A little while ago, MC Bias of Moderately Cerebral Bias asked several bloggers, both full-time and independent, for their opinions on how the economy will affect the sports blogosphere. Whereas MCBias posted the many bloggers’ answers on his site, I asked him if I could run my answers here.
(By the way, take a couple of minutes and read his post. He did a really good job.)
Surprisingly, many of the bloggers quoted by MC Bias actually believed sports blogs and blogging in general will sustain their success, if not increase their popularity, during the down economy. I got the impression their answers even caught MC Bias by surprise.
Maybe I have been reading too much John Robb and his ideas of systems disruption, decentralized platforms, and self-organizing futures, but I don’t share the views of the bloggers interviewed by MC Bias. Here is how I think the economy will affect the blogosphere.
1) More blogging: Yes, I think there will be more blogging as a result of the economic recession. As paid writing gigs dry up both in the press and in free-lancing, more writers will flock to the Internet as a way to keep their skills sharp and their voices heard. I think we will see much bigger names starting to blog as well as other writers with editorial aspirations.
(Note: This has already been the case, as Jay Mariotti, formerly a well-known Chicago sports writer, has joined the AOL Sports blogging team.)
2) Less readers and less commentors: Here me and Brian from AwfulAnnouncing take opposing views. Whereas he claims people will still read blogs at work or, if not working, will visit blog sites as they look for jobs online, I disagree. Due to job insecurity, less people will read blogs, comment on blogs, or will be able to find other blogs they might enjoy. The effort of interaction and discovery will drop as those who might have surfed the Internet for half their day begin to make a conscious effort to work harder and keep their jobs.
3) Less major ads: Jon Pyle of Pyle of List and I also have different views, here on the subject of online advertising. Whereas Pyle believes people will spend more time on the Internet and hence the increased hits will “translate to advertising money for blogs”, I think otherwise. My belief is that we will start to see fewer major ads on blogs and other web sites not run by corporations. Companies are not going to be able to see acceptable returns for their investment on smaller sites. Major traffic and mainstream sites will continue to see all sorts of ad revenue, but smaller sites will be forced to settle for Google Ads or other cheap forms of ad placement.
4) Fewer big-time gigs: One of the points that surprised MC Bias the most was that “all the contract bloggers I spoke to thought that there might either be more work for contract bloggers, or more blogs starting during the recession.”
My opinion is that as advertisers spend less on ads, major web sites will have to react to the limited projected income by cutting staff. My fear is that the powers that be at major sites and companies will resort to their more instinctive, conservative, ideological ways and cut web savvy personnel. This of course will mean will fewer opportunities for bloggers to make the next step to paid gigs, especially with organizations such as Yahoo!, ESPN, etc.
5) No more Will Leitchs: As major companies struggle to get their own priorities in order, they won’t have time to extend a voice to the little guy. No longer will sites like Deadspin be able to establish a “movement” of frustrated fans. The voice of the fan will be background white noise once again. I also think we can forget about publishers taking chances on writers they never heard of, even if they do have an Internet cult following. Whether or not they will take chances on the more creative voices (the creative geniuses at Free Darko for example) has yet to be determined. But the average smart-alec blogger is going to be kept on the ‘net, at least for now.
6) More consolidation: The overall result of bloggers putting more time into work, less time into blogging, and fewer dollars to be made is that bloggers will start to see an increased importance in working together. The average blogger won’t have the time or the desire to publish everyday, especially when he or she is not seeing any return for investment outside of the occasional and overrated link on major sites such as Deadspin or The Big Lead. So I think more and more bloggers will start banding together and putting out sites that publish often with little time investment.
7) More to complain about: If a bad economy provides us anything, it’s fodder for complaints. And complaining is one of the things bloggers do best. Look for gloom, doom, and frustration to permeate posts throughout the blogosphere.
Overall, I thought it was interesting that I disagreed with the opinions of so many “big name” bloggers. For their sake, I hope they’re right and that I am wrong, and that money will magically appear for anyone who wants to write online. But I don’t think that will happen. At least not anytime soon.