— wordbanks

Wordbanks debuts!

Greetings all. This is my blogging debut, and while I’ve been writing a column since 1981, it’s my first toe in this pool of water (yes, I tend to use galloping metaphors so beware!).

Now, can I call myself a blogger?

And if not, why not? There doesn’t seem to be any professional job description that goes along with blogging. You, your mother, your child…me…we can all be bloggers. I’ve noticed some big universities in the States are trying to contain blogging standards but it won’t work. The Internet resists standard, which is incredibly liberating and frustrating all at the same time.

It’s taken me this long to start this up because I’ve been spending the time I would normally use to write, to understand what blogs are and how they are used. I’ve been trying to understand before being understood.

And I have had a crusty aversion to writing for nothing. I’ve always been paid for putting words like these together. But even my old steady client, the Ottawa Citizen, who I’ve written a column for for 10 years, isn’t buying what they used to. There’s lots of buyers on the Net, but they are asking for contributions for free, or at the most, attempting to pay writers pennies according to the hits they get.

But there’s no point railing against this. It is what it is, and like Bobby Dillon sang, you gotta serve somebody.

So I can’t ignore them any longer, especially since the Ottawa Citizen’s publisher Gerry Nott told me his salespeople can sell ads around his reporters’ blogs. Have a look at Rod Eade’s blog at http://blogs.ottawacitizen.com/2011/10/08/pop-up-picnic-in-ottawa-this-saturday-video/ and see how his blog connects with the ads next to it.

Gerry believes journalists need to bring this entrepreneurial spirit to their craft. Got to, because without new ways to make money…well, you know the rest.

Monetizing the web has been a decade-long pursuit for newspapers, and reporters who label themselves as a “brand” under the Citizen’s umbrella, seem to have the cache to help the news product make money.

After all, making money is the only way forward for the contemporary writer, whether they make it for themselves, or for someone else who is paying them a salary. As far as I can see, everybody still has to make a living. The “living free” model doesn’t seem to be going anywhere very fast.

Which brings me back to this free blog.

From a reporter’s perspective, I believe I’ve learned these things so far:

  • ‘Tis more blessed to read blogs than to write one. That’s because I’m getting story ideas from them, rather than blathering on about something nobody but myself is particularly interested in;
  • Blogs defy definition;
  • The most read blogs inject humour to keep their audience laughing, especially sports ones. Laughter works.

I’m sure there’s more lessons to come, and I’ll post them here if you’re interested.

Beyond that, let’s go ahead together, as perhaps Dalton McGuinty may say.

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