On the value of blogging

Poet's Bar, San Telmo, Buenos AiresBrussels, 23rd July 2014. I was asked today for a view on the value of bloggers and blogging. But the more I thought about it, the longer my answer became.

All too many blogs are viewed by professional journos as written by people who should stick to the day job. It’s true that there’s a kind of snobbery there, but also true that all too many blogs have little content that is meaningful.

There are blogs out there (in the media world as well) with content that is obviously written only to boost the ego of the writer. There are also blogs out there (in the scientific world especially) with valuable content, if only it was made more interesting to read.

In my own case I run a blog as well as a group website, and while the website’s theme and focus is clear, the blog, after five years, is still finding its way. The themes have changed, the focus moves, it twists and turns. It’s probably a fairly good indicator of my own development as a blogger.

I’m still torn between the competing obligations of providing a fair and balanced overview (with my journalist’s hat on), and campaigning to right something that is transparently wrong (time to get those effing b*****s).

Bloggers of course can be very effective campaigners, often because they don’t have to answer to an editor. But they usually need that journalist’s instinct for novelty or news value if the blog is to be successful.

And they need something else as well. A commercial sense, for who might be interested in sponsoring such a blog. It’s not for nothing that some of the most successful bloggers operate in the financial sector.

So assisted blogging opportunities might be wonderful, but at the end of the day we all have to pay the energy bill. If editors wish to help bloggers because they recognise that they add value, then that help probably needs to be financial.

The traditional media world, wonderful as it is, is haemorrhaging good writers and journalists because short-sighted managers still don’t understand that it is content that attracts and retains readers. And real content, i.e. not “25 best beaches in Wales”, has to be written, it takes time. Balancing the budget by sacking writers is the first step on the long, dark road to closure.

And once people are gone they don’t come back. They switch to other work or they decide that early retirement is less hassle. The consequences? In the media world those channels die because they have lost their audiences and, as a consequence, their commercial sponsors.

For the audience the consequences are no less appalling. We face a dumbing down, a slow decline into ‘Death by ignorance’, and a reliance on media content paid for by powerful political and commercial interests. You only have to look at the media in the US to see what lies over the horizon.

So, the question should really be, “What is the value of writers and writing?” And the answer is clear. If you really value writers, be they bloggers, journalists or both, find a way to support their bottom line. Pay them for their work.

Or the consequence will be stark: Authors’ incomes collapse to ‘abject’ levels

© Philip Hunt, 2014.

One Comment

  1. Nice and to the point.

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