When we last left our hero in “Throw Another Blog on the Fire”—Part VI, he was at a crossroads in his career, exploring his options, as they say in the media biz when you have lost a job because of incompetence, been replaced by a machine or college intern and anybody else willing to work free, the segment of the population with the brightest future in the New Media.
His options included:
TRENDING: 2 B or not 2 B?
I’ve been climbing up the mountain in the last six particles with the hope that at the end of my journey I’d be like Moses, coming down from the mountain top and imparting to my followers a new way of life: i.e. how to have your blog and eat it, too.
I’m sure you understand the issues at stake. In all the years of onrushing progress in the tumultuous revolution we are living through has there ever been a group of the intellectually-gifted who have reached the heights of their profession as slave labor in the plantations, known as blog sites? I’m not talking about forced slave labor camps of, say, World War II where through no fault of their own —captured POWs—people found themselves building roads, digging canals, draining swamps. These are people who deliberately sentence themselves to a life without pay, and consider themselves the lucky ones, if thought to be worthy enough to be enslaved by the better-known blogs. Those who haven’t met the grade of being asked to write without compensation keep blogging away on their own websites, with the hope of being discovered and invited to keep working with the big boys for zip.
Now I realize I must sound like Lenin reading the workers’ their rights, such as being paid for their labor. Or a William Lloyd Garrison leading the anti-slavery movement against the plantation school of writing, as far as the Simon Legrees who run the camps are concerned. I also worry I may be coming across to my readers as a greedy, money-hungry capitalist fool objecting to the concept of writing for nothing.
Others have simply called me an old fart, a purist, a hopeless romantic who still hasn’t gotten over a love for those tactile sweet smelling repositories of words large and small, written on real paper in real ink, called a newspaper. “Face up to it,” Robert Scheer, my old CCNY classmate and founder of Truthdig tells me, “Print is dead.” So is paying writers.
That’s all true, but so what?
Of one thing I’m sure: If I keep up this madness of blaming the Internet for destroying the living of writers, I will never again be invited to blog for the flagship sites, with or without payment.
Enough of these gloomy thoughts. Is there an alternative?
On my journey up the mountain, I encountered a number of wise men who had made the journey before me, facing similar challenges.
Lewis Grossberger is a former colleague at Newsday. As he explains, it’s not as if he abandoned the Old Media. The Old Media went away, and he now writes for the New Media. He already is a fixture at True/Slant.com, Newser.com, as well as HuffPo. Author of many listicles for BuzzFeed, he has an awesome number of “likes” on Facebook. Lewis is perhaps most well-known today for his blog column “Grossblogger.” He specializes, as he says, in everything in the Universe. It’s his area of expertise. Also no one else was covering the beat.
“Why do I blog?” he asked in his testimonial to the New Media. “As a guilt-ridden sinner, I believe it’s best summed up by the phrase, What else am I gonna do with myself? I’ll probably keep doing it. I am hopelessly insane.” Meanwhile, he asked me to follow him on Twitter.
I have also learned it’s a lot harder to take that road to the poorhouse as a blogger than I suspected before starting the journey up the mountain.
Good placement, you should know, is something you can’t buy, especially for the money they don’t pay you. With good placement you’ll get scads of Twitter followers and Facebook “likes.” The power of “like” is awesome. And if you develop a nice following, well, then, the sky is the limit.
“ If your numbers are really good, you’ll get a lot of exposure,” warned Rabney, “so your name recognition will be right up there with the likes of Ponzi and Madoff. You may even be hired to write listicles for BuzzFeed without pay.”
Okay, say, as a scientific experiment, what if I decided to betray my basic principles and write a free blog? What would it be like? You know, take a test drive of a new vehicle, give it a spin. Maybe I’d enjoy it. I’d share my test results with you.
Waking up this morning, I decided to write a virtual blog. Here is the prototype “The Official Marvin Kitman Blog.” Testing… testing…
Ooh, new blog. Day One. Marvin Kitman here. Woke up this morning What’s different? Nothing. Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to check me out tomorrow.
It went viral, at least in my family. Three hits, including one from a relative in Florida who thought it was a new porn site.
Strictly speaking, I didn’t write that myself. I hired a ghost blogger, as celebrities often do. You don’t think celebrities like Alec Baldwin have the time to write their own gibberish? Thus, my reputation for never having written a blog knowingly is intact. In the spirit of the new economics of writing, I didn’t pay the ghostblogger anything.
And if I actually became a scab and started writing a real blog, what would I write about?
My expertise is in television. 35 years of telling the commercial networks they were steering into an iceberg is the reason they are not being threatened today by cable, Netflix and everybody else streaming on hand-held devices, including the electric toothbrush. (Have you ever tried watching TV on it?) The dinosaurs are dancing as fast as they can into the LaBrea Tar Pits in L.A. and no longer need my help.
Anyway, TV as an art form is as vieux chapeau as paying writers. Print media critics, in general, are as obsolete as Tyrannosaurus Rex Reed. Newspapers are oldspapers, as Harriet Lesser has noted. Theater is dead. Book publishing is on its last legs; the shelf life of literary critics has expired. In fact the only live medium, the hot center of culture today, is the Blogosphere.
Why not, I said to myself, become a critic of blogs? At last count, there was none.
No one else was covering the beat. I would get interconnectivity, good placement, big pick-up by aggregators, a multitude of Twitter followers and Facebook “likes.” What a stroke of genius. Everybody would want to know what is good or bad, since there are no creative standards in the Blogosphere. A thumbs up or down in the 140-character environment would resonate. Fame and no fortune would be mine.
While I am disappointed in not having found an easy solution to improving working conditions for my fellow writers, I’m positively giddy about the power potential of my having found a possible place in The Internet firmament.
I’m not saying I am about to become the world’s first blog critic. There is a problem how to monetize it.
Whatever I decide, it better be soon.quick. As Brother (can you spare a dime?) Aldo predicts, “The next step in the Blogosphere will be the outsourcing of writing to Chinese writers. They will have to pay to get writing assignments.”
To be continued.