Blogging for Cash, or pondering the zero sum game of funding
Apple Cider Mage has a very thorough post this morning on the practicality and morality of making money off of content, specifically gaming-related blogs, podcasts, and videos. It’s a good write-up, and you should probably go read it.
It was also a very timely read for me, as this is a topic I’ve thought about a lot lately. Let me be frank — I live off a very tight budget, and due to some real life circumstances it’s been a lot tighter than usual lately. I also put roughly 20 hours a week on weekends and evenings into content under the “Totally Legit Publishing” banner, whether it’s this blog or Cat Context or making videos about movies or whatever.
And I do this strictly because I love it. When I was a small child one of my favorite activities was borrowing my parents’ tape deck (yes, I’m old) and recording myself doing “radio shows”, and although technology has moved along honestly running a podcast about video games is not that different in spirit from sitting under a table and making up weather reports.
But it’s also time consuming, and I definitely spend a little money each month on things like a web server or an extra Humble Bundle for future giveaways. During my recent budget crunch I realized that I couldn’t really afford to keep doing all the hobbyist things I do because that time would be better spent being paid for things. It was an intensely frustrating realization.
I have a relatively successful blog and podcast! And I put a lot of work into them! Surely there must be a way to not give up any of that but still scrape out some pocket money each month, or at least break even. Or, as it turns out, maybe not.
(Actually, that is not entirely true as recently some friends gave surprise donations to the server fund. Those people know who they are, and I hope they also know how much I was moved by their generous spirit.)
Anyway, Apple Cider wrote that “[content creators] should be compensated for their time and efforts” and while I agree wholeheartedly with the spirit of that I’m not sure it’s a terribly practical approach. Unfortunately, content funding is a zero sum game. Readers and listeners and watchers have limited wallets just like the rest of us, and financial support received by Blog A is financial support not received by Blog B.
That doesn’t mean that content creators who are soliciting donations or patronage should feel guilty, but I think it’s worth reflecting before considering monetization. Is your content actually valuable? Is it more valuable than Blog B’s content? A couple of years ago I was asked to edit someone’s Kickstarter pitch, and my first question was “Why is your idea worth someone’s money?” If you don’t have a good answer to that, you may want to reconsider your quest for funding.
Honestly I’m not sure what my conclusions are for this post. (Good thing it was free!) I am a passionate advocate for the idea that everyone can start a blog and say what they have to say to the world. I am perhaps just not an advocate for the idea that everyone can and should be paid for said blog, particularly in a reality where there are limited dollars and an almost literally endless numbers of creators.