Monday, November 11, 2013

The professional blogger is dead

Or rather the dream of being a professional blogger is dead, because I am not sure this chimerical creature ever existed.

At the end of a post about the demise of Liberal Conspiracy last month, Stephen Tall wrote:
the rise of the mainstream blogging has crowded out most of the amateurs. Many are still blogging, but look down the 2008 list of top 100 political blogs compiled by Total Politics magazine – and compare it with who the most influential online political voices are today – and you’ll get a sense of how the caravan has moved on. Talent will out, of course. But if you want your blog to get noticed now, best to develop a niche in which you’re an expert (such as Simon Wren-Lewis in economics or Tom Bennett in education, or of course your local neighbourhood if you’re a campaigner) — or else land yourself some kind of paid gig.
As several people pointed out in reply - Stephen helpfully linked to some of them in a later post - amateur blogging is alive and well.

They were right, but I think what has died is the professional blogger or, more accurately, the dream of being a professional blogger.

When news of the new activity reached us from America, it was accompanied by stories of people who made a good living from it.

This seemed a little fanciful even then, and I have never met anyone who makes much money from accepting Google's advertisements on a blog. I have considered adding an Amazon shop - less to make money than to allow my readers a chance to buy the books and music and films I write about.

Blogging has brought me many good things, from invitations to events right up to an expenses-paid trip to New York, but I have never expected it to give me a living. In fact I was doing quite well as a Lib Dem pundit - if only because of the lack of competition - before blogging came along.

I don't get the number of readers on Liberal England that I did a couple of years ago and nor I suspect, as it has stopped telling us the numbers, does Lib Dem Voice. In both our cases, however, this may be a function of the fall in support for the party.

But if amateur blogging is in decline I suspect it is for two reasons. The first is the rise of social media, which has meant there are places for debate to take place.

The second is the way that blogging is now just one of the things journalists are expected to do as well as filing reports for printed newspapers. The field has been invaded by professionals, but they are not professional bloggers.

In his first post Stephen made much of the rise of aggregated blogs, many run by newspapers. But as many of them rely on people who write for them without payment, it is not clear how far they affect people's amateur status.

The death of the dream will be welcome if it discourages young bloggers from trying to write like broadsheet pundits. There is room for all sorts in blogging -  that is one of its great attractions - but I would like to see people trying to do what the professionals don't.

Let's see more video and more illustration and more innovative used of them. Let's see what I called "the punk ethic of blogging" in my workshop the other day.

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Stephen Tall said...

Good post, Jonathan, and I agree re the professional blogger thing (though a handful have made it, eg Harry Cole, Dan Hodges).

One small correction - LibDemVoice still publishes weekly readership figures in our 'Sunday Best' feature. We average about 50-60k unique readers a month, down on our May 2010 peak, but otherwise pretty constant.

Jonathan Calder said...

Commendable openness!

I was thinking of those "Lib Dem Voice doesn't do statporn, but..." posts you used to do.