I’ve seen the future of journalism
Quite simply, I’m stunned.
When I started this blog a couple of months ago, I didn’t know where I was headed or how I would get there.
I still don’t, actually.
But I’m amazed at all the people who are ready to help me get there. I’m also amazed at how many people have found me here in the blogosphere – it’s a weird Web world when one unpaid blogger can generate nearly the same amount of traffic on stories she generated while working for the only newspaper in town.
I know exactly how many hits my “top stories” drew while working for the Lincoln Journal Star, and I know how many hits my stories here are getting, and let me tell you this, we are almost at the same level already, just a few months in, with no advertising other than a couple of guest appearances on Jack & John’s radio show and a story in Buy Lincoln (with more to come).
The only place I’ve advertised is Facebook – and I’m now a believer in the power of social networking.
I’m also a believer in you, my readers, who have astounded me. So far, I’ve had a reader offer to sell ads for me – for free. I’ve had a reader offer to take photos for me – for free. I’ve had a reader offer to write stories from Washington, D.C., for me – for free. I’ve had prominent elected officials tell me “thank you” for writing these stories that would go untold.
But most of all, I’ve had readers interested enough to check out the blog every day. Truthfully, I didn’t know if anyone would be able to find the blog – but they have. Every day, more people are signing up for e-mail subscriptions, which alert them every time I post a blog. I haven’t started tweeting, but I’m thinking I probably should.
I’ve also been asked to be a regular guest on Fridays on KLIN’s Drive Time Live, talking about my blog and other blogs, which I will start doing today.
Now I think I understand why newspapers are cutting, cutting, cutting: If one unpaid blogger can scoop a newspaper with dozens of reporters, imagine what a full-fledged nonprofit news website could do? I’m a newspaper lover, but I hate the fact that we have to mow down forests full of trees to print papers every day. I look forward to the day when newspapers are mostly online – but I know online papers won’t be able to support the kind of staffing that is now paid for with print advertising.
I’ve always been of the opinion that the Brave New World of journalism won’t kill newspapers, but I believe eventually, newspapers will be all online, and there will be fewer reporters then.
It’s already happening. When I left my job, a colleague and friend told me about a content mill that I could write stories for. It’s called Demand Studios – and basically they pay like $7.50 to $30 per story. Go to journalismjobs.com and you’ll see these big ads for Demand Studios. There are still journalism jobs out there, too, but not as many, and Demand Studios and other content mills seem to have the money to buy the biggest ads.
But what’s different is Demand Studios is hiring freelance writers to write about topics readers have inquired about on sites like about.com and livestrong.com.
You go to this website where they’ve got thousands of story ideas, you pick one and write it up. It gets edited by another freelance copy editor, and if you do it according to their somewhat rigid style, you get paid. Quickly, into a Paypal account.
But they’re paying peanuts for these stories, and lots of out-of-work journalists are doing them.
This journalist who referred me to Demand Studios said he made about $30,000 in 18 months, just writing these stories on the side of his full-time job. I don’t know how in the world you could make that much money doing it, unless you’re writing a lot of them off the top of your head — which a lot of their writers seem to do.
I got approved to be a writer, but I’ll be damned if I could find a single story I wanted to write for them. They were the most obscure, weird stories I’ve ever seen. And if I ever felt like a person on an assembly line while working for a newspaper, this was worse. If only they could get a computer to write the stories for them – well, they’re getting close.
And yet, if you go to journalism websites looking for jobs, these are the biggest dogs out there hiring.
I’ve seen the future of journalism, and it is scary.