What happens when the irresistable blog meets the immovable earner?
The thought crossed my mind recently as I noted the passing of two of Ireland's more popular blogs - Sigla and Present Tense.
Both are now firmly in the past tense, as their authors move on to pastures new and, crucially, paying.
I can appreciate the difficulties for a journalist who has a blog. You write for a living, which is hard enough. Getting paid for writing is even harder. So where's the motivation in doing it for free? A blog is in a way only encouragement for people to expect your work for nothing - including that nefarious species, editors.
I don't think it's a coincidence that both Sinead and Shane were functioning hacks before they blogged. I get the sense that blogging was something they tried and found ultimately incompatible with the day job.
Other hacks, like Richard Delevan and Sarah Carey, seem able to keep both plates spinning in the air. But then again, Sarah came to journalism via her blog being noticed by the Sunday Times, while Richard has long mastered the high wire act of keeping both in balance.
Maybe he manages it because his articles tend to be lengthy, considered pieces of work, whereas his blog is often home to much shorter items that have come to his notice.
There are other blogs by Irish journos. But by and large they're either by youngsters starting out on their career or they're done under pseudonyms.
Perhaps the former are just looking for an outlet, somewhere to practice their chosen trade, maybe even get noticed. Perhaps the latter are looking to put things into the public domain which their paymaster won't publish. I'm speculating here, of course.
The clash of cultures between 'old' media and 'citizen journalism' has become a somewhat hackneyed topic for debate, and to me it seems defunct as we're still in some sort of transitional arrangement wherein both forms are seeking to find a way to marry into each other, like a messy corporate merger.
But the intersection between blogging and the media does seem to produce regular casualties, and those casualties are nearly always the blog, which doesn't pay, as opposed to the media work which does.
It would be great to see more established journalists commence blogging in Ireland. But sadly the trend seems to be going in the opposite direction. Anyone remember this from one particular Irish media titan?
And he got paid for it. Just not enough, presumably, for it to continue into the present.
When the need and opportunity to progress a career in the media clashes with blogging, it's the blog which is the first casualty. Because they take time and consideration and thought, and they don't pay.
This isn't restricted solely to hacks, of course. Other good blogs have fallen by the wayside as their authors lacked time to blog because they were busy earning elsewhere.
And even though blogs are free to read, we're all a little poorer for that loss.
It strikes me that the payment available to bloggers (other than a pittance of adsense revenue or similar) is in the interaction from reader comments. You don't get that in the mainstream media (letters pages and radio phone-ins just don't carry the same capacity for initiating a considered debate instantly.)
It doesn't compare to getting a cheque in the mail, but it is a small reward when someone notes something you've blogged about and takes issue with it, or agrees fervently, or says you've opened their mind, or merely links to it from a blog of their own.
So if we're not going to pay bloggers cash, then it might be nice if more people left more comments as they bounce around the blogosphere. It won't pay the rent, but it will add further relevance and vitality to the medium, while also giving the authors some form of payback.