Erika Milvy: Pro Journalist's Gripe with Blogs

My friend Erika Milvy, a 20-year veteran journalist, made her first foray into blogging this week (see OurChart). But, alas, it was to complain about this whole blog phenomenon. In particular she regrets the proliferation of bad writing (the product of an editor-free publishing model) and the overabundance of personal content that no one wants to read. My comment to her piece:

Erika–

Chas here. First of all, I’m so pleased to see you blogging! Even if your post is all about the evils of blogging. :)

But I do need to take issue with you. Not about you being straight. E gad! Does Pearl know?! It’s with your portrayal of the good old days of journalism and publishing: “In my day, …it required a publisher to sanctify and propagate the fruits of their labor for all the world to see and respect.”

I spent many years in traditional publishing and media — 2 book publishing houses, 3 magazine publishers and 1 cable TV network. We liked to tell ourselves that we made great content that satisfied the informational and entertainment needs of our readers and viewers; the proof was in the ratings, the circ and the pass along. The dirty little secret was this: our lock on distribution more so than the quality of our content drove our ratings and readership. Since no other tech-media company had $150 million to buy a slot on cable systems back in 1997, Ziff-Davis’s TechTV was the “best” cable channel dedicated to computer stuff, according to viewership numbers. Then again, it was the only one! If Parenting Magazine isn’t covering the modern (or gay) parenting experience very well, what’s a journalist to do? Raise $50 million to launch a new magazine that can compete for a spot on the newsstand?

Among the 100-odd million blogs on the internet (yikes!), plenty are littered with spelling errors and bad writing. (See mine, http://chasnote.com!) Lots are narcissistic personal diaries. But there are also a few thousand world-class publications with great writing and stories (news stories or personal ones) that aren’t being told in well-funded traditional publications. For professional journalists like you who sometimes face editors (backed by publishers and advertising supporters) who tell you they won’t publish your piece, as important and well-written as it may be, what were your options? The internet and its easy-to-use blogging platforms now enable you to publish that story, and the imperfect but improving algorithms of Google let your audience — even if it’s an audience of 3 people — find it.

The advertising money will follow the readers and viewers. It always does. Journalists who attract an audience will (eventually) be paid in proportion to the size and quality of the audience they bring to their content. And this time around, they won’t have to give such a large share of that sponsorship money to expensive executive staffers at Conde Nast or Time Warner!

  1. # Invevearecord said: February 9th, 2009 at 2:24 am

    Hi, cool site, good writing ;)

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