In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop, headlines the New York Times. “They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop”, it begins. It’s about blogging for bucks. Marc Orchant and Russell Shaw, both of whom died recently, and Om Malik, who recently survived a heart attack, serve as instructive examples of “toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment”.
Mike Arrington “says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. ‘At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen…This is not sustainable’.”
The piece goes on:
One of the most competitive categories is blogs about technology developments and news. They are in a vicious 24-hour competition to break company news, reveal new products and expose corporate gaffes.
To the victor go the ego points, and, potentially, the advertising. Bloggers for such sites are often paid for each post, though some are paid based on how many people read their material. They build that audience through scoops or volume or both.
Since this system does not feature the ‘chinese wall’ between editorial and advertising that has long been a fixture of principled mainstream journalism — or rather because writing, publishing and advertising are much more intimately mashed up in this new system than it was in the old one — I suggest a distinction here: one between blogging and flogging.
I brought that up on The Gang on Friday and got as nowhere as I did when I put up the post at the last link. So far it has no comments at all.
Still, I think distinctions matter. There is a difference in kind between writing to produce understanding and writing to produce money, even when they overlap. There are matters of purpose to consider, and how one drives (or even corrupts) the other.
Two additional points.
One is about chilling out. Blogging doesn’t need to be a race. Really.
The other is about scoops. They’re overrated. Winning in too many cases is a badge of self-satisfaction one pins on oneself. I submit that’s true even if Memeorandum or Digg pins it on you first. In the larger scheme of things, even if the larger scheme is making money, it doesn’t matter as much as it might seem at the time.
What really matters is … Well, you decide.