Technorati's regular "State of the Blogosphere" analysis of the business is just out, and among the stats is the incredible fact that bloggers are being paid more than ever. Is it time to rethink the definition of blogging? Yes.
First, the stats. Technorati's killer finding is that among the professional bloggers they surveyed who fall into the "full time" worker category, the average salary works out at $122,222--an enormous figure. Those full-timers equate to 46% of the respondees, which means that the majority of bloggers are part-timers--but these guys still take home some $14,777 per year, which isn't to be sniffed at. That means the average blogger salary is about $42,548. The money isn't primarily coming from employers (14% of bloggers work for corporations). Nor is it pouring in from ads on self-published blog pages--the financial meltdown put a massive dent in Internet ad revenues. Instead, bloggers are leveraging their popularity and expertise into speaking engagements, "traditional media" assignments, and setting up and running conferences, as VentureBeat notes.
In other words, blogging is now a diverse, popular and successful enterprise that covers a multiplicity of online writers, from extensive Twitterers to self-described Mommybloggers to tightly written, up-to-the-minute, smartly edited online publications like this one--a "professional blog" by Technorati standards. And it's in that last sense that blogging is becoming a farm system for future journalists, who are apparently riding out the economic downturn pretty well (on average, at least). Think about that for a moment, and then remember how many traditional journalism jobs have been lost over the same period.
So here's the radical suggestion: Let's redefine what blogging means. If you're writing self-absorbed or inexpert opinions about the minutiae of daily life, without hyperlinks, fact checks or any pretense at engaging with the news, you're a blogger. You probably fall into the lower categories of pay in the Technorati survey if you in fact make any money at all. But if you're a writer for an online publication, one that takes real-time stories, updates them as events unfold, reference your quoted facts, break stories and produce original writing then shall we just say you're a journalist? An online one, but a journalist all the same.
And when you maneuver your thinking in this direction, you come to a strange new conclusion: Journalists who write for online versions of their (perhaps historic, perhaps not) newspapers are the same as journalists who write for totally different online news portals. Even the Pulitzer committee has said online entities can consider themselves eligible for its prestigious prize, with some limitations.
If the FTC would only figure this out, it would likely scrap its insidious plans to regulate how bloggers behave--an action that many are labeling as unfair, and possibly motivated by behind-the-scenes lobbying and cronyism from newspaper moguls. The FTC has moved back from its aggressive stance a little, but it certainly targets bloggers as a workforce while leaving traditional journalists unmentioned. That's a position often reflected in opinionated but ill-informed commenters on blogs whenever traditional media is downplayed.
But no matter how vehemently the FTC or old guard media moguls reject the coming change, it's still coming. If the advent of ubiquitous mobile Web technology and imminent graphics-rich tablet PCs hasn't signaled the change strongly enough, Technorati's data on blogger income should. Blogging's about to shed its ugly caterpillar stage and emerge as journalism's future.