July 09, 2007

Three of the smarter lights of the blogosphere, Susie Madrak, James Joyner, and Marc Danziger, debate the best way to make blogging something more than a rich man's hobby. Danziger, I think, has the better of the argument; until we figure out a way to allow the individual blogger to get a piece of the action the Queen Beez of the blogosphere are getting, regardless of ideology, it is fruitless expecting assistance to come from ideologically sympathetic cohorts.

I suspect this is going to be a recurring issue, what with three major bloggers (Cathy Seipp, Steve Gilliard and now Jim Capozzola) dying in the past three months of natural causes, all before reaching their fiftieth birthday. Most successful bloggers are able to devote the time and hours necessary to pimping their site and reaching a large audience without having to worry about the mundane folly of "making a living." That is because most bloggers fall into one of a few categories, which I list in order of their non-precariousness: wealthy people with a lot of free time on their hands; lawyers; people whose job it is to be near a computer terminal all day; college professors and students; people who get paid to write for a living; and, most precarious of all, political activists, both actual and wannabe.

When political blogging first started to make headway in our culture, the major players were disproportionately from the world of journalism, academia and computers. Blogging supplemented their real world jobs, and if financial insecurity began to rear its ugly head, their on-line hobby complemented what they did for a living. Eventually, when the ease of creating your own website combined with the narcissistic pleasure of having your opinions thrust on the world became apparent to more and more, the blogosphere began to include greater numbers of people, like myself, who loved to write and had either the free time or the inclination to devote several hours a day to their blog. Some of us had the money to subsidize this hobby, but many did not.

Increasingly, perhaps inspired by the success of Daily Kos and MyDD, we are seeing more and more bloggers emerge from the latter category of would-be political activists. Madrak's complaint, as I see it, is that people who work their asses off getting Democrats elected to office should reap some of the material benefits of that success, and that blog readers should be less passive when it comes to helping the scribes who toil away for hours fighting for the better tomorrow. To those bloggers, their website isn't a hobby, it's their calling, and it is difficult to appreciate the amount of time that goes into creating a high-traffic blog.

It is an unfortunate reality that the very power of the blogosphere, that it includes so many different and disparate voices, is the one thing that will keep the Susie Madraks of the world impoverished, at least for the time being. None of us, not Kos nor Prof. Black nor Ms. Madrak nor Digby, nor, especially, myself, is irreplaceable. We may each have a unique voice, but the blogosphere as a whole generates hundreds of new "unique voices" each day, and any political entity, whether it be the Democratic Party or Move On, can always find a different Unique Voice to raise funds or encourage activism online. Since we are fungible commodities, we aren't marketable to them. Our supply greatly exceeds their demand.

So the only solution is not ideological, but structural. Until bloggers can find a way to profit from the Long Tail (and until a "Long Tail" actually emerges from the wake of the Queen Beez at the top, like Kos and Instapundit), blogging will remain an activity for hobbyists with lots of time on their hands, and for those would-be activists with not a second to spare.

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