There are professions that are notoriously dangerous. Fishermen, pilots and loggers top the list of the professions with the highest fatality rates.
But if you read the New York Times piece about professional bloggers this weekend by Matt Richtel, you might now have the impression that blogging is a dangerous occupation.
Calling the homes many bloggers work out of “the digital-era sweatshop,” the article raises the possibility that the deaths of two technology bloggers and the heart attack of another were caused, at least in part, by an extreme “workaholic” lifestyle that many professional bloggers who call blogging a full-time occupation seem to be engaging in:
“A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.”
It goes on to note that in addition to the extreme cases of death and serious medical issues, some bloggers complain of…
…”weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.“
Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch and perhaps the most well-known technology blogger, notes that while he hasn’t “died yet,” the lifestyle he lives is “not sustainable” and at some point he expects that he’ll…
…”have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.“
Richtel observes that the competitive nature of the blogosphere has created an environment where many professional bloggers feel compelled to lead these workaholic lifestyles.
From attempting to make sure other bloggers don’t beat them to a big story to feeling pressure to write enough traffic-generating posts to earn a decent living, there are a number of reasons professional bloggers will push their physical and mental limits.
Not surprisingly, the blogosphere has been abuzz with discussion on Richtel’s article.
Om Malik, the blogger mentioned in the article who suffered a heart attack, published an interesting post about the lifestyle lessons he’s learned, while internet entrepreneur Marc Andreessen posted an amusing response.
Personally, I think the New York Times article was a bit lacking and even a little specious.
That said, I think there is a valid point to be found in it – for all the romantic notions that have been promoted about blogging; for the vast majority of professional bloggers, blogging is no different than any other job.
As Henry Blodget of Silicon Valley Insider points out:
“No denying this is a tough business. But so are a lot of businesses. We suspect if the New York Times broadened its view to “start-ups” or other intensely competitive, high-pressure white-collar work environments like finance, law, or consulting, it would find a similar stress rate.”
The truth is that society is filled with workaholics.
The fact that professional bloggers can become workaholics too is not particularly surprising and it’s not in and of itself newsworthy.
I suspect, however, that Richtel’s piece was in part borne out of the hype that blogging is a glamorous new profession.
With all the talk that citizen journalists are making mainstream journalists irrelevant and that blogging empires could soon render Old Media empires worthless, it’s not surprising that somebody wrote an article revealing that the lifestyle of professional bloggers isn’t much more appealing than other professions that demand a pound of flesh from each of their workers.
In fact, when one removes all the hype, professional blogging isn’t really worth getting too excited over.
As Richtel observes, some bloggers toil under a system where they’re paid a handful of dollars for each post they crank out while…
…”bloggers at some of the bigger sites say most writers earn about $30,000 a year starting out, and some can make as much as $70,000.“
The number of bloggers pulling in six-figure salaries is relatively small and even a blog empire like TechCrunch only pulled in around $3m in revenue in 2007.
When one considers that new associate attorneys and investment bankers at top firms, for instance, make six-figure salaries and that the Old Media companies bloggers are supposed to be killing off (any day now) are often still generating billions in revenue, I can’t necessarily blame the New York Times for publishing an article putting professional blogging into perspective.
When compared to other professions, blogging is not particularly lucrative even though those who want to be successful typically have to work as hard as those in more lucrative professions.
Clearly, the New York Times could have done a better job at providing this perspective. But as a semi-professional blogger, I don’t mind doing that for them.
Even though blogging is not my full-time job, just in case anybody is worried – since he started blogging, Drama 2.0 has managed to maintain excellent health. My body fat percentage has hovered around 9%, I still find time for my daily workout and I’m getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
Clearly, I’m not working hard enough.