Blogging as a profession? Seems like an interesting career choice, especially since most blogs are not created for the purpose of stable revenue. So when the Wall Street Journal named “blogging” America’s Newest Profession, it seemed a little odd. But apparently about 1.7 million people profit from blogging – and 452,000 see blogging as their primary source of income.

Wait a second …

Clay Shirky describes blogging as “mass amateurization of publishing.” However, today’s professional bloggers, take Perez Hilton for example, would hardly say they are “amateurs.” At least within the entertainment industry, the lurking professional blogger (let’s call him the “PB”) may very well have a front-page story that slipped the big shots at People Magazine.  Now the PB has the most valuable content, despite not owning a printing press.

Clay Shirky further mentions that the internet and weblogs are changing the definition of news professions and news itself. Consider this – does your name really need to appear in a New York Times column for it to matter? If I get millions of hits on my blog a day, it is likely my latest post about my love-hate relationship with my alarm clock will get a fair amount of views by default. However, few will find this information thrilling. Now if I then post the location of the next planned terrorist attack – I’ve probably divulged some headline material. My view rating goes up, making tomorrow’s little rant more likely to be glimpsed over by yesterdays’ audience seeking my authority on developments. Not to say all PBs are this bipolar, but I am not a newspaper – I can write what I want. So it stands to reason that the concepts of “professional blogging” and “professional blogger” remain intriguing, since what was once considered amateur writing can now be considered professional and news-worthy. PBs can essentially create their own news based on the popularity of their blog. Free from the confines of traditional media, successful PBs may even wield a significant amount of un-contested influence over their respective fields. [Examples available in final travelogue]

Another question arises – how does professional blogging count as a career? There are many out there that consider themselves professional bloggers, like Manolo the Shoe Blogger and Amy Sherman from Cooking with Amy. Are they getting paid to voice their thoughts or expertise? If so, how do I sign up? (Just kidding.)

To examine the career aspect of professional blogging, we asked PBs of popular blogs in the Food & Drink, Fashion, Mommy, Business, and Arts sector the following questions:

  1. What is your own definition of a “professional blogger” and do you consider yourself one?
  2. As the blogger for ______ Blog, do you get paid or compensated to write for the blog?
  3. If so, who or what pays you? If not, what other jobs do you hold to support yourself?
  4. How do you think professional blogging is changing online journalism?
  5. Do you think professional bloggers are journalists? Is there a difference?
  6. Do you think professional bloggers need the experience of journalism? Or are there other skillsets?

Specific blogs we contacted include:

Results so far:

How does an individual who blogs transition from an amateur blogger to a professional blogger?

Manolo the Shoe Blogger defines the “professional blogger” as a person “who makes the majority of his or her income from blogging.” Often a professional blogger will receive income from another profession or position. Besides making money from advertising in his Manolo Shoe blog, Manolo the Shoe Blogger is also an opinion journalist who writes a weekly shoe column for the Express of the Washington Post. Once a blogger receives enough attention, the blogger will be able to utilize his or her blogging platform to make money. Some bloggers do not have advertisements on their blog but are still able to make money from writing books, speaking at events, and others.

Are professional bloggers considered journalists?

Journalists collect information regarding current events and issues, presenting his or her findings through a medium called “journalism.” So is there a difference between professional bloggers and journalists (in a PB’s eyes)? Manolo finds the differentiation confusing, replying, “Yes! No! Maybe! Sometimes!” Compared to a journalist who hunts data to synthesize in a newspaper article, a shoe blogger sitting at a desk, typing, appears to undergo an entirely different process. Manolo believes that to be successful, you do need to learn the craft of journalism. A sufficiently thorough body of knowledge or an unusual point of view also helps achieve success as a blogger. Manolo the Shoe Blogger explained that this is where blogging is superior to journalism – “for it allows non-journalists to tell their stories or share their expert knowledge without the intermediation of the professional journalist or writer.” Simply put, bloggers have more freedom to write.

Many still criticize online journalism (such as blogging) because it lacks a filter. (Fake) news can spread like wildfire before even reaching print media. However, the freedom of professional blogging can be viewed as a positive cultural change in online journalism. To quote Manolo the Shoe Blogger, “blogging has democratized journalism, for the better.”

Jana Kalnina and Jessica Yu

3 Responses to “A Penny For My Thoughts”

  1. Hannah Satzke says:

    Great research so far, I like how you have narrowed your focus. I like that you are comparing bloggers to journalists (versus the usual paradigm of traditonal print versus blogs), focusing more on the bloggers themselves and what distinguishes them from a journalist. I too am very interested in how blogging can actually become a profession, I definitely feel as if you need some kind of base community before you get started to become successful or to atleast garner enough attention to get paid. Additionally how are these bloggers getting paid… who’s paying them?

  2. jajja says:

    I think you guys are doing a great job thus far at synthesizing your research methods, and I look forward to seeing the feedback you receive from other PB’s of different industries. What I find most interesting is that I would imagine if you asked any traditional journalist if they consider professional blogging as an equivalent to professional journalism, they would most likely regard the two radically different. However, Manolo’s responses demonstrate that some PB do consider themselves as a type of free-ranged journalists, employing “the craft of journalism” to their methods of posting. This can be slightly controversial because I think that the craft we are speaking of is defined in itself by the limitations and regulations that pressure journalists into creating “newsworthy” and “credible” work; the PB freedom appears to directly contradict this notion, providing an interesting quandary at hand.

    Keep up the good work! Cheers!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    This is really great! I’m impressed with all the research you’ve done and the great responses you’ve gotten from bloggers! I wonder in picking these bloggers, did you look into their background? It’ll be interesting to compare the responses from a Mommy blogger to Manolo the shoe critic who also writes for a traditional publication. I’m looking forward to reading your final draft!

    **Also in case you need any more contacts, Mommy bloggers come together at an annual SheKnows convention in the city. I think it’s either in the spring or summer, so bloggers might be gearing up for it already. You might be able to find some interesting people to talk to at SheKnows. They’re definitely open to questions.

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