SBP Column 22/06/08

You’ll find them all over the web: sad little notes flashing up on your computer screen like crosses marking a new kind of grave. The notes will generally employ similar phrases, lines like: ‘‘for reasons of time’’; ‘‘want to do other things’’; ‘‘need to get my life back’’.

With words such as these, another web log will be put to sleep, ushered along to its final resting place with -if the blogger is lucky – flowers in the form of sad farewell notes from blog readers saying ‘thanks for the posts’ and hoping that, one day, perhaps, a resurrection might take place.

Almost as fast as blogs are springing up – there are reportedly over 100 million in existence – they are being abandoned by their once enthusiastic, but now exhausted, owners, concerned that the time they have spent entertaining their readers could and should be spent on other, more important endeavours.

In recent weeks, two high-profile Irish bloggers have hung retirement signs on their doors – Shane Hegarty of the Irish Times and Sinead Gleeson, winner of the best arts and culture blog for three years in a row at the Irish Blog Awards. Both bloggers cited lack of time as their reason for quitting, coupled with a desire to commit more seriously to other projects.

In truth, there was a certain inevitability to their decision. After all, books and articles don’t get written when you’re busy vetting your spam and examining your pingbacks. No matter how many people read your blog, blogging doesn’t pay the bills. The internet might well be the paradigm shift of our generation, but everyone is still struggling to figure out how to make money from it.

While in the outside world, being successful at your job generally means a promotion, in blogging, it usually just means there are more comments to read and more opinions to measure. Brilliant as the community that is created by a blog can be, it’s also possible that it can exact a worrying toll on the blogger who will seek to update, respond to comments and improve their site as much as possible. What started out as fun can end up as completely stress-inducing.

For all the media hype about bloggers and book deals and Perez Hilton-like fame and free swag from publicists, the reality is that the vast majority of bloggers work without anything other than sheer enjoyment of the process to sustain them. In the mainstream media, even those bloggers who blog professionally for websites of major newspapers such as the Guardian usually don’t earn anything like the money that would be paid for a printed article.

When you take all that into consideration, the real surprise is that people manage to maintain their blogs at all. And so, sad as I am to see two of my favourite blogs bite the dust, there’s something far more positive about looking forward to a time when those bloggers provide the world with something people can bring home to read between hard covers.

As for all those dormant blogs littering the internet – soon they’ll take on an interesting new dimension, acting as a time capsule, evoking memories both of an era, and in many cases, of a person, the person who wrote the blog.

The grandparents of the next generation may not bother opening a photo album when they want to think of their youth; they might just click and see their youth laid out before them, in detailed, commented-upon fashion.

One thought on “SBP Column 22/06/08

  1. The hypocrisy and naivete among (lots of, but not all) Irish bloggers is amazing.

    Hypocrisy as in: the number of freelance journalists who maintain blogs because they’re ‘important’ and ‘the new way of doing things’, then abandon them once they get a permanent gig with a mainstream media outlet. (I’m thinking of three in particular.)

    Naivete as in: bloggers thinking their ‘work’ is actually read by more than 100 people (basically, a room in a pub) and that they are ‘commentators’. There are a few exceptions here, of which Sinead Gleeson is definitely one. But most Irish blogs — at least 90 per cent — are dull, uninteresting and unoriginal and aren’t worth checking back on.

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