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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Blogging for Dollars

I can't see what all the fuss Jay and Nick are making is about. It's not like this 'major media organization' was simply copying and publishing entire blog posts without consent. In fact, Nick's gripe stems from a request for consent - a request he could, and did, refuse. So what's the big deal?

I think we should also keep in mind that a blog-post is a very different creature - in most instances - from an op/ed column. That's not only because of the sloppiness that comes from hyperlinks ("I agree with [link]this[/link]"), but because blogging tends to promote a conversationalism and colloquialism that is very hard to replicate in a print column - and more difficult still to do well. I'm not sure blog-posts are on a level - stylistically, not substantively - to be published in a newspaper. In a sense, then, I think the real value of this new feature is not in giving bloggers a national print forum (though I look forward to that), but rather in giving newspaper readers a glimpse into the blogosphere.

Posted by David Mader on April 20, 2004 | Permalink


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There may be a difference here between people who write freelance and people who do not. Editors are welcome to read my writing at the Flea any time they like. But if they think they can make money by selling my writing they need to pay me for it. That is not making a fuss. It is common sense.

Posted by: Ghost of a flea | 2004-04-20 9:56:23 AM

David, I agree with you when you say that a blogpost is a very different creature than an op-ed.

It tends to have links to its sources, a single point and, in many cases, a clear point of view. Compared to the sludge that Dr. Spector seems willing to wade through, blog posts are a good deal more valuable. (Imagine Simpson discovering that press releases are political....)

All of which is somewhat beside the point; "big media" is looking at blogs as a way of livening up their dying franchises. Newspaper readership among under 30's is tanking. The estimates are that less than 10% of under 25s will be reading a daily newspaper by 2010.

The smarter folks at "big media" realize that the blog world may very well begin to bring that demographic back; but they have to convince the suits who, having been burnt badly on the convergence hype, are unconvinced. For the moment the kids have no budget; I'm willing to let them use a bit of my stuff for free to make their case. However, soon, very soon, big media will have to ante up if it wants to attract top bloggers.

Posted by: Jay Currie | 2004-04-20 11:48:49 AM

If I may paraphrase the words of John Cleese in The Argument Sketch: not necessarily, I could be writing in my spare time.

But there is no doubt that I hold myself to a more formal standard when I'm writing a letter to the editor than when I'm (for example) posting this comment ;-)

Posted by: Tony | 2004-04-20 12:43:45 PM

Mike Jenkinson, an editor at the Edmonton Sun, addressed this in his own blog:

"My problems with blogging are quite simple: as someone who is paid to create content for a living, I find the entire blog experience rather destructive to my craft. After all, if people are willing to create content for free, then I've priced myself out of the “market” by demanding a wage for what I do from 11 a.m to 7 p.m every day."

Read the rest on the Feb 28 entry here:

I do see Nick's point. When you're trying to charge for something and someone else is giving it away for free, it does become a problem. It is in his professional interest not to encourage the trend.

Posted by: Sean | 2004-04-20 1:10:55 PM

I see where y'all are coming from - I guess it's just a question of why one blogs. I quite like the pithy "if they think they can make money by selling my writing they need to pay me for it." But if it's a choice between publishing my work for free on my website, or publishing it for free on my website and in a national newspaper, I'll go with the latter. That isn't to say that one shouldn't seek payment if one can get it - but at this point in my career (I'm just finishing college) I'm more interested in becoming recognized. The value of publication is its own reward, in my mind - and because I'm therefore willing to give away my work for 'free' - or for non-monetary compensation - I may well price other bloggers out of the market. I think, moreover, that there will always be those willing to have their work published for free - bloggers are almost necessarily preconditioned to do that.

So I now see what the deal is - and I'm not sure it's an issue of agreeing and disagreeing. It's a question of what you blog for. I respect those who want a share of the profits they help to generate; me, I'll just be happy to see my name in print.

Posted by: David Mader | 2004-04-20 2:00:41 PM

I don't do predictions, but I won't be surprised if web-logs do not actually displace those who write to high formal standards (with editors, even), on a regular schedule, in the (paid) media of record. I'm not particularly surprised at the lack of appreciation of the media of record by kids, but in time each will learn to appreciate the value of the professional writer (of which one I am not).

I see the same kind of problem from a different perspective. I'm a professional software developer. Now-a-days everyone thinks they're a programmer - ohh, look what I can do with Excel - not that there's anything wrong with that.

The leverage for every professional is the market for skills that surpass the norm because they are based on years and years of accumulated experience and trustworthyness. Somehow I don't see that going away, pace artificial intelligence.

Posted by: Tony | 2004-04-20 2:16:44 PM

"but they have to convince the suits who, having been burnt badly on the convergence hype, are unconvinced. For the moment the kids have no budget; I'm willing to let them use a bit of my stuff for free to make their case."

Well finally that's how I decided to handle it. I agree that if a major paper uses my work for profit, then I should ultimately get paid. But money may be hard to come by until the editors can convince the execs. Anyway, the permission to take content from my blog can rescinded anytime.

Posted by: Laurent | 2004-04-20 2:26:16 PM

"I guess it's just a question of why one blogs."

A therapist costs $150/hr. Blog hosting costs $10/mth. 'Nuff said. :)

Posted by: Sean | 2004-04-20 2:50:50 PM

With any market the price is often dictated by surplus or scarcity.

Unfortunately for bloggers hoping to extract payment from "dead tree media" there are millions of bloggers out there. If one demands payment your newspaper editor could go to the next blogger, and the next blogger.....

Of course those who are high quality writers will become noticed and thus in demand. Then they will be able to command a price for their services as other newspapers or media look to secure their services.

The key is talent. Most of us bloggers are amateurs. I'm no Glen Reynolds and I am certainly no Mark Steyn. High quality work will always command a good price.

Hand in hand with talent comes quality. Many writers who are published in our newspapers or who write copy for TV are in my opinion of very poor quality. In that respect they should fear bloggers because they are doing better work for free.

I meant to make this a short snappy comment based on the huge amount of bloggers out there but then I started meandering... see that's where a good editor could have helped me.

Posted by: The Meatriarchy | 2004-04-20 7:27:26 PM

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