Before there were blogs, there were online journals, of which I had two. They were hand-coded in html and difficult to update, but they did keep my readers (all four of them) updated as to my travels and happenings. Then tools came along to make online journals easier to update and they were re-branded "blogs," but it was all the same to me. I'd start a blog, get bored, kill the blog, start a new blog. Eventually i decided to make a real effort at "the blogging thing" and Blogography was born. It was killed 6 months later.
But then better blogging tools came along and Blogography was reborn. Five years later, it's still here.
I honestly don't know why. It should have died off years ago.
I'm guessing it has to do with the "blogging community" that's given me so much. New friends. An extended family. Many good times. Some bad times. And a lot of laughs. I'm guessing it's the same for a lot of bloggers. You keep going because you can't imagine not going on and leaving the community behind.
But then money had to come along and fuck up everything.
Advertising. Merchandising. Revenue sharing. Commissions. Free merchandise. Travel. Book deals. Speaking engagements. Sponsorships. Conferences. Professional bloggers. And a myriad of other things that have made blogging as big a business as anything else out there.
Most of the time, this money is pretty insignificant. Maybe a blogger puts Google Ads on their blog and makes a bit of cash so they can pay their hosting costs and perhaps buy a pizza each month... and that's fine. I've said many times that ads don't bother me. So long as a blog is worth reading, I honestly don't care if they try to make a few bucks. Plaster you blog with ads, it doesn't make any difference to me because I don't visit for the ads and can easily ignore them.
And yet, there's a tipping point.
That point at which the dollars are no longer insignificant and a blogger realizes that there's money to be made.
And wherever money gets involved, drama is sure to follow.
This is not to say that money has to be involved for there to be drama. It doesn't. Drama can be motivated by a number of factors, and I'd guess most of them have nothing to do with dollars. But it's the money-drama that's the most interesting... because nobody involved will admit that it's about the money!
Once you've breached that tipping point, you can claim all you want that you're blogging for the love of it all, but it's a load of crap and everybody knows it. At that point it's all about building readership and leveraging that readership for a monetary pay-off. It's the holy grail that oh so many bloggers aspire to and, once they have it, will do most anything to protect. After all, once you've made serious bank from blogging, how could you lower yourself to go back and do it for free?
And that's where the trouble begins, because things inevitably turn nasty. Sometimes, because a money-blogger thinks that the best defense is a good offense, they'll mount an attack on other bloggers to "defend their blogosphere territory." Other times, a money-blogger realizes that nothing elevates readership better than controversy, and so they'll invent drama where there is none (or escalate drama that's already there) to snag readers. However the money-drama occurs, the money-blogger can't ignore it because battle-lines are being drawn and losing territory means losing revenue.
Not that they'll admit to it.
You'll never see a money-blogger say "There is a blogger that has come to my attention who is clever and fresh and writes about the same subject matter I do. If their readership keeps growing, I fear that they may start cutting into my revenue, and this simply cannot be allowed. I've got a book coming out and am a paid speaker at MoneyBlogger 2008, so my only option here is to attack them now while I still have the power to protect my brand. So when I say that this blogger is a talentless hack who steals ideas from other people and is a stupid doo-doo head, I hope that you will act like the mindless minions you are and join me in destroying them. Oh... and did I mention that they are a godless communist who likes to kick puppies and perform abortions in their spare time?"
Then the entertainment really begins, because the money-blogger being attacked will mobilize their readers for an offensive. Other bloggers will weigh in on the drama with their own opinions to build alliances. Still other bloggers will wait for the drama to die down... then stir it up again so they can create all new drama with themselves at the center of it... all in the desperate hope of snagging a few more readers so they can cash in and be a money-blogger too.
On the surface, it's a pretty battle filled with righteous indignation and the best of intentions. Underneath it all, there's the money.
No matter how strongly they pretend otherwise.
Most of the time I'm able to comfortably skip past the money-drama and ignore it. In rare events, this is not possible, though I try not to drag my own blog into the fray except in broad strokes (like now!), preferring to comment elsewhere.
And this is where I finally bring this entry full-circle by saying how the money-drama relates to me.
Except that's not what some people think, and therein lies the problem.
People see that I sell crap at the Artificial Duck Co. Store and think I'm raking in the big money.
Which is laughable on so many levels. Last year the store lost me over $1200. Obviously I don't run it to make money, I run it because my readers like having the stuff. I like having the stuff. I sell the hats for $12. The hats cost me $12. I sell the T-shirts for $8.50. The T-shirts cost me $7.50. I sell the Playing Cards for as little as $2.50 (for an eight-pack). The Playing Cards cost me $3.00. No big money is being made. The $1 from the shirt goes to a fund to help my sister pay for medical expenses she has from kicking the shit out of cancer a second time (sorry for the massive profit margin on the shirts there, but I love my sister quite a lot).
I don't make money off of Blogography and, for the foreseeable future, that's not going to change. That's not why I blog. There's some very, very cool new merchandise in the pipe for Blogiversary 6, but it will be sold at my cost as it always has been. Even though I parted ways with my publishers (yes, both of them!) I still plan on releasing the first of my books next year (even if I have to self-publish). I think we all know that's not going to be a money-maker... but I worked hard on it, think people might like to read it, and so I'm going to make it available to them as cheaply as I possibly can. I'm far more interested in Blogography readers being able to afford my stuff than trying to wring money out of them.
But no matter how transparent I try to be as a blogger, I know that there will be those who don't believe me. There's always going to be a small group of people who are convinced that every time I say I like a product, some company has their hand up my ass and is paying me to say it. There's always going to be people who simply cannot accept that I'm not making huge bank from T-shirts and hats. It's human nature, and I certainly don't begrudge them for believing whatever they want to believe.
Except when they go telling it to other people as if it were fact.
In which case they can go fuck themselves. Twice now I've seen my name and my blog dragged into some outrageous shit because some money-blogger is trying to create drama and make a name for themselves. Which is monumentally stupid when you consider that I'm not in this for the money. More importantly, I'm not competition! You think I'm worried about losing advertisers from advertisements I don't have? There's no benefit in my engaging in your drama other than to spell out how monumentally stupid you are for assuming I would care.
So be a douchebag money-blogger wannabe and stir up all the shit you want, if you're so inclined.
I'll still be here not giving a flying fuck.