Way back in 2001, I was sitting in a college lecture when my professor proclaimed grimly to the class that journalism was experiencing its death knell. With tenure-backed boldness, he warned us all to pick a different major since print media was about to go the way of the dodo.
In subsequent years, his prediction proved fairly accurate. While newspapers remain an important part of American life, companies have been hit hard as more and more Americans are consuming their news digitally. Since 2009, many major metropolitan news dailies have been either shut down or forced to make drastic reductions to stay afloat. Instead, people are going online to get their news. We aren’t perusing the pages of a newspaper, but we are Googling for answers, selecting articles that further confirm our biases, and getting much of our news and entertainment from each other through social media. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times refers to this as “The Daily Me.”
“When we go online, each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper. We select the kind of news and opinions that we care most about… And if that’s the trend, God save us from ourselves…That’s because there’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information — but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber.”
The old media gatekeepers stand still at their posts, but the gates have been flung open as we all flood through.
Journalism didn’t die, per se, but it has turned into this ugly, other thing. Who knows what’s accurate or true anymore? And as social media fans the flames of infotainment, it’s all about clicks, likes, follows, proper keyword usage, and SEO — a true, digital popularity contest that can be tracked with frightening up-to-the-second accuracy through Google Analytics.
What does this mean for Blogging?
If you have a blog, (as with a podcast) it’s best you be famous already so you’ll get loads of followers. But barring that, the key is to write an article on a topic – or an angle on a topic – that hasn’t been covered before. This way, your article will show up near the top of Google search feeds rather than buried five pages down where it will gather dust for all eternity.
So if I want to write the 4,000th article on breastfeeding, then I will. But I know that I won’t get a place in the feed because the topic has been covered to death. To quote The Barenaked Ladies: “It’s all been done!” (I swear there was a more eloquent Samuel Beckett quote, but I seem to have misplaced it…)
And you best be keeping your blog short, because people barely read anymore. We’ve mostly moved on to twenty second videos of cats and cute babies and dudes from Russia doing handstands on skyscraper ledges. To use this article as an example, I’ve already lost my audience at this point. This is why so many blogs are written in list format – Because people peruse rather than read. Even a website like Cracked, whose audience skews heavily toward the nerdy side, takes this list approach with its content.
… So you have to ask yourself: What’s my angle? What makes me unique? Well snowflake, there are 7.53 billion of us, so probably nothing.
My original intentions for this blog was to tackle parenting from the “unique” perspective of being a single mom. But what I’ve found out as I progress through this parenting journey, is that I’m not so different than any other mom out there. I deal with largely the same issues as anyone else, which is why most of my articles apply to all types of parents – women, men, couples and singles alike. In the beginning, I was writing about specifically “single mom” issues, but those quickly ran out. As a newly single mom, once you get a routine down and sort your legal stuff out, you’re just like all the other moms on the playground.
How to Make Money Blogging
Chances are, you won’t. It is my opinion that articles suggesting it as a viable source of secondary income are largely Bullshit. And articles that list it as a way to make good money for stay-at-home moms are irresponsible for focusing their effort and energy in the wrong direction.
And furthermore, a blogger who does manage to make big money often finds herself shilling products through paid promotions and using her family to create an Instagram-worthy image that lacks all the authenticity originally intended for the site. Once you’re making money, the biggest product you’re selling is Yourself.
Here are some ways that you can gain traffic and attempt income generation through your blog:
- You can guest write on a similar blog in an attempt to get some clicks to your website from the link in your byline. This is your basic circle jerk blog move.
- You can use your blog as a body of work and apply to so-called legitimate sites such as Huffington Post, Buzzfeed (okay maybe not legitimate, but popular!), or Cracked. At this point, you are running into those same old gatekeepers though, and the competition is fierce. You will be competing against many, many other talented writers.
- You can stick a bunch of Google AdWords on your site. But you need a minimum number of site visitors to qualify and you’re basically littering your site with ads that will pay pennies per click. You have to have big traffic to make good money with this option.
…One suggestion that a friend gave me to help build traffic: Hang out in the Mommy chat rooms like a creep and insert my opinions strategically with a sign-off of “by the way, ladies, check out my blog!”… No, thank you!
What I would Say to Other Writers
To others who want to pick up this hobby: Just do it because you absolutely LOVE writing, but don’t expect anyone to read what you have to say. If you aren’t already popular — as a lot of introverted, navelgazing writer types aren’t — then writing a blog will not make the world take notice. ( Apparently, you need to be a cute sixteen year old “influencer” on YouTube giving makeup tutorials peppered generously with the word “like.” Then you will get 3 million followers.)
You, my friend, are just a tiny spec in the big old universe and nobody really cares about what you have to say. But like a mandala, there is a universe within you.
So express yourself to the wind if you must. To learn, to stay sharp, and to tell no one in particular that you were here. Be like that old brilliant man at the dusty bar, telling your story to anyone who’ll listen over a pint of old man beer. Then print it all out when you’re done, package it in a manuscript, and give it to your children for posterity. All that matters anyway is family in the end.