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Monday, July 14, 2008

Blogs V Jobs

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.

11 comments:

Informer said...

They should have a survival of the fittest Blogasphere contest, he who gets the most visits and comments goes to the next level over a year long period and the winner can then get 1st 2nd and 3rd prize, a big fat cheque or a holiday. Darwin would be pleased with the proper use of his work, me thinks. Sadly I will lose to the big hammers of the web as they have threatened to ban me again if I do not remove my threatening content! LOL, looks like I will be moving again now to another site.... Long live freedom of speech lads and laddettes, don't let the bast$%ds grind you down!

Rob Carry said...

I'm kind of jammed in that I've a column in a low-circulation newspaper which, because it doesn't appear regularly on the paper's not great website, I can then use as content for my blog. I'm obliged to have something to hand over to my editor every week which along with the cash I get in return gives me the incentive to keep the finger out and on the keyboard. My tendency to start things and not finish them would otherwise mean I'd be banjaxed after a few entries. Interesting post though, which reminded me that I'm not the only one who, despite my added incentives, still suffers from a lack of stamina. Actually, a huge proportion of the latest blog entries on these websites consists of the blogger giving some excuse as to why the blogger hasn't posted in ages! Admit it - you're cat didn't fuckin die, you're just a lazy bastard like the rest of us!

JC Skinner said...

@Informer: I like the idea of that contest. Perhaps we could do it in the South Pacific - blog island. Sign me up!
@Rob: I think it might be twice as hard for those who write for a living to maintain motivation to blog, which is effectively writing for free.
The last thing you'd be inclined to do after a day's filing in an office is to start doing the same at home.
Same for writing, perhaps.

Rua said...

I have a blog, but no job, so I blog about not having a job! Google adsense give you money for blogging, I'm not elligeable though, I think

Sinéad said...

"I get the sense that blogging was something they tried and found ultimately incompatible with the day job."

Hi JC, believe it or not, I always found that journalism and blogged were happy bedfellows. Lots of times I could include content I'd gotten paid for or interviews with folk that I wouldn't have had access to if I was a standalone blogger.

My reasons for quitting Sigla were not really about the conflict between work and the blog and that whole busman's holiday aspect of it, but personal ones.

I wanted more time to myself, more time to be a parent, and because I'm expecting baba No. 2, I'm bloody banjaxed as well. :)

But hey, I'm still blogging at Musical Rooms, even if it's a very different, and more infrequent animal than my old haunt.

Sinéad said...

"blogging" even, in Par 2. I'm blaming pregnancy brain.

boro said...

They were talking about this yesterday on phantom 105.2 though i didnt hear this particular blog mentioned.

JC Skinner said...

They were talking about Irish blogs shutting down, or about blogs by journalists?

boro said...

They specifically mentioned Jobs vs Blogs and journalists vs Bloggers. It bore a striking similarity to your blog but with no reference to it whatsoever.

JC Skinner said...

And I can confirm I had no hand in it either.
I guess, in the true tradition of the interweb, they just nicked a good idea and passed it off as their own!
Royalty cheques to Skinner Towers, Phantom!

JC Skinner said...

Oh, congrats on baba number two, Sinead.