Is The Era Of The Amateur Blogger Over?

from the love-not-money dept

Megan McCardle ponders the future of amateur blogging and wonders if we’re seeing a transition to a world in which most high-traffic bloggers do that as their day jobs, and the line between amateur and professional becomes sharper. Megan actually points to two trends that seem mutually exclusive. On the one hand, she says that almost all the economics bloggers (which is her area of focus) she knows have been snapped up. On the other hand, she wonders if we’re getting to the point where it’s a lot more difficult to “break in” to the blogging profession. But clearly these can’t both be true. If media organizations have snapped up all the good bloggers in a given category, then there’s presumably pent-up demand that could be satisfied by any ambitious amateur who can prove herself to be up to the task. The great thing about the blogosphere is that you don’t need a “big break.” You just start writing, and if your work is good enough, other bloggers eventually notice you and start reading you.

But don’t professional bloggers have an unfair advantage because they can do it all day? There’s certainly some truth to this, but it shouldn’t be over-stated. Lots of people have white-collar jobs that allow them to take blogging breaks on a regular basis. And it’s not necessary to churn out 20 posts a day in order to build up a strong readership. If you can do one or two really sharp posts each day, that’s likely to be enough to get people noticing your work. Moreover, having a day job often gives a blogger unique insights. One of Techdirt’s contributors, Tom Lee, is a working web developer, and I think this is clearly reflected in the technically-savvy posts he contributes to the site. One of the great strengths of the blogosphere is that it’s not limited to people who sit around blogging all day.

But the most important thing to keep in mind is that “breaking in” isn’t really the point, and probably never will be. As I’m sure Megan will agree, blogging is not a good way to get rich. People almost always start blogging as amateurs, and they blog first and foremost because they enjoy doing so. Someone who didn’t enjoy blogging simply couldn’t bring themselves to devote the amount of time it takes to build up a widely-read blog; there are much quicker and easier ways to earn some extra cash. On the other hand, if someone does enjoy it, it doesn’t matter too much if they “break in” because it’s a fun hobby whether they’re getting paid for it or not. I don’t think this is a temporary artifact of blogging’s early days; it’s likely a permanent feature of the Internet’s democratization of communications. There will always be a large number of amateurs creating online content and a smaller core of professionals, with a relatively fluid line dividing the two.

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Comments on “Is The Era Of The Amateur Blogger Over?”

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bob says:

I’d say it’s less that the era of amateur bloggers is over but that the era of professional bloggers has begun.

There will always be amateur blogs out there. What hasn’t really been seen except for the past few years is the idea of a “professional blogger”. It just wasn’t a feasible position without a critical mass of people on the net.

Pete Valle (user link) says:

Re: Nicely said

Nicely said Bob. I totally agree with you. For the last couple of years we have seen the rise of blogging as a profession. As a former technology journalist, I saw this evolution first hand. I remember that it was two years ago when I first saw a big company expo giving out press passes to bloggers (CA World 2006, if I remember correctly). Now, its commonplace.

I think its fantastic that the blogging profession has taken hold. There are many, many really good writers and journalists who wouldn’t have a chance making a living out of their writing skills if it weren’t for their blogs.

I also agree wholeheartedly with Tim. Given that the investment in money and effort to create a blog is minimal, I don’t think we’ll see the end of the amateur blogger anytime soon. As long as there are people out there who enjoy writing and having their voices heard, there will always be amateur bloggers in the blogosfere.

Iron Chef says:

I think this post can be summed up in a few words: Tim wants a raise.


You guys are absolutely hilarious. Consider buying into SEO to get more traffic, setup a printed newsletter, or a subscription program which provides access to older information.

So don’t be afraid to play around with your model, but make sure you have the analytics in place. Have you considered Omniture?

Casey Howell says:

Whats New?

Cyber space the final frontier? What the article is missing is the fact that everything amatuer becomes professional. Blogging,U tube,e-bay,etc. etc. The promise of the internet and the world wide web has always been to enlighten and level the playing field. The reality is contrary to the ideal and humans drag it and all ideals to the lowest common denomonator. Blogging like the Net should not be any more than a gravity like force pulling in its own direction. A voice in a hurricane,a whisper in a crowd,the plop in the bowl that signals I am, I exist that is what blogging is and always will be.

John Wilson (profile) says:

Blog maturity

I’ve always known that professional bloggers existed out there though in the minority.

What’s changed is that readers have their filters in place now to try discriminate between the amateur and the professional in the same way we can tell the difference between “advertorials” and journalistic content.

I’m not saying that well written, literate content is an employed blogger, incidentally. Some of us do pretty well without getting paid simply because we write well.

Traditional media, meanwhile, blurs the line between reportage and blogging by insisting on both from their employees. A prime on line example is CNET where writers often wear both hats at once.

Top notch content doesn’t come from just paid bloggers, often it doesn’t. It doesn’t just come from white collar workers. It also comes from blue collar folk who have their own unique insights to offer.

My academic training, way back when, as a historian and continued interest in that field finds blogs fascinating as the journal of our times and culture similar to letters and diaries of the past. Similarly my growing interest in theology and spirituality kicks in when I see people reacting from moral and ethical positions whether or not I agreee with them.

There’s plenty of room for both the pro and amateur and always will be.

hank says:

Writers, photographers, actors, film makers, pro sports players, and musicians are in a market where the supply outweighs the demand by a phenomenal ratio. People in these occupations are essentially forced to bottom feed and/or work for free as they try to break into the highly competitive 0.1% celebrity circle where the marketplace is willing to compensate them for their work, let’s call this the “compensation circle.” This circle gets bigger or smaller depending on the industry and it’s associated demand.

The market demand for A-list movie directors in the US is about 40 individuals, but each year 60,000 kids graduate from film school. Compare that to the demand for drywall installers. The less the demand, the tighter the compensation circle. The writing circle may be 500,000 individuals, the fashion photography circle may be 5,000 and the NBA basketball player circle may be 500. The circle for drywall installers may be 4,000,000 – so the compensation funds get diluted in this higher demand circle. Most people will find it much easier making a decent living installing drywall than directing movies or playing semi-pro sports or even blogging.

oregonnerd (user link) says:

blogs, professionalism, and the possible reasons for blogs

The most interesting potential use of the internet which no one has yet figured out how to use is to get the similar types together. There are many of us who either couldn’t stand the scholastic system or didn’t have the money, who have knowledge to share…and isolation quite literally kills. The first to figure out that ‘how’…most likely saves the world and definitely makes a bundle of cash in the process. The most likely source for the dynamic would be religious but that’s quite dangerous because of implicit ‘calls’ to hard-wired reflex chains.

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