Economics of blogging

It may become more effective at reaching young wealthy audiences than traditional paper media, but as primary activity blogging doesn’t pay. One of the leading lights of the form, Andrew Sullivan:

“…we may have, I think, what one Internet writer recently called an air and gold problem. Air is much more vital to human beings than gold; but because there’s so much air out there and all of it is readily available, it’s free. Gold, on the other hand, is immeasurably less useful to human life than oxygen and yet its scarcity makes it a benchmark for financial value.”

The problem, Sullivan suggests, is:

“A critical part of the web is the ability to link to other sites and articles freely and often. If half these sites are closed to non-subscribers, then they essentially shut themselves off from the broader web conversation. But being part of that broader conversation is what gives blogs their unique and fascinating appeal. They can make arguments, fact-check them, rebut them, and on and on – in a seamless and endless conversation that’s often riveting to eavesdrop on.”

But the essential economic value of blogging is not in taking new media out of the old media equation, but rather in looking for interesting and particular ways of bringing the two together:

“My own blog has allowed me to produce a weekly version, which I have been able to sell to a couple of dead-tree newspapers for some cash. Items on my site are sometimes noticed by old media editors who ask me to expand on them for a column or essay. Last year, I started an online book club, where readers collectively buy a new book, read it and then discuss it online with the author. The site gets a small commission every time we sell such a book on, and the commissions can add up. Last week, Christopher Hitchens’ new book, “Why Orwell Matters,” was our choice for the month, and its Amazon ranking went in a few hours from 1074 to number 3.”

There have already been examples of this in Northern Ireland, though neither are weblogs as such. Newton Emerson, who has risen to public eye as editor of the online Portadown News now writes a weekly column for the Belfast-based Irish News. And the dissident Rpublican writer Anthony McIntyre, who along with his partner run The Blanket, who is more and more frequently asked to guest write for a number of papers and journals.

For more on blogging read: Wired; O’Reilly Network; Corante; and an essay by Rebecca Blood.