Last Tuesday night I attended the Meanland event, The Blogging Economy, at the Wheeler Centre.
The panel was hosted by Zora Sanders, deputy editor of literary journal Meanjin, and consisted of ThreeThousand editor Penny Modra, journalist for New Matilda and Crikey, among others, Ben Eltham, and Jacinda Woodhead, associate editor of Overland, who is working on a PhD in the politics of abortion. Count me in for that one when/if it gets published!
I was expecting a bit more content on how to make money from your own blog, in terms of advertising, but I was pleasantly surprised with the advice and opinions Modra and Woodhead, especially, had to give on writing for other blogs for money.
Modra said she insists on paying for contributions to her Melbourne city guide website, even if it’s just a small amount (around $25 for a 100 word review/preview), as that’s all she has to work with as editor of ThreeThousand.
But such a small amount of money for such a small amount of words doesn’t mean you can slack off: Modra’s had freelancers submit previews for gigs, in which they didn’t even Google the address of the venue to make sure it was correct! She muses that “words should cost more” to counteract this but, by the same token, “everything you do has to be good… I just want the writing to be good!” How else do you expect to make it in the freelance/blogging economy?
Woodhead brought up The Huffington Post, soon to launch in Australia, which sold to AOL for $315 million, and who doesn’t pay their contributors. She urged Australian freelancers and bloggers not to write for them, because if they can afford to be sold for mega millions, they can afford to pay their contributors. Fair’s fair.
Some of her other points, though, I didn’t agree with. I’ve always been someone to follow my dreams and find a way to “make it work”, as Project Runway’s Tim Gunn would say. Woodhead believes, however, that “just because you want to do something, doesn’t mean there’s an economic system to support it.” This didn’t go down too well with the audience, and one woman asked Woodhead to clarify her statement in the Q&A portion of the event.
She also asserted that the blogosphere is “evolving” into a “discussion”; it’s not like traditional print in that you pay the writer to actively inject their views and opinions into the passive audiences’ brains (if you were going with the high school media studies model of the hypodermic needle theory of consumption). At the Overland blog, they don’t—because they can’t afford to—pay their bloggers, but Woodhead wonders, if you pay bloggers, should you pay commenters for their contribution?
My money’s on no. Most of the comments I get here on The Early Bird do further the discussion, but this isn’t true of a lot of other blogs. Also, I think the more successful the blog/blogger, the more it/they attract the psychos! Especially when it comes to the more controversial topics.
Eltham spoke about a recent study that showed that artists in Australia—including writers—earned less than $10,000 for their work. It’s a bleak outlook, indeed, but I refuse to be disheartened! It just means you might have to supplement your artistic income with a less-artistic day job. Or marry a rich sugar daddy!
But, seriously, the unpaid blogosphere is about “citizens engaging in democratic discussion” that doesn’t always happen in paid writing. For every Gala Darling, there are 10,000 (probably more!) languishing bloggers going nowhere. And that’s fine; maybe that’s the way they want it. Hobby blogging!
We didn’t get into writing for the money. If that were true, we’d be in the business of hedge fund managing or some other über-rich-sounding Americanised profession. We got into it for the love of the craft; for getting our voice out there and, for some, making a difference.
I refuse to hop on Woodhead’s bleak bandwagon, and subscribe more to Modra’s sunny outlook: if your work is good, recognition for said work will come.