My friend John Hawkins wrote a very provocative piece on earlier this week called The Slow, Painful Coming Death Of The Independent, Conservative Blogosphere Part. Unfortunately John’s post was mis-interpreted in many circles and much criticism. The main point of the article is outlined in the follow-up he wrote today.
Conservatism isn’t going away. Conservative publications on the web aren’t going away. Conservative bloggers aren’t going away. However, the market is forever changing, and the window that was wide open when conservative blogging first started to draw national attention is beginning to slide shut. By that, I mean, there are now a lot less opportunities for people to set up a blog, start writing, get national attention, and turn the tide of politics in America by blogging from their house in pajamas. Put another way, if there was a graph of the future of the national, independent, conservative blogosphere, it would probably be a line that’s trending slightly downward for the foreseeable future. I didn’t create that reality, nor am I pleased about it, since I make my living at the moment as an independent, conservative blogger.
John makes a lot of sense. But I will say it in a more crass manner–it all comes down to economics.
When he started blogging politics in 2001, the “blog world” was much smaller, the players were fewer. Blogging has taken off in a big way since then. Some people do it as a hobby, others like John and me are trying to make eek a living out of blogging (John much more successfully than me).
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Generally the way a blogger makes money is through the old tip jar and through advertising both are dependent on traffic. For an independent blogger, the way the way to grow traffic is breaking a story, writing something provocative, or finding a totally new angle for a story. But even great work only builds traffic if you can’t interest a mega-site to link to your work. That doesn’t happen often, not because the particular site doesn’t like your personally or like your work, but most of the time because there are dozens of other bloggers just like you to get their attention.
With few exceptions (who I will only name after being plied with lots of alcohol) most of the big blogs are very generous with their linking. Even though I am no bigger than a medium-sized blog, I try to do my part with the RSS feed box on the left-hand column of my site.
The blog world is like any other marketplace, as it matures it gets crowded. Ten years ago when John started there were fewer players and it was easier to get attention of the “big guys,” and get noticed.
To survive, the job of the full time blogger is not only writing content and trying to find new ways to pimp every post, but to come up with free content for the mega sites to exploit their audience to develop a following for one’s own site.
This is not meant as a complaint but as a statement of fact.
Some of you may remember my original chosen profession was the theater. In a way making it as a blogger is a lot like making it as an actor. You do it because you love it and think you are making a difference, but in order to keep on doing it you have to eek out enough of a living to eat. Those who are trying to become big may give it a few years but sooner or later the economic realities are going to take over. They will have to become part of a mega blog, mainstream media, or drop out. Many regular readers of this blog may remember that I came close to closing down early in the year, until I received an infusion of cash combined with some paying gigs (the largest of which has closed down) but that was not a long term solution.
There will always be a few independent biggies, and lots of new bloggers coming in the field but, John is correct, the Independent Conservative Blogger, at least the bigger ones are becoming fewer and further between.