The Issue of Class and Blogging

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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?

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10 Comments

Filed under Blogging, What Say You?, writing

10 responses to “The Issue of Class and Blogging

  1. I definitely don’t think that the cream always rises to the top. That is not to say that I don’t think a lot of the people at the top don’t deserve to be there, but I think there are a lot of other people who also deserve to be there who will never get there because of circumstances that are completely out of control. And I do think there are some people getting crazy page views and sponoships because of those page views who aren’t putting out anything of substance at all. How they make it to a successful place is beyond me.

    I don’t think women can expect to “make it” as a blogger anymore. I don’t even think women can expect to be able to monetize their blog in other ways, like using it as a jumping off point to get a book published. I think that for the very few women who do end up “making it big,” the story is basically a lightening strikes kind of thing. As the Bloggess recently wrote, it’s all just dumb luck (or at least the crazy luck of being at the right place at the right time) 99.9999% of the time.

    And honestly, from what I’ve heard, even the ones “making it big” aren’t making it that big anymore. I’m sure they are still pulling in (what I would consider to be) a decent living, but I think gone are probably the days of bloggers making crazy money, especially from simply writing alone. It’s just not going to happen anymore.

    This shift will definitely change the blogging landscape in all the ways you mentioned above. It has obviously already started and it will continue in that vein. I suppose in a few years we’ll see where the chips have fallen, and where the big name bloggers themselves have landed.

    • This definitely tallies with what I’ve read and heard as well. And I think you’re right that it will be interesting to see where the chips fall, although in general, I’m not encouraged.

  2. Many of the public finance bloggers seem to be doing pretty well, especially those who have joined the Yakezie network. Some of them I’ve watched quit their dayjob because they’re doing so well and then for some even their husbands quit too to help out. Most of these folks are making more with the blog than they were before. (Examples: clubthrifty, budgeting in the fun stuff, making sense of cents– they’re also all using the same formula that includes showing blogging income once a month.) There are a few people who were making larger incomes before and then quit, like Financial Sam, Retire by 40, Mr. Money Moustache . And there are your big names who made it big in the early days, The Simple Dollar, J.D. Roth.

  3. I would love to make a living blogging! The blogs I read are not from wealthy people. I think bloggers come from all walks of life.
    I think there are those who can make money from blogging but I think it will work differently for different people. I have bought some of these “how to make money blogging” and can’t imagine myself doing some of the stuff they suggest.

  4. My sister came with me to a BlogHer conference a few years ago when she’d recently started a blog. One of her takeaways from the experience was that if you didn’t get into blogging before 2006, you likely weren’t gonna be in The Club. I do believe timing has had a lot to do with who rises.

    Like Esperanza, I agree that the cream doesn’t always rise. Maybe “blogging” is really a set of skills as opposed to just one skill. It’s writing, networking, design, SEO, entrepreneurship, research, photography, analysis, etc. This may explain why the best writers aren’t necessarily the biggest bloggers — writing is just one facet (an important one, though).

    I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s unlikely I will be able to make a living blogging. Remember that old saying? “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Yeah…no.

  5. Interesting! These are some things I hadn’t really considered before. I probably am too new to this where I am somewhat hopeful and naive. It’s a hard balance of ‘really hard work’ – and trusting in Providence. For me, I blog because I love it. I hope someday it will translate $$…but I get that is a long-shot. I’m not independently wealthy, so …not likely to quit the day job! But I have summers partiall-off- so maybe that’s when I can put the time in. Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  6. I like what Lori said … that it’s a larger skill set. It explains a lot about me. I can write. But I’m not an entrepreneur, I don’t care much about the design of my blog, and I haven’t moved to a platform where I can make calculations based on SEO. It’s actually a comforting thought … that I’m a good writer, but perhaps just not a good enough blogger. And so I will take my promotion at work, thank you very much, to pay for the larger day care bills, and hope that some day I can get inspiration to post again, for me, but not for money. Thought-provoking post … thanks!

  7. Mel

    I think blogging mimics all the fine arts. I don’t know one writer who has made the same amount of money year after year. You hit it big one year and that carries you through a dry year or two. It’s cyclical. So I think if you look at blogging in that manner vs. as a 9 – 5 job that has a steady income, you’ll see those people are doing well or doing poorly… just like every other artist.

    I really loved this post by Kyran Pittman (http://m.blogher.com/between-gutter-and-stars-thoughts-success-writing-and-everything-else). It goes into that reality of being in any art-based profession whether it be acting, writing, or blogging.

    I think you can make money at blogging, but you need to be willing to dedicate yourself to it in a way that most people aren’t willing to dedicate themselves to it. It’s that 10,000 hours Gladwell talks about: you need to put in the work as well as have the talent. I don’t write for an hour a day here and there. I write or edit for 6 straight hours a day. I sometimes write more than that. Back when I was working another job full time and trying to break into writing, I still wrote for hours each day. Hours. I worked a full day, came home, and wrote for hours. I wrote several full novels that I dumped before I wrote one that I sent out. And I got a degree for this job, or, at the very least, to teach others.

    Of course, the other side, is that I could do all that work, put in the 10,000 hours and STILL not have it pan out. But it’s less likely. Mostly because 10,000 hours of work is a lot of work. And during that time, you will learn things. And you will make connections. And you will hopefully not be working in a vacuum: you’ll send out your work, get feedback, and accept that feedback rather than fight it. But yeah, that’s part of it too: are you crazy enough to dedicate 10,000 hours to something that may not pan out? For me, it was worth the chance. For others, it won’t be. But I think if people go in with their eyes open, they’ll see there are opportunities out there to be a working writer.

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