I hope it’s a testament to the spirit of this blog that I made a big fuss over its ninth anniversary, in
2009 2010, and completely forgot its 10th, which happened last Friday. The traditional tenth anniversary gift is tin. I’ll take mine in the shape of a horn. A tinhorn, my dictionary tells me, is a petty braggart who puts on airs and pretends to be richer and more important than s/he is. That’s pretty much the definition of this blog, ain’a?
Anyway, I don’t mention this to set off a round of congratulations, but because I stumbled across this Crain’s Chicago Business story about the phenomenon of blog disillusionment, people who started with great enthusiasm and soon found themselves running out of things to say. This guy, for instance, thought he could get a book deal:
He founded Modern Craft in 2007 and spent seven to 10 hours a week on the blog. It received 800 to 1,500 views per post, a respectable number for an independent blog. But it launched the career not of Mr. Harbison, but of the artists he featured. While they signed deals with Target, Urban Outfitters and Chronicle Books, he got virtually nothing, save for a spread featuring him and his mid-century Evanston home in ReadyMade magazine.
“I could see it happening, but it wasn’t happening for me,” Mr. Harbison says.
Sorry, dude. Harbison went back to work at what he does best — designing his own line of textiles and canvas bags. Others featured in the story did the same, jumping in with great enthusiasm, keeping things at a high boil for a few weeks or months, and then petering out. They’d run out of things to say, it was harder than it looked, they’d grown in a different direction. And one more ghost ship is abandoned to drift along the currents of the internet, its comment section filling with spam, until one day the URL isn’t renewed and it becomes an Estonian porn site. (Don’t laugh — this happened to one of the most obnoxious radio talk-show hosts in Fort Wayne, one of Brian Stouder’s lip-flappers. One day it’s pictures of his daughters and recipes for mashed potatoes made with cream cheese, the next it’s sluts in blue eyeshadow putting something other than mashed potatoes in their mouths. It has since gone back to a placeholder, but for a while there — woo.)
Back to the story:
The feeling that nobody’s reading can cause bloggers to quit. “It’s discouraging, if that’s the reason you’re blogging,” says Liz Strauss, a Chicago-based professional blogger, web strategist and founder of SOBCon, an online business conference.
Ms. Strauss, who maintains three blogs, began in 2005, when she was one of 12 million. Now, to stand out in a sea of 31 million, “it’s no longer OK to be a mommy or daddy or business blogger,” she says. “The more narrowly you define your niche, the more visible you become.”
I’ve heard this before. I think it’s crap. How much more narrowly defined could this blog be? “One writer’s daily download,” is how I describe it when asked, and yet still, is Amy Adams playing me at the cineplex?
The only reason to blog is if you have something to say. Your readers will find you, or they won’t. And you’ll probably make more money making textiles and canvas bags.
I read and liked — and blogged about — the NYT op-ed that most likely prompted this book contract, so I guess I’d better read the book, too. Paul Clemens’ “Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant” sounds worth the time, even though, as the critic points out, it’s not so much about a closing auto plant as a closed one, being disassembled by specialized crews and shipped, piece by piece, to countries where the labor doesn’t expect quite the wages they do here.
I was struck by the numbers; at one point he notes that this plant, Budd Detroit Automotive Plant, Stamping and Framing Division, employed 10,000. That was the figure that the International Harvester factory in Fort Wayne once employed, back when it was the biggest employer in town. It closed in 1980, an event that seared the city’s consciousness the way World War II did my parents’ generation. One-quarter of the city fell into a slide it never recovered from, a disaster that affected uncounted businesses and families. Detroit is a much larger city, of course, and Budd was only one player, and nowhere near the largest. All over the city are plants like it, and many more that are considerably smaller, the mom-and-pop tool-and-die shops, the widget factories, whatever. Many are being disassembled the same way this one is. We live in interesting times.
Oh, but let’s close on a high note, shall we?
What Roger Ebert will miss about Regis Philbin, a YouTube bouquet. Philbin really has the gift of not taking himself too seriously. He could teach his co-hosts a thing or three.
I was more struck by the question that prompted it, from a reader:
I saw the show “Hair” at the Kennedy Center some weeks ago, and while I liked it more than disliked it, one thing in particular bothered me.
Directors, costumers, set design etc. try so hard to put an authentic feel to a show, and yet this show, about free love, about community, about the Vietnam war, and famously about full frontal nudity…didn’t show one follicle of pubic hair. Really? Was it too much to ask the actors to let it grow out for the run of the show? So anachronistic, it took me out of the moment.
Man, it would me, too. Really? That’s bad direction, if you ask me.
And now the coffee has fully engaged, so it’s time to get dressed, get showered, and get to work. Not in that order.