I’ve been watching the first season of Revenge on NetFlix. Oh, is it fun! One of the reasons the show is so enjoyable is the schadenfreude involved. We watch (and cheer) as villains are taken down from their lofty stations in life. The villains are thinly disguised versions of Bernie Madoff and other Wall Street crook types. They are fabulously rich and they have committed all sorts of crimes, including murder, to get where they are – the top of the heap in the Hamptons.
But there are more subtle discussions around class on the show: mostly how difficult it is for anyone not born fabulously wealthy to make opportunities happen for themselves. How life is a struggle for most of us. For those cheek to jowl with such wealth, who have none for themselves? It’s difficult to compete.
Where I live is fairly similar to the Hamptons. Immensely wealthy out-of-towners come here to set up residence because of the natural beauty and proximity to Silicon Valley. Then there are the townies, like me, who were born here and love it. But we are faced with rising costs of living and often can’t compete with the newcomers financially.
What Does This Have To Do With Blogging?
It’s becoming more and more difficult to break into blogging as a career. Most bloggers don’t make a living off of their blogs. I would venture to say that most bloggers are hobbyists. There used to be a group of bloggers who were able to make a living off of banner ads and high levels of traffic, paid articles and even book deals. These bloggers established themselves with their unique voices and in many cases, their writing prowess.
I have read (and heard) that it is becoming increasingly difficult for these bloggers to make a living, due to a collapse in revenue for banner ads. Some welcome this development, saying it is high time for some bloggers to get a job, like everyone else. I am going to disagree.
Right now, the blogging “voice” of choice is visual and highly branded. Affiliate links, pay for pins, branded merchandise, TV shows even: these other sources of revenue are where the money is. What this means is those making money from blogging now are increasingly not sought out and valued for their writing. And, well, let’s be honest. A lot of the biggest bloggers doing well, who are at the top, are financially independent in some way: whether through their husband’s job or family money or whatever. They don’t NEED the money they make from blogging, but they can “afford” to spend a lot of time blogging and marketing themselves because they don’t have to go out and “get a job.”
I don’t see this is a positive development.
The Parallels To Journalism
I think I’ve mentioned before that my dad was a journalist in the golden age of journalism, when the most talented writers (regardless of how wealthy or not they were) could get well-paying jobs at magazines or newspapers. As the internet grew in popularity, circulations then salaries shrunk and as a result, since working/middle class journalists couldn’t afford to feed themselves and their families on a small salary, the prestigious papers (like The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair) began to be more and more populated by younger writers who were Trust Fund Babies. They didn’t NEED to be paid a lot. I’m not saying they are not talented writers, either. They are. What I AM saying is the Voice of the publications became different, less diverse. When many/most of your writers don’t need to worry about everyday life and expenses, this becomes obvious in your publication’s tone.
As an example, just look at The New York Times’ coverage of infertility and adoption. Their articles almost exclusively portray those going through adoption/loss/infertility as wealthy, or they filter the story through the lens of a political position.
Where Does This Leave Us?
There were those who said blogging would become the “independent voices” lacking in journalism. I think that was true in the aughts: you had talented writers like Alexa Stevenson (Flotsam), Heather Spohr (The Spohrs are Multiplying), Monica Mingo (Rantings of a Creole Princess) and Eden Riley (Edenland) even properties like Television Without Pity, which launched the Fug Girls. These blogs and forums were staffed and voiced by new, fresh talents with diverse points of view.
Now, it seems there are a few posts that go viral because of controversy (like the whole “Hall Family” slutshaming debacle, ew) but not bloggers who emerge as writing talents. Please correct me if I’m wrong: I’d love to be tipped off to some excellent new bloggers writing about issues of interest.
I’m becoming disheartened that bloggers only get “PAID” when they have deep pockets, a business plan, a publicist and pretty pictures.
Do you agree? Or do you think the cream always rises to the top?