When blogs first arrived as a medium, they were seen as the democratization of media where anyone could put up a blog and join the conversation. The question no one asked, however, is whether the conversation is sustainable and affordable beyond just a few voices, and how can the medium be monetized.
Bil Browning, of Bilerico Project, has taken this question and run with it in a post titled: The End of the LGBT Blogosphere As We Know It?
With all of this in mind, when I read last week that Mike Rogers of BlogActive has stopped writing for his blog, I couldn’t help but nod my head and think, “I get it.” I understand. I’ve often considered shutting down Bilerico Project too.
BlogActive is, of course, famous as one of the first gay blogs and Rogers exposed closeted Republican politicians who voted against LGBT issues. He garnered major media attention and helped shape American politics as well as the LGBT movement through his keyboard.
Rogers isn’t the only one carefully considering whether or not blogging is worth his time. Pam Spaulding of the award winning Pam’s House Blend recently told her readers that she was considering folding up shop too. The constant demands on her time leaves her no room to manage her illness, her home life, and her finances.
No matter how many awards you win, it doesn’t put cash in your pocket. Since we’re not independently wealthy, you gotta pay the rent. The only independent bloggers making a living off of their blogs that I can think of are Andy Towle and John Aravosis.
Browning says that part of the problem is that few people have figured out how to make money from blogging. Some–like Queerty and AfterElton–are owned by larger corporate owners. Dan Savage has his blogging hosted on The Stranger and Andrew Sullivan has bounced around from independent, to The Atlantic, and now Daily Beast.
Bilerico’s readers–and contributors–appear to imply that a donation system would work at Bilerico, but I don’t know of any blog that has made that approach successful. And Browning acknowledges that his reluctance to take donations is that he doesn’t pay contributors so the donations would only go to a few people.
This is not a new story, of course. The collapse of Window Media in 2009 and uncertainties at Here Media mean that even the big LGBT corporate media have their own struggles. But, as local publishers in Boston, Philadelphia, and San Francisco pointed out, it is possible to make LGBT media work on the local level (and maybe even national level) if there are good management decisions.
The challenge, as Browning pointed out, is that there hasn’t been a strong advertising base for blogs. Like so many online journalism ventures, figuring out how to monetize the efforts–whether you are a one-person operation or the New York Times–is they key.
Another option may be for bloggers to “go corporate” and be bought or operated by larger efforts. Equality Matters could be a centerpiece for various bloggers, although there is a problem with mission creep. Change.org and the Center for American Progress are also possible (well-funded) behemoths that could provide a network and funding base. It seems unlikely that the national LGBT organizations would be interested in going into the blog business since blogs can potentially undermine their larger missions.
So what is the answer? It’s possible that this is just another survival of the fittest situation–like so much of the media–where some survive and most won’t? But the promise of blogging–bringing diverse and unique voices to the conversation–is harmed by this thinking.