The frustrations of free-lance blogging

Two interesting posts from respected bloggers (well, *I* respect them) in the past 24 hours:

– At Pitch Invasion, Tom Dunmore takes the news of a spat between BigSoccer and Premier League pundit Ollie Irish as a launching point for an insightful look at the business of blogging.

Fake Sigi, sounding curiously frustrated, says it’s time for a breather.

(For the record, FS, I didn’t “invite” Sirk but welcomed his company — same goes for you.)

The fundamental question here is what you can reasonably expect from blogging. And the answers are as diverse as the blogosphere itself.

The grass always seems greener somewhere else. Some bloggers want to be mainstream journalists, some don’t. Most journalists want to write for The Onion. When I was a full-time MSM guy, I just wished I had the same influence as Ginge Talks The Footy. (Seriously — on the rare occasion that someone would link to one of my stories, some commenter would usually say “Great find!” Yeah, the USA’s largest newspaper. Glad someone was able to stumble upon that one.)

I have reasonable goals with Sports Myriad. Traffic is fine, especially for the recaps of The Ultimate Fighter. Ad revenue … well, another couple of months, and I can buy that venti chai at Starbucks I’ve always wanted. But I expected that. My blog is purposefully unfocused so that I can keep active covering a variety of sports. I’d like to think some readers are interested in all of them. Some are, but not a ton. And the lack of a niche really confuses Google AdSense.

But this is still an improvement over the old days. If you wanted to make any money whatsoever off sports writing 15 years ago, you had to convince a sports editor to hire you over the 100-200 other people who applied for the job. Or you could be a stringer and pick up a few bucks to file from whichever high school the paper wasn’t covering that day. The position of “soccer writer” didn’t really exist — anywhere. Even in the national media, most of the names you know weren’t hired to write soccer. (I certainly wasn’t.)

Today, and this is said with no disrespect to any particular blogger, you can declare yourself an expert on the Premier League and “cover” it from your bedroom in Peoria. The fact that anyone is able to make money doing so, given the overwhelming amount of information readily available on the Premier League from more local sources, is astounding.

From a writer’s point of view, it’s especially frustrating when some of the content requires a lot of work — research, reworking, etc. — and is overlooked. It becomes a labor of love.

But that’s not unique to soccer. Writers usually don’t get paid for writing exactly what they want to write in the style they prefer. Of course, that’s true in any allegedly creative medium. Which is the more stable job for an artist — creating logos and graphic blandishments for corporations or pushing the boundaries of modern art?

And in any medium in which a plethora (myriad, even) of content is created and unleashed into the marketplace, people can always gripe about the unfairness of it all. Your favorite band is trying to make rent this month while Miley Cyrus presides over an empire. Of course it’s not fair.

The blogging equivalent to pop stars raking in 1,000 times more than your favorite indie band would be snark-blogging. It made Perez Hilton a household name. In general sports, the big-name brand is Deadspin, where I’m not convinced the writers and readers actually like sports. Other successful blogs grab a predictable demographic, mixing photos of scantily clad women in with their commentary. (Oh, really, hjrt673? You’d “do” Maria Sharapova? I’m sure she’s relieved to hear that.)

Sometimes, the platform is a huge help. Fake Sigi expresses some frustration with Yahoo, which mixes a few strong veterans with a few head-scratching bloggers hired to bring some more “attitude.” All of my Yahoo buddies, of course, should assume they’re among the former. Yet I did once argue with someone at Yahoo over a non-soccer piece that I thought was jumping to conclusions, and I was told how much traffic it drew. Let’s just say Deadspin would say “Wow.” So would any newspaper in the world.

A handful of people have good platforms that also have efficient ad service. Then there’s David Litterer, who curates the expansive and essential American Soccer History Archive and doesn’t place a single ad on the site.

BigSoccer sometimes compiles useful information like that. At their best, the forums have been like fast-updating Wikipedia pages, particularly on Yanks Abroad, where Dave Marino-Nachison is as worthy of being paid as anyone.

But there’s a place in the world for wit as well. Dan Loney has his place at BigSoccer because, among people with a repository of soccer knowledge in their brains, he’s probably the funniest. Bill Archer mixes wit with some carefully compiled links to shed light on fine investigative work that hasn’t necessarily hit the mainstream. Fake Sigi mixes wit with excellent analysis.

So all I can say is that I hope people don’t get too discouraged. Just keep realistic expectations. The joy of being amateur or semi-pro is that you get to do what you love. If you want readers, influence or possibly a few pennies from Google ads, try to make your writing lucid and useful.

And don’t ask me how to make any more money or gain more influence, because I clearly don’t know a danged thing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check the sales rank of my book at Amazon a few more times. (Oh, come on! It was higher this morning!)

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One Response to The frustrations of free-lance blogging

  1. Sirk says:

    Yeah, Fake Sigi. I just popped in uninvited and occasionally cracked a joke 1/10 as funny as one of Dan’s or made an observation 1/10 as astute as one of Beau’s, all while lagging five minutes behind the actual conversation. Having tolerated that, I am sure Beau would have welcomed you with open arms. No need to get so depressed that you don’t pick up the phone when Bob Bradley calls the Sigi Bunker from South Africa.

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