Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blogging At A Certain Age

This is Not Sports, so feel free to take a miss. But some of you enjoy the Blogfrica musings, so here goes.

Today in GQ, there was a sizable profile on Deadspin's AJ Daulerio, the editor of the site and the man behind the controversial deisions to pay for the photographic evidence in Favre Dong Gate. In it, we learn:

> AJ makes about $100K a year, which is to say, enough to pay rent and drink in New York City, but not much more than that

> Sports Illustrated's Frank Deford, a legitimately great writer that, like his magazine, is at least two decades past its prime, thinks that while Favre Dong Gate was a story, it wasn't a story that we should cover, at least not while the world has remarkably uncovered evils like money in college athletics

> Daulerio went on a vengeance-filled rampage outing the sexual misdeeds of World Wide Lemur employees after he felt used by a PR flack

> The Deadspin editor drinks to excess every day, because dammit, you can only blog full-time if you have a burgeoning problem with alcohol

> Deadspin has crushed its traffic levels ever since it went the, um, extra six inches, but still doesn't bring in a lot of cash

In the same day, I also spun the latest podcast from the Bad Tooth, because I'm a fan of Patton Oswalt, and have an interest in stand-up comedy, since it's something I occasionally attempt. Daulerio, Simmons and Oswalt are all about my age. And it's a curious age, the low '40s. You know that your life's dreams aren't terribly likely to all come true. You've been to a funeral or two for relatives you've known your whole life, and maybe you've even had your first big health scare or issue. And you start to keep score, assuming you haven't before, on all kinds of things.

I'm fairly convinced that any number of guys could have had Simmons' luck to break through and get the best job in Blogfrica, which is to be the house servant at the Lemur. It's not talent, or effort, or a distinctive voice; there are a half dozen similar or better guys working in the space. (And no, I'm not one of them. Short list for me is Drew Magary, Joe Posnanski, the late great Ken Tremendous and Will Leitch, Dan Shanoff and Daulerio. And that's just the general types; specific sports bloggers all have better writers, especially in hoop. But I digress.) He's just harder to ignore, given the platform. And yet, on a weaker day or in a time when the traffic or take from the ads is light, it's hard not to feel the envy or the inadequacy, as if a part-time night-time blog effort is playing on the same field.

But to your eyes and mouse, which is just a click away from any of those guys, it is.

When I was a musician, this was a telling point. You weren't competing with the other bands in the area that might be taking your gig if you didn't draw; you were competing against everyone else on the radio, since your potential audience didn't think to themselves, "Gosh, I'm only going to listen to music if it's locally made." So I don't really feel a lot of regret for not making a career out of that, since almost no one does, by the numbers. But let's get back to Daulerio and Deadspin.

What does it tell you, really, that the traffic spiked but the revenue stayed the same?

Well, it's simple. Advertisers didn't appreciate the traffic that was gained from the story. It didn't create high clicking, high revenue consumers that indexed well to their target. (How do I know this? Because the same thing happens on my site, in microcosm, when I have a high traffic link.) The short-term boosts never pay as much as you think they might.

Now, why did I mention Oswalt? Because of something he said on the podcast. If you aren't familiar with Patton's work, it's smart and filthy, the kind of thing that indexes to Louis CK, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, David Cross, etc. In other words, not a mass market guy, despite having a mass audience, and someone that the Larry The Cable Guy fans of the world wouldn't even find all that funny. In the '90s, before the Internet and before the mass movement of niche audiences, Oswalt had to kowtow to lowbrow clubs and patrons, put up with life on the fringe working the same audiences as everyone else, and basically work harder on drawing a crowd than telling jokes to them. Now, life is good -- because the Net lets him find an audience, and when that audience shows up, he's golden... because they spend more in the clubs, and cause much less hassle for security.

So can you take the high road in music, sports blogging or stand-up comedy and make a living? Sure. But you probably won't, because you are at a tactical disadvantage against those who have more time to spend on it, or no other options to make a living. I'm an ad man first, a father and husband second, and a blogger... third. Assuming that I don't have a poker game, fantasy draft, or gig. So I will stop comparing myself to Simmons, Oswalt, or Bob Mould or a thousand other men of moderate fame. And no one who is trying to do the same stuff as a hobby should, either.

At least, so far as you know.

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