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:
- What is your own definition of a “professional blogger” and do you consider yourself one?
- As the blogger for ______ Blog, do you get paid or compensated to write for the blog?
- If so, who or what pays you? If not, what other jobs do you hold to support yourself?
- How do you think professional blogging is changing online journalism?
- Do you think professional bloggers are journalists? Is there a difference?
- Do you think professional bloggers need the experience of journalism? Or are there other skillsets?
Specific blogs we contacted include:
- The Offal Cook
- Cooking with Amy
- Manolo’s Shoe Blog
- The Working Wardrobe
- Her Bad Mother
- Small Business Tips
- Web Urbanist
- Cool Boom
- Southern Hospitality
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