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.

Filed Under: amateur, blogging, professional


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  1. identicon
    hank, 30 Apr 2008 @ 11:41am

    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.

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