Over Paying Bloggers for “Free” Content

On most days, Carla and I debate our analysis in private, Skyping with one another until our fingers burn. And this day started just the same. She’d been mulling over the value of reasoned analysis as subject matter for blogs. Then, a TechCrunch post about (I think) why investment in blog media companies will never pay out described the blogging as some sort of word-based Fight Club, and that tipped Carla to action.

Her post today asks, essentially, whether thoughtful analysis has any place in the blogosphere. She quoted one colleague who effectively said that if one writes a solid analysis, then what’s there to say in the comments. The subtext: fire off an ill-conceived “rant” and we can really sink our teeth into that.

Reinforcing that thinking is a comment from Cyndy Aleo-Carreira on profy.com:

I think I nearly busted my gut laughing at the idea of “thoughtful analysis” ever being popular.

To be fair, Cyndy commented on Carla’s post more fully:

. . . I’m still of the old-school that feels like quality should stand on its own without the constant whoring for Diggs and link-backs and attention. . .
The reality, however, is that the squeaky wheel gets the eyeballs in this industry, and the eyeballs get the money.

I’m heartened to see the thoughtful comments being added to Carla’s post, but still I wonder why the (mostly) intelligent people who spend hours each day consuming blog posts don’t demand more from the bloggers they read. Readers reward shoot-from-the-lip bloggers with traffic and attention, and never seemingly feel exploited. Somehow, the opportunity to get into the mud with an A-lister out-measures the value of time and intelligence.

This, of course, is not a new phenomenon. Back when DEMOletter was still published on paper (yes, the Dark Ages), I wrote about attention and time as the currency of Web 1.0, and now, most certainly of Web 2.0 and beyond. Yet still, the social-media consuming public doesn’t understand that value. Too many people have so devalued their time and attention that they “over pay” for “free” content, allowing the value to accrue to bloggers who, frankly, are not always worthy of the page views.

In a quest for readers and rank and authority, too many bloggers have turned the posts and comments into a side show. The only thing that will change that is if readers demand more.

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7 Comments »

  1. Amen! There are lots of product “reviews” out there on the top blogs, in which the writer got a pitch from the company, played with the product for 15 minutes or so, and then regurgitated a list of features derived from the press release. I treat TechCrunch and other top blogs as feeds of product names to watch, rather than as thoughtful observers. I do think that a lot of interesting analysis material is created organically from the conversations spawned in comments and derivative blog posts, but it’s difficult to sift through all of the cruft to find a few gems.

    I recently went through my blogroll and pulled out tons of blogs that just produce too much. I tend to prefer blogs that write fewer articles that are based on clear principles, identify interesting trends, and consider the larger picture.

  2. Don’t get me wrong; 99 times out of 100, I do nothing more than skim blog headlines and the first couple of lines in my reader, then hit delete. Five articles that cover the same topic in less than 250 words and are all basically regurgitation of the same exact story don’t all need to be read. But you look at the numbers of blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable and you have to wonder if that isn’t what people really WANT to be reading. If they wanted fewer articles with more in-depth analysis and commentary discussing trends, wouldn’t the reader numbers reflect it? It’s pandering to the lowest common denominator, but it’s the lowest common denominator that ends up paying the bills.

    What you are talking about though, is exactly what drives me nuts a lot of the time. When I review something, I’ve actually used it. Taken it out for a spin, and sat with it for a few days deciding whether or not it’s something I’ll actually use. When I look back at the apps and services I’ve reviewed, the majority of the ones that I said I liked are the ones I still use on a regular basis (with the exception of web office suites, and that’s because I’ve generally walked into a situation where Google Apps were already in use, therefore Google Apps are what people wanted to stay with). It’s been a very rare case that I’ve changed my mind about something. It’s the reason why I refrained from reviewing Twine until I really started reading and engaging on the site. A quick look-around wasn’t fair to Twine, nor to any of the 4 people who cared about my review. I’m still learning how to maximize the content and contacts, and I’ll probably go back to it when it’s out of beta to evaluate what’s changed since my initial perceptions.

  3. @cyndy… I think you’re making a great point. But here’s what I think is going on. Rather than bloggers pandering for readers, they’re pandering for rank. Too often, we jump onto one another’s blogs, post a quip and a link, and hope that drives referrals back to our own sites.

    The blogosphere has become a giant echo chamber of bloggers blogging bloggers in order to drive traffic, some real and some artificial.

  4. coop said

    “The blogosphere has become a giant echo chamber of bloggers blogging bloggers in order to drive traffic, some real and some artificial.”

    Couldn’t have said it any better. You hit the proverbial nail on its oh so aching head, Chris.

  5. An excellent and timely post @Chris with excellent additions. Doesn’t rank equate to page views as commonly measured?

    You are right about the same stories appearing x100 times. I dread when Microhoo comes up. Way too much attention to things like Techmeme which is Gabe’s Faves and the entourage that follow. It’s the easiest thing in the world to game it yet to me adds little value.

    I’m happy that my tiny audience is one that resonates with decision makers because I must be reaching the right people. Of course you can always argue this is just another business model but it is one I find much more satisfying than the eyeball/ad-driven/ego-centric stuff of which I see so much.

  6. Great stuff, Chris (and Carla)….one bit to add: I think its all part of a larger “guildification” of media. Blogs removed the friction to publishing – but we now have an ecosystem springing up to remove other associated friction points:

    1. Federated Media removes friction around ad sales.
    2. AWS removes friction around infrastructure

    etc….

    What we haven’t found a way to do is “scale” content (ie, its damn hard to scale quality) – and as a result, content is now getting commoditized in the blogosphere….ie, when the pay is sweatshop level and pageviews are all that matter, the whole mess degrades into the National Enquirer.

    Btw: that’s not just blogs, I’m hearing exactly the same complaints from my friends who are long-standing tech journos at respected tech pubs.

    I think we’ll overcome the hurdle of “content,” but only after we ride this national enquirer cycle out. In the meantime, some of us will work on quality because we know it wins in the end. ;-)

  7. [...] blogging, commentary, emerging technology, Robert Scoble Many interesting results came out of our posts yesterday on the current state of the blogosphere. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what reaction [...]

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