NY Times covers bloggorrhea sufferers

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.

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31 Responses to NY Times covers bloggorrhea sufferers

  1. I think scoops are out and thoughtful (or at least insightful) posting as you feel inspired (at least a couple times per week) is in.

  2. Funny, I started blogging for therapeutic reasons, just to an excuse to organize my thoughts and perhaps, to vent a little. I guess one can find stress or relaxation just about anywhere.

  3. I’ve been looking for a part-time job, and it’s insane what some companies want to pay bloggers — anything from $0.50 to $5.00 per post. Then they have a (varied) requisite number of posts that must be made.

    Thaere are also a lot of companies wanting to develop About.com-like sites, and expect the bloggers to do not only all the writing, but all the promo as well. All the companies do is out up a Word Press site for them to blog on, and take anywhere from 40-90% of the ad profits.

    And some people are so desperate to write and be heard/read, they do it, too!

  4. Thinking of it as you’ve created a monster (well, helped to create a monster). A heart-attack making sweatshop-driving exploitative monster. No, no, I hear you say, I wanted only the essence of life itself. Well, so did Frankenstein. It didn’t work out that way.

  5. So ridiculous. Tech news is NEVER breaking news. It is never life or death that Apple will release a 3G iPhone. Almost nothing is breaking news except accidents and disasters. Tomorrow I will read twenty bloggers guessing about MSFT and YHOO, and I will only slightly care. I’m a human being. I love blogs and bloggers, but everything in its place. I do think, however, that a combination of unhealthy lifestyles and genetics were more at fault than “blogging.” That said, I miss Mark Orchant, and I was upset about Om. I didn’t know Russell Shaw.

  6. Alex Wiliams says:

    I knew Russ. He just loved his work. He loved being one of the first to the news. What competitive blogger does not love that adrenalin? The truth is, I know many bloggers who prefer the hard lifestyle that blogging brings. It’s really all they want to do.

  7. Doc Searls says:

    Seth, as usual your cut goes deep.

    A serious question: Is there anything I do of which you approve?

  8. Devon Curry says:

    “The other is about scoops. They’re overrated. Winning in too many cases is a badge of self-satisfaction one pins on oneself.”

    with all due respect, doc, i must disagree. it sounds like the guy who gets rejected from harvard because he’s not good enough but argues that penn state is just as good, if not better. scoops are what you turn up if you’re really, really good and work hard. the other stuff is fine, too. but scoops “overrated?” nope. that’s the really hard stuff. they remember woodward & bernstein for a reason

  9. I helped launch cnn.com – we were all excited the first time we scooped broadcast air (Shannon Faulkner exiting The Citadel).

    But that’s a losing game – nothing is ever going to be more immediate than a live video feed from a news event.

    As for the 24 hour cycle of tech blogging – that crap is even more insular than mainstream media. Maybe 250,000 people on the planet really care and most of them care only because it’s a game that they’re good at. Half of THEM would be just as fulfilled and excited if they were at the top of the ranking in World of Warcraft.

  10. Yes. A serious answer: I approve of the polite way you reply to critical comments. That’s uncommon, especially when it comes to A-listers.

  11. And I approve of Seth’s approval. You engage in the conversation, whereas others merely wax about it in the abstract.

    Also, you are correct in theorizing that blogging is a wildly diverse activity which has heretofore resisted subclassification. But it’s not just the Times which sees blogging as a monolithic activity; it’s Google, Technorati et al which are falling for the same myth as well.

    I’d agree also that isn’t all about scoops (missing a scoop by a millisecond, as the article suggests), but speed is still of the essence. The type of thoughtful/insightful posts that Carter F Smith declares as now “in” (the jury’s out on that) still need to be turned around quickly. Tristan Louis suggested to me that there’s generally a 48-hour window after a story like this breaks to try and put something thoughtful together.

    Then again, this story is a statistical outlier; Technorati counts 347 reactions so far.

    Many of them are likely derivative, or redundant, and by this afternoon, the story is already saturated with anybody who would care about this. So those of us who spent the morning merely reading the newspaper are behind the curve in writing a response.

  12. Quasi says:

    I had no idea that such a HUGE on-line community existed for cat blogs until I began to blog myself. Now, I’m proud to say, I’m a member of a group that through its blogosphere communications, is truly poised to take over the world — while continuing to sleep 20 hours a day. Seriously, bloggers, lighten up and have some fun with this!

  13. David Martin says:

    Bravos, Doc! Perspective, it’s all about perspective.

  14. Doc Searls says:

    Thanks, Seth. I appreciate that.

    You always make me think, and that’s uncommon too.

  15. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a reality TV series in a baby carriage. Can “Arrington’s Pad 24×7” really be far behind?

    Great post doc. I posted similar thoughts.

    Personally, I think that stupid articles about blogging are more likely to kill me than blogging itself. But then again, I’m not a breaking-news kinda gal.

    Best to you.

    Hey seth! Hey jon!

    You guys be careful out there.

  16. Devon, madly rushing into print is hardly what distinguished Woodward/Bernstein. This seems to me to be the thrust of Mike’s and Doc’s case.

  17. amyloo says:

    The whole tone of this is so wistful. It makes me sad.

  18. justcorbly says:

    If your motivation for blogging is money, then you are not a blogger. You are just one more writer who happens to use blogging software to get your stuff published.

  19. Scott Smith says:

    Funny how this doesn’t seem to happen among food bloggers.

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