On Hanging Separately

A year ago, my co-blogger John Hawkins asked me to write at Right Wing News. I’m an independent person. I have my own blog. I like the freedom to write what I want to write. Still, John has a bigger audience and I believe the future is going to be consolidation. United, conservative writers and thinkers have greater power.

But there’s not much money in the game. In fact, for most conservative bloggers, there’s next to no money in the game. Some very good writers, thinkers, strategists and experts who blog get nothing but a good reputation for their efforts. A good reputation doesn’t pay the bills.

In my own case, I doctor to pay for my blog habit. That is, I give away my blogging work for free unless I free-lance an article for an on-line publication. Since writing and politics are my passions, I have viewed blogging as a hobby.

As time has gone on, I’ve seen the trends that John mentions today and it’s getting irksome:

I got a promo from one of them, that shall remain nameless, a few days back. They were bragging that they were running a million dollar ad campaign. While that’s great, as far as I can tell, they’re not spending a cent of that ad campaign on conservative blogs — and do you know how much it would cost to run an ad on every single blog in the conservative advertising network at Blogads for a week? At the moment, only $5,686. That’s roughly 1/176th of the amount they’re going to spend on this campaign, but they’re not even willing to go that far to support the Rightroots that are out in the trenches every day.

In fact, we’ve even gotten to the point now where organizations will pay thousands of dollars on consultants, to hit blogs up for links, instead of just buying ads on the blogs. That’s great for the consultants (and I can tell you that from personal experience), but it sucks for the bloggers who get nothing but link requests out of it while some consultant pockets a fat check just for writing a few emails that generally don’t produce any results.

The consultants don’t just want links. They want friendly stories. They want candidate exposés.

During the last election, do you know who advertised on my site? C-Span. That’s right. C-Span appreciated my election coverage and live-blogging, but the Republican party probably didn’t know I existed. Well, there’s a few of us who live blog these big events and draw a crowd. It would be in a candidate’s best interest to know these people–Ann Althouse, VodkaPundit’s drunk blogging, and I are pretty darn consistent. And yet, no ad dollars from campaigns.

Part of the problem is that political bloggers focused nationally have a national audience. That is, since I don’t focus on Houston issues, my readership isn’t local. Ironically, I think I’d have an easier time with advertising if my readership were primarily local–even if the readership was smaller.

Since my readership is national and broad–political and cultural interests–fewer advertisers are interested. Doesn’t matter that the readership is educated, upper income, and fertile soil for certain products.

Will hanging together help to change the money problem? I don’t see how. If bloggers join together, it doesn’t guarantee that think tanks, lobbyist groups, candidates or other conservative groups will suddenly get generous and spend parts of their budgets online.

In fact, there’s been a strange derisiveness about bloggers by those on the right. Political consultants gingerly ask for help here and there, but don’t give much in return. And it’s not just a problem on the right. Yesterday, Jane Hamsher and Kos noted the same problem at the Plumline:

A number of these top bloggers agreed to come on record with me after privately arguing to these groups that they deserved a share in the ad wealth and couldn’t be taken for granted any longer.

“They come to us, expecting us to give them free publicity, and we do, but it’s not a two way street,” Jane Hamsher, the founder of FiredogLake, said in an interview. “They won’t do anything in return. They’re not advertising with us. They’re not offering fellowships. They’re not doing anything to help financially, and people are growing increasingly resentful.”

Hamsher singled out Americans United for Change, which raises and spends big money on TV ad campaigns driving Obama’s agenda, as well as the constellation of groups associated with it, and the American Association of Retired Persons, also a big TV advertiser.

“Most want the easy way — having a big blogger promote their agenda,” adds Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos. “Then they turn around and spend $50K for a one-page ad in the New York Times or whatever.” Moulitsas adds that officials at such groups often do nothing to engage the sites’s audiences by, say, writing posts, instead wanting the bloggers to do everything for them.

Some on the right were snarky, but the problem is universal.

Blogging, at the forefront of New Media, is a more intimate and friendly way to get a message to people. Politicians, lobbyists, writers hawking books,and think tanks, all love the medium when it suits them, but don’t seem to recognize that people are trying to make a living.

What to do? I don’t really know. Blogging doesn’t yet have the respect and understanding of the political class. And forget social media. Most of the consultants and “experts” I know are stupid about it, so how could their charges have a clue?

Perhaps as the Legacy Media fades, the political class will put their money where it counts more. Still, why pay for what you get for free?

Cross-posted at MelissaClouthier.com

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