Technology

The New York Times Will Never Burnout of Blogger Burnout

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In today’s New York Times Media & Advertising section is an article about blogger burnout. Like many things that get written in the New York Times about bloggers that isn’t written by David Carr or Brian Stelter, it sadly merits a blog post making fun of how

(A) Insipid and bush-league it is.
(B) Well it demonstrates both the Times and a general “Old Media” chronic facination with and misunderstanding of bloggers.
(C) The Times must repeat every article about bloggers they’ve ever written at least once, without fail.

Unfortunately, this means we’ll have to get the sentence that has Gawker Media boss Nick Denton comparing his bloggers to awestruck monkeypeople out of the way first:

At Gawker Media’s offices in Manhattan, a flat-screen television mounted on the wall displays the 10 most-viewed articles across all Gawker’s Web sites. The author’s last name, along with the number of page views that hour and over all are prominently shown in real time on the screen, which Gawker has named the “big board.” “Sometimes one sees writers just standing before it, like early hominids in front of a monolith,” said Nick Denton, Gawker Media’s founder.

Oh, come on, Nick. Tell us what you really think. Unfortunately, Times writer Jeremy W. Peters chose to note things like the looming figurative and literal “big board” presence of pageview targets and the pace of the work (Four to eight posts a day! Sometimes more!) as a cause of this fascinating “blogger burnout” trend — wherein overworked people become tired — as opposed to the kind of stress manifested by having a boss who compares you to a prehistoric grunt in the New York Times.

There’s no question, though, that this so-called “blogger burnout” thing actually exists, as evidenced by the fact that, you know, the Times wrote about it over two years ago when blogging supposedly gave someone a heart attack. But has it changed?

2010 NYT Blogger Burnout story featuring Gawker Media, talk of traffic targets, and three instances of the word “pressure”:

  • “Now at any point in the day starting at 5 in the morning, there can be that same level of intensity and pressure to get something out.”…
  • “Sometimes you felt like it was just too much, whether it’s the workload, the pressure,” said Helena Andrews, a former Politico reporter who left to write a memoir.
  • Mr. VandeHei and Mr. Harris say they know that reporters can feel pressured at times.

2008 NYT Blogger Burnout story featuring Gawker Media, talk of traffic targets, and three instances of the word “pressure”:

  • The pressure even gets to those who work for themselves — and are being well-compensated for it.
  • [Gizmodo’s Brian Lam] said he has worried his blogging staff might be burning out, and he urges them to take breaks, even vacations. But he said they face tremendous pressure — external, internal and financial. He said the evolution of the “pay-per-click” economy has put the emphasis on reader traffic and financial return, not journalism.
  • Ellen Green, who had been dating [a blogger] for 13 months, said the pressure, though self-imposed, was severe.

What this demonstrates is the New York Times — and so many “older” reporters — fearing the fast and furious pace of blogging with terrified fascination, and every article like this about bloggers holds the same “scare journalism” tacit that’s often employed by, say, the local news station who wants to warn you about a new plastic your child could eat that could melt him or her from the inside! Bloggers! They must slow down! They are being pressured to get people to read which is something capital-J Journalists — who used to file one story a day, and any more was just beyond — would never dream of having to consider! Bajeesus!

Except, the period to be fascinated with this idea has come and gone, like, five years ago. And instead of chiding itself for not knowing better, Standard-Bearers of the Old Guard continue to see problems like this as something to be viewed from the outside. Henry Blodget of Business Insider is (unusually, for me) on the right page, here:

So it’s no wonder that, instead of recognizing online media for what it is–a hyper-competitive, dynamic new segment of the industry, in which every successful company, editor, and writer understands just how much intensity and effort is required to survive, mainstream media is instead writing articles about online media “burnout” and whining to politicians about how newspapers need a taxpayer-funded bailout.

These are the same people who still hear the word “blogger” and – be it a totally coherent first thought, or an occurrence still deeply entrenched in a collective subconscious of journalism — still think of a bedhair’d twentysomething who sits at home in their pajamas and writes mean things about other people who has never called on a story once in their lives. Also, they think we’re all “gossips” and are amazed when people who “get” blogs make money.

Deadspin editor A.J. Daulerio doesn’t think much of “blogger burnout,” either. He noted it best over IM: “I don’t know. I don’t see “blogger burnout” as its own unique phenomenon. I don’t think it’s any different than, say, “teacher’s burnout” or “coffee barista burnout.” I think if you’re getting burned out by something, you’re probably doing it wrong or you just hate your job and should not be doing it. Pussy.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]

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