Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Big Question

Since my recent Nintendo explosion (in which my gamer fame lasted about 15 seconds, as opposed to15 minutes, BTW) I have been thinking a lot about my take on blogging. I read a great post too by Mir at BlogHer about the advertising controversy that is obviously as volital than ever and it confirms that I am not alone in my thoughts/concerns/questions. I found her post very thought provoking as are many of posts she highlighted. Equally compelling are the comments she's gotten. And so now, I’m going beyond thinking about it. Now, I must write.

I’ll begin by stating that I never basked in the Golden Age of Blogging, before ads (money) and site meter (stats and competition), and book deals (even bigger money) came into play. I began my blog too late for that, from what I can gather. I entered the pool long after it's surface was still gold and glassy. And I can't help but wonder (a la Carrie Bradshaw) if this isn’t the Golden Age, then what is it?

Blogging is still far from mainstream (def. "the principal or dominant course"). Some may argue but when I mention my blogs to whom I consider to be the mainstream around me, 80% remark, “I don’t even know what a blog is.” And the other 20%? Well, most of them say something like, “I mean, I’ve heard of blogging but I don’t really know what it means.” If that many people are still asking WTF, it ain't the principal course. So, I give them the basics, like, “It’s a web log…” Blah blah. And then I can’t help but get on soap box and sing bloggings praises, blog evangelist that I am, and hope to get everyone excited about it. Well, because for me, it’s been a really exciting thing to be a part of it and when I get excited, I talk. Non-stop. But what exactly IS IT that makes me tremble with passion? Let’s see. The outlet it’s provided for me to write. The fulfillment I get from writing (under no ones rules but my own) and being read (the latter being non-existent when writing in a private journal). The connections I’ve made and continue to make with incredible women (many of whom I can only hope will read this). Oh, and the money. Which is where the controversy begins.

Doesn’t it come down to the age-old question of what defines “selling-out”? And speaking of...I jumped aboard the blog train right about the time ClubMom put a call out to Mom Bloggers in order to hire a bunch to beef up their readership. I consider it perfect timing for me. Since I had just barely gotten my feet wet with my own personal blog (you're reading it), I applied at ClubMom with little fear or concern of the outcome. Why not put myself out there and give it a shot? I knew I wanted to be immersed in the blog world and would follow it anywhere it lead the minute I began. I just knew. So, what better than to be able to get more experience, be forced to become more tech savvy, be encouraged to write about the things that are important to me (my family and my photography), feed my innate need to network, and satiate my obsessive desire to discover and read more blogs? All of those perks AND a paycheck? Um, OK. I’m in.

To some, I’m a sell-out. And I don’t need to defend myself to those people because I’m cool with it. I don’t like the label. I don’t use it and I certainly don't consider myself to be one. If I am doing something I don't believe in, I can't sleep. I consider it my own little personal morality-meter. And although I may be in the early stages of my blog life, I’m getting pretty comfortable in my skin around here. Like I had to do way back in art school (where I felt constantly ridiculed and judged) I am beginning to grow my thicker skin. Imperative in any area where you are open for attack, no matter how subtle or seemingly harmless. Judgment can be painful, hurtful, maddening. I knew the blogging judgment was out there. It can be found everywhere. I just never chose to seek it out. That’s just how I am. Why bother? But, instead of avoiding it and trying to ignore it in this arena, I want to better understand it.

I got to spend some time with an old friend a few weeks ago. She asked about the blogging and how on earth I got paid for it. After we spoke for a bit I asked her if she’s ever considered it. She’s a writer so I figured it’d be something she’d have tried. She shrugged and something like, “I thought about it a few years ago but never got into it. Now, it’s not really cool anymore. It’s become so mainstream.” So, someone who never even blogged is even lamenting that the Golden Age has passed. Alright, but how many people ever get involved in a movement in its early days? The perfect bubble world of any incarnation is only big enough for those who get in at it's inception and then it pops and becomes something different. Not good, not bad, just different. It’s the Universal Law of progression. It’s when the outside world begins to infiltrate something pristine and untainted that it looses its original magic or mystique. Is that how many of the original bloggers see it? Once money got involved (in its numerous forms) the gold began to tarnish. Isn’t that what’s being said? I don’t know, I wasn’t there to see the change. I only see what it is now. And I can kind of get an idea of where it’s going.

My new mantra is “never underestimate the power of the blog”. I see pure potential in the blogging community. I see intelligent people getting inspired, inspiring others, because they are writing out of passion. I see movement, forward movement in many arenas, platforms, and communities. I see women using blogging to its full capacity, demanding to be heard, taking action and making change in their own lives and in the world around them. And from what I can tell, we’ve barely scratched the surface.

But if all this amazing stuff is happening now that we are beyond the Golden Age, can we call this time Platinum? Maybe not for some. Because what? Because there is money involved? But, here’s a thought (someone once said this to me many years ago) - money can buy freedom. I used to be one to argue that point to the death. Not anymore. When used for the higher good (whether to feed a family-yours, mine, or otherwise or to fund a worthy cause- of which there are sooo many) it can be very liberating indeed. And on a personal level, I know that if I can do what I love and make a living at it, I am actively teaching my daughters that when it comes to doing what makes you happy, the sky is the limit, then I am doing what I have set out to do as a mother. I guess even though I said I didn’t need to, that’s just me defending myself. But more than that, it’s me wanting thoughts like these to be considered and not dismissed. I can request that, can’t I?

But, where I am going with all of this besides just writing my mind? Well, (as I hold my breath and hope my skin as as thick as I think it is) I want to know what the blogging community thinks. I know from being at BlogHer that bloggers want to be acknowledged and legitimized by the mainstream. We want the big nod of approval. To be accepted as “real” writers who are a force to be reckoned with. But taking it a step further, and here’s the big question, “Do bloggers want blogging to become mainstream?” It seems to me the answer is somewhere near the equivalent of "kind of". In other words, only on our own terms? Hmmm.

