Last week, I was invited to attend a meeting for a local newspaper’s blogging group. Held at their headquarters, I got all dolled up, hired a new sitter, and went to learn how we could work together.
I’ll tell you what, I was excited. I anxiously waited to learn just how they wanted to connect my site to their town-hall-style collective. This paper embraced bloggers. They understood that the world of the media was changing, and rather than fight it and sarcastically put down new media, they wanted to collaborate and work together.
We went around the room introducing ourselves, and I learned that I’ve been blogging the longest of all the people gathered. Even more surprising was how quickly I found that their knowledge of social media, as a whole, was limited. In fact, while there were a few other people there who knew a thing or two about Social Media (“there’s this guy, named Peter Shankman, he’s like the Social Media G-d “), I found myself to be the expert in the room. (Yes, I think Peter Shankman is a fantastic, super smart, creative guy who jumped out and created an amazing project and a name for himself. But the Social Media G-d? I’m certain he’s flattered. I’d say he’s one among many leaders in the industry. In fact, I’m more likely to qualify Shankman as a PR G-d who hit the jackpot in Social Media and knows how to make it, but that’s just me.)
Anyway, pretty soon, I started getting the feeling I was acting like a know-it-all, and it seemed fairly obvious the college student sitting next to me (who writes a blog about fashion) wasn’t all that interested in tweeting and Facebook fan pages, so I grabbed a piece of pizza and listened.
And when I listened, I realized what the paper was really doing. They were creating blogs for these people that were owned by the paper. The writers are to write on their expert area on the blog that’s managed by the online editor. (one blogger writes about lunching at restaurants in the county and what she’s wearing, while another writes leftist politics. There’s a new blog written by a sexologist and another proposed blog to be written by a police officer. Really, it’s a very eclectic, very diverse collective.)
Cool, right? Great exposure, excellent writing opportunities, and fantastic, well, press. I’m thinking how cool it is that I’m going to hook up on this site as their “token Mommy Blogger.” (No, they didn’t call me that, but the minute I introduced myself, I knew that was why I was there. Which is fine. Because everyone needs a Mommy Blogger.)
So, it got quiet, the paper editor asked for questions. He entertained a few, and then I took a stab. So, what are your expectations for your bloggers and the blogs we write? I was expecting to hear that about engaging readers, keeping my topics hyper-local, and responding to parenting in the area.
We expect bloggers to write a minimum of 3 blogs a week. We can see in our stats the difference that’s made the more you post. So, the more you post, the better your numbers, the stronger the blog.
I slowly nodded, taking this in, weighing with my other obligations. I mean, if the money is right, it’s worth it. I could potentially just transfer my Julieverse blog to their collective site and blog from there daily. Looking around the room at all the smiling faces of people who were totally fine living their normal lives and writing 3 posts a week on a paper-owned blog, I thought about how exciting this would be. Finally! Someone was going to pay me to blog full time!
And that’s when it hit me. No one in this room was a blogger. No one was blogging to make a living blogging. No one there even had their own blog, active social media network, or followers. They all had other jobs, and they saw this as a totally normal expectation. Wow! There must be a big paycheck involved, right?
And the editor continued, but because we don’t pay our bloggers, we’re okay if every now and again you only write twice. Or, say, something happens and you miss a week.
Because life happens, I replied.
Well, yeah. But we see a lot of value in blogging as often as possible. So we aim for a steady flow. Like Monday, Thursday, Friday, or something. He said.
Wait! Whoa. No pay? I’m at a newspaper? One where editors are former writers and all know what it’s like to have your writing published for pay. One that pays for freelancers on a regular basis?! I think back to a part of a conversation earlier that evening, where a blogger asked if any of the blog posts had made it to print. No, not yet, replied the editor. I mean, it’s always a possibility. I’d like to possibly pick some up and print them in the editorial area.
Whoa. Wait. Like to just pick them up? No discussion. No payment. Nothing?
Now, I recognized that most of the people in the room aren’t aware of the media trash-talk and strains for the respect that the Bloggers are reaching for. I opened my big mouth and quickly stuffed a bite of pizza inside rather than calling the editors out. Then I grabbed my iPhone and pulled up the collective website, which, I confirmed, copywrites all writing on their page.
I’m not sure how many of the people in that room have taken Media Law classes. I’m not sure how many of them studied media at all. But here’s something I’m certain of: I’m not writing 3 days a week to give up writing to my writing for nothing. I have more respect for myself than that. Shame on this paper, who claims to embrace all areas of media, for not respecting its writers enough.
It was about that moment that I started jiggling my keys.