Blogging For Big Bucks

By Megan McArdle

Like basically every other blogger whose seen it, I think this article from the Wall Street Journal on how hundreds of thousands of bloggers are making solid incomes is addled

The best studies we can find say we are a nation of over 20 million bloggers, with 1.7 million profiting from the work, and 452,000 of those using blogging as their primary source of income. That's almost 2 million Americans getting paid by the word, the post, or the click -- whether on their site or someone else's. And that's nearly half a million of whom it can be said, as Bob Dylan did of Hurricane Carter: "It's my work he'd say, I do it for pay."

The estimates of professional bloggers seem wildly inflated--if you help update the company blog once a week as part of your marketing internship, you are not a paid professional blogger.  And the numbers they themselves link to tell a much different tale from the article:  most blogs bring in pitiful amounts of money for their owners.

This seems to follow the model of Mark Penn's book:  find some bizarre number and mindlessly extrapolate it to an absurd conclusion.  Yet I still don't understand why common sense did not keep him from publishing this article.  Anecdotal evidence would suggest that almost all of us know many more computer programmers than professional bloggers--this is true of me even though I am a professional blogger, as are half my friends.  Or he might have called some professional bloggers, who would have (sorrowfully) told him that no one is making $75K a year off of 100,000 pageviews a month, that being about how much traffic I pulled when I was starting up in 2002.  Or, hell, he might have noticed that in the very BLS survey so nicely transformed into a table for his article, there is not entry for "blogger"--but that if you add up every writer, reporter, editor, PR person, technical writer, or "media and communications worker, other", there are only 499,890.  Since Penn says that there are 452,000 paid bloggers, this implies that 9 out of every 10 communications workers are professional bloggers.

There may be one guy with some incredible niche--or moronic employer--making a ton of money with a modestely well-trafficked blog.  But the plural of "anecdote" is not data.

Believe me, I'd love to think that blogging is a surefire path to riches and job security--but I'm afraid all most people get out of their blogs is the satisfaction of a job well done.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/04/blogging-for-big-bucks/16447/