Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It’s the Economy, Stupid

On the VQR blog, Waldo Jaquith confirms what I’ve long suspected. Blogging as a revenue stream is, shall we say, somewhat paltry. Maybe you should go back to shooting those 300 free throws before dawn.

Mark Penn (who was Hillary Clinton’s chief political strategist for her presidential campaign) came up with the incredible contention (in the Wall Street Journal, no less) that “more Americans are making their primary income from posting their opinions than Americans working as computer programmers, firefighters or even bartenders,” and that “there are almost as many people making their living as bloggers as there are lawyers.”

You could fit what I know about blogging into a matchbox (a full matchbox), but even I know that is an extravagant error. In fact, this bring to mind the overblown claims of “trends” as breathlessly described by Time Magazine--in short, wishful thinking in the form of narrative.

Here are Penn’s claims:

20 million American bloggers
1.7 million bloggers making a profit
452,000 bloggers using bloggers as a primary source of income.

The internet is magical and all that (like King Midas, everything it touches turns to content, which is half-way between data and metaphor, either partaking of the most or least interesting aspects of both), but it’s not that’s magical. Pixel dust will not get you high enough to suspend the economic laws of physics.

Penn claims that it takes about 100,000 unique visitors a month to generate an income of $75,000 a year. Jacquith points out that the average annual blogger revenue is more than $6,000, but that this figure is dependent on the top 1% of bloggers, who earn over $200,000. He does some other takedowns of Penn’s, er, methods, the least of which underscore the reality that net journalism needs infrastructure and review just like ground-bound print journalism. Which makes me feel both worried and comforted.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Gift with Purchase

It’s nice to see that April 1st did not go totally unobserved in the poetry world. And the focus of the rites was rather economic in nature. The Kenyon Review took advantage of the serious financial weirdness to acquire Random House, “a division of Bertelsmann AG, an international media corporation with its headquarters in a dormant volcano in G├╝tersloh, Germany.” And in a move that would give the-collective-rage-formerly-known-as-Foetry an aneurism, Graywolf decided that the Cave Canem Prize should really go to Tao Lin:

“I asked Komunyakka if it had occurred to him that perhaps Lin’s entry was not, in fact, unironic at all. “Yes, that did occur to me,” he said. “Some people on the Graywolf board were especially concerned about this, but I finally just said, ‘Listen, what does it matter? A good book is a good book, and this kid’s stuff actually sells.’ It’s the name of our prize--and your press--that will be on the cover of his book, which we expect he will promote with the same machine-like relentlessness that is his trademark–-which of course is how he ended up entering our contest in the first place. I said to them, ‘you want to see Cold-Pressed Organic Virgin Coconut Oil come out with that little Melville House logo on the spine instead of your wolves, be my guest. But this is the book I’m writing an introduction for.’”

I hope that there were other shenanigans afoot out there. What good is the internet if not for ad-hoc, self-relexiveness? (I mean, besides instantly shrink-wrapping sentiment, merchandise, and data with the same dispassionate even-handedness one would show to a fruit basket.)