There is a shortsighted misunderstanding of the motivation of most bloggers that I keep encountering as I’m out there talking about Say Everything. The people asking me questions are naturally, for the most part, journalists; and as I write in the book, journalists as a class have a particularly hard time understanding why most people blog.
This jumped out at me as I read this passage in today’s Wall Street Journal review of Chris Anderson’s “Free,” which was written by Jeremy Philips, who is executive vice president of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which owns the Journal along with vast tracts of the media landscape:
If you have a blog, “no matter how popular,” the revenue from AdSense — a Google service that places ads on Web sites — will probably never “pay you even minimum wage for the time you spend writing it.” Of course, that’s fine for bloggers more interested in fame or influence than in money or for blogs (like Mr. Anderson’s own) that are loss leaders for more lucrative endeavors, such as writing books or making speeches. But if you have to earn a living from the Web, “free” can be a problem.
Note the alternatives Philips offers: You might blog for money. You might blog for fame or influence or as a “loss leader” for your real business. But nowhere in his world is there room for the actual motivation that drives most bloggers: a desire to express themselves, to think out loud, to exult in the possibilities of writing in public — and learn from the pitfalls, too. Maybe there’s a payoff in enhancing your reputation, but there can also be a payoff in simply enhancing your experience at communicating your thoughts and ideas. Speaking to a big crowd is alluring but speaking even to a small group of friends is rewarding, too. For the great majority of participants, blogging is a social activity, not an aspiration to mass-media stardom.
It is very hard for journalists to understand this because the opportunity to express themselves in public has always been a part of their professional birthright. So they won’t notice that motivation even when it’s staring them in the face. When you point this out, you are almost always greeted with a sort of cynical sniff: You can’t be serious. But I am!