Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Call To Support: Monetizing Blood Is One (And The Blogosphere)

I want to be flat out and open about something.

I'm on a small island in the Pacific right now, called Guam. When I got here, I figured that checks from advertising that we were receiving on this website (which were growing) along with money for articles I've written would keep me afloat until I got a real job.

The checks from Mog Music Network have ceased to come and my e-mails to the staff have not really produced that much. I'm trying to call them additionally and I hope that I can get this nonsense solved. I naturally have a bit of anxiety disorder and I try to pace myself with a situation like this so that I don't freak out all over everyone around me.

I can survive. I'm not going to be on the streets. However, what is really pissing me off about this is the general nature of journalism today. The internet has allowed us untold tools of communication that printing presses and typewriters never could. However, all of a sudden, journalists are working pro-bono wherever we go. Even at big outlets like the Huffington Post, writers are being expected to work their ass off for "exposure."

This is ridiculous, and ties into a mentality about the internet that everything there is available for free. Back during the time of Life Magazine, before he hit the big time by publishing books like Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut was able to both gain exposure and feed himself by selling short stories to the most influential magazines. What about the internet makes it alright or fair for writers just as talented as Vonnegut to write online for magazines just as influential as Life and be expected to do it for free?

No other worker is treated in this manner, in which their work is given aesthetic value and they are told they are talented and creative but have no assured way of simply being able to make ends meet. Even musicians, who have had their sale of compact discs totally destroyed by the internet, at least can be reassured that they will make an income based on merchandising, concerts and appearances.

The cozier positions of newspaper staff is now a rare option - and one without the power that it may have once had. Newspapers that once had a Daily Planet like presence as part of their respective city's infrastructure are shells. Newspapers like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a perfect example of this, is now an internet only tabloid news source. We don't need to return to a print only past but we need to look at professional options as writers in really radical ways. Beyond just adopted entrepreneurial abilities, we need to start thinking like laborers. If writers and content providers were part of a union, we'd be able to put fear into places like Huffington Post, which certainly has revenue to share, that think it's alright to employ writers and not give them any reward for their hard work.

Why writers aren't making more of a fuss about this, I'm not sure. Unlike blue collar workers, we may be very comfortable working in our own minds, according to our own logic, and let the money problem fall to the floor while we please ourselves with words of praise and support from family and/or the government. Maybe it's just a hobby for many of us. Maybe we're privileged brats who have the luxury of writing while other people toil.

Nevertheless, writing and reporting was once a serious profession. Here in Guam, people still do purchase newspapers and read them daily, despite my presence as a professional writer with an Apple computer in hand making me look a bit like a space alien.

One friend of mine, who I will not mention the name of directly out of respect, went to one of the country's largest and most prestigious public universities. She is affiliated with several prestigious journalist organizations. She told me candidly in conversation that she "had no income." This is despite her having put in a level of work and effort that many people don't have the self-starting will to do on their own. My friend, like myself, figured out the process for proposing and publishing a book but never followed through. I'm not sure of her personal reasons for doing so, since the idea was a great one.

Nevertheless, when the money from journalism has gotten so tenuous and vindication mostly based on (once again) words of praise, comments and page counts, the act of jumping into the publishing world seems like trying to land a firecracker through a hole in a closet. How do you know this will actually work? There are always doubts in the business world but the doubts become even more pronounced in a writing world like the current one.

If you're reading this and thinking that I am calling it quits with Blood Is One, don't worry about that. Blood Is One will keep going. This is an act of love, a hobby that is actually productive and not just masturbatory. We intend to reach out strategically to audiences who will be both interested in Carl Roe and in Kenan Bell, with the intention of spreading their exposure as wide as possible. If things work out to their best, it will be like Vice Records, a magazine which stumbled upon its own record label and made the operation work.

However, online journalism as a whole is simply too much of a bizarre gamble - even years after its existence - to really seem like a real profession. I've heard prominent people with the Heritage Foundation and other organizations say that there "is no clear way of making money at it." The aforementioned friend of mine called the question of monetization "the million dollar question." If these people, who are in a position to know how to make a living out of this if there were actually a process to know, can't name how to do it, what on earth is the point of studying journalism? Will CUNY's new program of Entrepreneurial Journalism really actually help solve this Great Mystery or just focus journalism on focussing on the business side of an unknowable business model?

We do appreciate and need your support. The Blood Is One main page has links to items for sale on Amazon.com, which you can purchase at discounted rates and help us survive along the way. We also have our ads here by our various sponsors, which will only bring in revenue with your support. Our numbers have not ceased to go up since we started the website so I know all of you are out there.

Thank you, and have a wonderful week.

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