To blog is to write. But more specifically, to blog is to write to be read. If that's not the case then we'd be writing in private journals. So, if bloggers want to be read then we want readers. Whatever that means to each person is their business. But the need is there in one way or another with everyone who writes a blog.

And since this is my blog and I can ask if I want to, I am going to pose the question again and hope that YOU tackle it.

“Do bloggers want blogging to become mainstream?”

Whatever your blogging angle, if this is a subject that sparks something within you, good, bad or ugly, please share it. You can leave a comment here with your two cents and/or a link to wherever it is you write about it. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

Come on, let’s turn up the heat.

13 comments:

Her Bad Mother said...

I'm totally planning on addressing this - I wrote about the posts that Mir addressed at *my* paid blog (http://urbanmoms.typepad.com/the_mother_hood/) and got roundly smacked by a few people who view me as "careerist" for "selling out." I'm still struggling to figure out why, exactly, women would come down on other women for earning or reputation for doing something that they love, and need to come to terms with that whole mess before I tackle the anti-commerce arguments that I got caught up in last week. But you're right, they are so important to discuss, and I'll link back here when I take them on.

Her Bad Mother said...

Gah, that was semi-incoherent. Sorry. On Nyquil right now.

nonlineargirl said...

I feel mixed about blogging being "mainstream". I mean, I like my little corner of the world being small enough that it is friendly, yet big enough to be diverse and interesting. But then there are moments like one the other day at a birthday party - two other parents (including a journalist friend) and I start talking about what this journalist should do during his parental leave. Blog! He responds as if it is a crazy idea. Why would anyone do that? How self indulgent. How boring. (guess I won't be outing myself as a blogger any time soon) So maybe a little mainstreamyness wouldn't suck either.

As for ads (or writing on a paid site), I figure if you can get someone to give you money for something you enjoy doing, go for it.

Amber said...

I'm amazed regarding how few people really know what blogging is all about. There are blogging references EVERYWHERE in the media--TV, newspaper, etc. Even more shocking is my computer illiterate mother has figured out how to logon daily to read mine. Even though she still doesn't know what it is... :-)

Jesser said...

I've been musing over this as of late ... a blogger I enjoy reading has recently taken to making every other post a "payperpost" where she hocks some damn thing or other or encourages the world to join payperpost. Part of me says whateva ya gotta do to pay the bills and part of me says "sell-out!" I don't know ... this is a hard one for me ... but I do think there are big differences in the DEGREES to which one can sell out and I've drawn the lines for myself. Payperpost ... HELL NO. Google ads? Maybe. A couple of text links at the bottom of your side bar ... sure ... I've done it and the xtra $20/month was great. And believe me if someone offered me the chance to write for a bloglomerate like Club Mom for $$, I'd probably jump at the chance, esp. since it doesn't interfere with the personal blog.

In the end ... I still don't have answers for the crowd... just a few for myself. Ah well ...

ephelba said...

I imagine blogging serves different purposes for different people, yes? I read blogs to connect with other people. To be reassured that I'm not "The only one", no matter what the issue is. I post for the same reason. To validate humanity.
I also read, and post, to bump against new ideas, to see things another way. I am currently stuck in the house without adult company Every Day. If I didn't read blogs I'd go nuts.
I wouldn't call it selling out to put up ads. To me, selling out means to say things you don't mean for money. If you write whatever you think and happen to have ads up, well whoop-de-doo. Why begrudge you the money?

tracey said...

Thanks for the feedback. It's wonderful to hear from you all. Elphelba, where did you come from?? I simply love what you said and how you said it!!
Thanks everyone for talkin'.

tracey said...

WHoops, sorry, I called you elph...eee gads...that's one way to lose a new friend. Hope you don't hold a grudge.Sorry.

jenlemen said...

hey tracey--i posted a reply on this topic, since my comment was getting excessively long.
http://www.jenlemen.com/blog/?p=18

Troy & Tara & Tribe said...

Tracey-
You have raised interesting questions that I am struggling with --- I don't even think I "get it" yet. I started my blog when we moved to a third world country, as a way to keep people updated on our lives without emailing them ---liking the idea that they could check in only if they wanted and we were not pushing stuff on them ---I just recently learned that there is money to be made and of course I now know I LOVE writing/blogging and like to have my thoughts be read by others. I don't think it is selling out but I don't understand it either. Basically if you agree to have some advertisements along the side of your blog you then can make money? Fill me in. I am too new to this and only know how to spill my guts ... I need a blogucation. -Tara

Mandy said...

If you can make money at doing something you love, than go for it! The same with the photography. You love it, you can make money at it, then do it. Being a SAHM, (& homeschooler) I think it is great for your girls to see you making a living doing something you enjoy. I've done the cubicle job (for too many years) and I don't want my girls to have to do that. I want them happy. You're gonna write what you wanna write and its not going to be slanted by advertisers (hopefully). As long as you stay true to who you are, that is all that matters. I enjoy blogs, all different kinds of blogs, so the more the merrier, mainstream is fine with me, we'll still weed out what we want to read. Okay, I wrote too much....sorry. Thanks for writing about this.

Claddyjack said...

Hey Trace, I finally responded http://claddyjack.blogspot.com

Karina said...

I wrestle with these same issues [and have, pre-blogging, in my painting life].

I just wrote a paragraph here and deleted it. Maybe I'm not coherent enough this morning to express myself.

I'll ponder and daydream and - I know! I'll blog about it! ;-)