Over on another blog where I cover Christian music, I posted a quick note about American Idol season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino’s alleged overdose on “aspirin and sleep aids”.
I briefly commented in the post – again, because I rant about this frequently on that blog – that I hate writing about celebrity news. I mean, in the whole scheme of things do we need to know that a pop star may or may not have had an affair with a married man, and do the parties involved really need their dirty laundry hung out for the world to see?
But my job on that blog is to write about music, Christian music, and anything remotely related to Christian music, and since American Idol has been one of the driving forces on that blog for two years, I felt I needed to at least mention the story.
That, and I’m expected to generate a certain number of page views every month if I want to get paid.
And after two years, I have learned that news about the release of a new worship album generates zero page views and pop star gossip draws all the readers.
I call it page view whoring, and it’s the dark side of online writing.
I’m not alone. In fact, I’ll bet if you’re a writer for an online publication, your editors are sending you daily updates on what hot topics are trending on Google, Yahoo and Twitter, and are encouraging you to use those keywords and topics in your headlines and posts. The site wants visitors, yes, but chances are you’re being paid based on the number of page views you attract. The more views, the more money you make. And I’d venture to guess that we’re not talking thousands of dollars here, either. A few hundred dollars a month, maybe?
So you search for hot new stories, find a way to write about the news story with an angle related to the topic you write about, and do what you can to get people to read your blog. And you need to do it in a unique way, make it interesting, often add a local angle, manage the comments and spam, deal with stalkers, and hope you make a few bucks along the way.
I’m not complaining. I love the publication that I write for. They’ve been very good to me and when I was one of the first writers to cover the Christian music/American Idol angle on Season 8, I generated a lot of page views and made enough money to pay the mortgage every month.
And I’ve made some fantastic friends in the music business and had some great experiences. I’ve been fortunate to meet some Christian bands when they were first starting out and almost a decade later still call them friends. I’ve met icons in the industry and been able to give voice to some artists you might not otherwise have heard about. I’ve interviewed genuine celebrities.
But the reality is that when it comes to blogging, the posts that get the most views are the ones I’ve hated writing, the stories I didn’t want to cover but felt like I needed to to satisfy my page view requirements and my contract. (If you only knew the stories I didn’t cover. I may have lost page views but I was able to sleep at night.) And they’re also the ones that have been misconstrued, misread, misunderstood and generated lots of hate mail.
Maybe that’s why dog writing has become so attractive to me lately. It offers me a chance to take a break from the entertainment spin cycle, where success as a writer often comes at someone else’s expense. I’ve been writing about my dogs and chickens, and even helping one of my dogs, Bandit, with his It’s A Dog’s Life blog.
With my new blog, BarkAroundTown.wordpress.com, I can share stories about dog adoption, news about pets and pet health, and take a break from the moral struggle I sometimes have covering entertainment and music. I still need to worry about page views and covering current events, but I feel like it’s less exploitive and more informative.
So that’s where I am today.
Am I alone with this problem? If you’re a writer, do you ever struggle with topics you’re expected to cover? Do you have to deal with page view whoring? And if you could write about any topic and be paid, what kind of writing would you do? I’d love to know if other writers deal with this stuff.