply make it a post and link to supporting posts, etc.

    But just because you are using blog software in this manner does not make your site a "blog."

    At the time of this writing, there is not enough of it available to direct you there to prove the point, but the RPG section of the site (when finished) will be an excellent example of this, as I am using blog software to better manage the text-based content, but am not actually writing a blog on RPG. Put simpler, I am using the blog software to manage individual articles as though they were blog entries.

    But even though I am using blog software to accomplish this, it doesn't make the RPG section a blog.

  2. Serendipity strikes (or she read my response): check out this article Blogsvine posted on her site that can help those of you looking into CMS for a website, proper.

    Note the first step, which tells you, flatly, 'if you just want a blog, then go no further!'