More Evidence Blogging is a Tough Business

Posted on August 5, 2008
Filed Under Unjournalism |

Profy was one of the few technology blogs that I still perused on a fairly regular basis. The reason? I always felt that Profy’s Cyndy Aleo-Carriera did a good job at keeping track of the latest happenings in the tech blogosphere (something which I have little interest in doing these days) and filtering out what isn’t important or interesting.

So it was with some surprise that I learned that Profy’s bloggers, Cyndy Aleo-Carriera, Leslie Poston and Triston McIntyre, have all resigned. Aleo-Carriera has moved on to The Industry Standard and Poston and McIntryre have moved on to Tech Blorge and UptownUncorked.

While I don’t have any first-hand details regarding the situation, according to a comment Poston left on Mashable, it appears that a disconnect between the amount of work demanded and the pay offered is to blame:

…the work to pay ratio changed in a way that was significant enough to make it not feasible to stay.

Svetlana Gladkova of Profy seems to admit as much:

The changes on Profy that I have chosen to introduce are intended to better correlate the revenue of the blog with what we pay for content. Moreover, my idea is to help Profy bloggers prosper while helping the blog grow as well and taking responsibility for their results. I am surprised that the changes were not welcomed by our bloggers since I offered very lucrative prospects for growth of their revenue based on the results of their work. But I do understand and respect their position and I hope that they will find more personally suitable conditions with their future employers. I hope it is equally understandable that I need to think of the interests of my business along with the needs of our bloggers.

I found this interesting in light of last week on entitled “Is blogging a dead-end profession and business?” which led to a “debate” with Jeremy Wright, the CEO of blog network b5media, who recently offered bloggers at a failing blog network the opportunity to continue blogging for b5media. His - $50 for the first month.

In my post, I noted:

In short, it appears that for much of the blogosphere, there is a disconnect between the economics of running a blogging business and the economics of being able to survive as a professional blogger.

As with any other industry, when businesses cannot afford to attract and retain the people required to produce the quality “products” and “services” that make the businesses “go,” it doesn’t bode well for the industry as a whole.

Recently, Sheila at Gawker the same subject, observing:

Bloggers have to stop thinking of themselves as white-collar creatives and more like rank-and-file workers. After all—that’s how they’re paid!

Some bloggers get paid per-post, like pieceworkers in a 19th-century factory. Some get paid for pageviews, which is even more idiotic from a worker’s perspective. It means you’re not paid for your labor (except your monthly minimum) but paid instead on a sort of gamble—how well your product will perform when it’s thrown into the open marketplace.

The bottom line, as the operators of blogging businesses appear to be finding out, is that producing quality content isn’t cheap. And monetizing that content isn’t nearly as easy as many apparently thought it would be.

So what to do?

Offer bloggers “lucrative” opportunities in which they incur all the risk and the business itself ensures that it never pays out in compensation more than it takes in in revenue.

In my opinion, offers like the one made by Svetlana Gladkova are usually disingenuous ruses because they ignore the fact that good writers are retained to provide a quality work product. Nothing more, nothing less. Most writers, after all, aren’t entrepreneurs and if you’re engaging in “reporting” and “journalism,” you’re probably performing your services under a “work-for-hire” agreement.

Quite simply, writers engaged in these activities are paid to produce a work product that the business that retained them can then take and use as it sees fit. If the business that retained them can’t take that work product and make more money from it than it cost to produce, the business has failed to do its job.

While I think a compensation structure under which bloggers are paid a base salary and have some upside potential through revenue sharing may be viable in some cases, it’s worth noting:

At the end of the day, I find it funny that Gladkova wants her former bloggers to “tak[e] responsibility for their results” but apparently won’t take responsibility for the fact that her business was ostensibly unable to generate enough revenue to continue paying its bloggers under the type of arrangement it apparently negotiated in the first place.

It’s one thing to retain a blogger under a base salary and revenue sharing agreement; it’s another thing to find that you can’t make money and then ask your bloggers to “tak[e] responsibility for their results” by agreeing to an entirely different agreement that forces them to subsidize your business.

Perhaps the greatest irony in the increasing number of examples that the business of blogging isn’t really much different than any other content business is the fact that blogosphere “moguls” like Michael Arrington frequently love to tell newspapers, television networks, et. al. that their business models are broken.

Apparently quite a few blogging businesses have broken business models as well. That’s not a positive sign for such a nascent “industry.”

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