When I give speeches about blogging, I always use this line: "Blogging is an ego sport. If you didn't think the world needed to hear what you have to say, you wouldn't be publishing your thoughts online for all to see."
It's obviously not about the pay. 99.99% of all bloggers make a little extra cash from ad revenue, but not enough to keep the lights on. Unless you start to get quite a bit of traffic, ad sales aren't going to pay your bills; you do it for the love of it. Most of us work other jobs too.
I do quite a bit of consulting work to bring in a salary while still managing the day-to-day activities of Bilerico, Jerame works full-time, and Alex has worked in Paris while also pumping out at least three posts a day, editing everyone else's posts, and managing the the daily schedule involved in running Bilerico. It's grueling and tiresome.
Plus once you've gained a following, you also gain the crazies and haters. No matter what you say, there's always someone who thinks you're the biggest asshole in the world. If you don't get a thick skin early, you'll throw in the towel thanks to the constant attacks.
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.
Bilerico has been nominated for a ton of awards and Pam's House Blend has too. While they help to increase the status of a site, they don't translate into a mortgage payment. Sure, they help give a blogger some validation and they can help to give a bump to the site's credibility which can lead to higher ad prices, but in the end a trophy sits on your shelf while the money continues to flow out of your pocket.
In our situation, most of the advertisers who place ads on gay blogs consider us a "political blog" and skip us. Political advertisers, however, think of us as a "gay blog," so they skip us too. Most of our advertisers end up either DVDs, books, or Gay Inc groups. Look at that blog ads section to the right. Nothing.
But Alex still needs to be paid and I have a much more expensive rent payment than my mortgage back in Indiana - and they both need paid since we haven't sold our house yet. In fact, we're currently a month behind in paying Alex; money is extremely tight right now.
We don't have a donate button on Bilerico. We've considered it, but I'm rather uncomfortable asking people to give us money for something we decided to do on our own. We've raised money for various causes or politicians, but never for ourselves except when we had a fundraiser to send some of our contributors to Denver for the Democratic National Convention.
While there's a ton of LGBT-owned businesses spanning the gamut of services and products, you don't see many of them advertising in the LGBT blogosphere. Hell, how many of our own contributors have something to sell but have never bought an ad here?
When you combine this with so many LGBT bookstores closing and newspapers shuttering, the only explanation I can come up with is that we - as a community - want to have our cake and eat it too. We want specialized services and we complain when they're not there, but we're not willing to support the very people we hold in such high esteem.
If we don't start standing up for own enterprises, no one else is going to do it for us. Without that support, you'll see more LGBT blogs shutting down as their owners move on to something that puts food on the table. There's nothing wrong with turnover in the media industry, of course, but there is something to be said for established content providers who already have connections, sources, and access.
I consider one of my jobs to be finding new contributors and other bloggers who should get more exposure for the work they're doing. Most queer bloggers have small sites and the best way to get their opinions and thoughts out to the world is to help lift them up. But what's the point of lifting people up for a venture that won't be sustainable? Why burn through some great activists and writers?
Since Queerty and AfterElton/AfterEllen have corporate masters, they continue to draw a paycheck independent of the month's advertising revenues. They have backing that the rest of us don't - money to redesign the site at a moment's notice, pay paychecks, and buy advertising. That's a huge bonus that us independents don't have.
If we don't find a way to put together a model that actually pays queer bloggers for their hard work and dedication, it will definitely be the end of the LGBT blogosphere as we know it. The only ones left will be the corporate owned behemoths who are more interested in lining the pockets of their board members than the blogger.
And that benefits them, but not the community.