Blogging for Dollars

I was reading an article the other day about Facebook’s brazen attempt to spend another competitor into the grave. In this case the competitor is, which is a platform that allows writers to create “newsletters” and have their fans subscribe for actual dollars. Substack, of course, takes a slice of those dollars for themselves.

But Facebook thought that was a pretty cool idea, and decided to launch their own clone of the service, but (at first) they will not take a cut of the writers’ subscription fees. So, they’re dong it for free, but the writers creating these “newsletters” don’t have to give up a slice of their pie.

From The Washington Post article:

Asked for comment on Facebook Bulletin, Substack spokeswoman Lulu Cheng Meservey said, “The nice shiny rings from Sauron were also ‘free.’ ”

I put “newsletter” in quotes because these are blogs. Bloggedy blog blogs. These are platforms to allow bloggers to make money.

And… hang on a second… I’m a blogger!

So after reading this, and deciding instantly that I would not be participating in the Facebook thing, I was still left with the thought… maybe I could make money by blogging.

Fear not, good reader(s), Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas will not be disappearing behind a paywall. Be assured that this is not out of any altruistic impulse, but is rooted in the calm belief that MR&HBI is fundamentally unmarketable. If you don’t believe that now, just wait for the next episode.

To be one of those blogs that people read, there must be a theme. I can’t just spew whatever nonsense crosses my mind and expect people to pay for it; I have to wrap that nonsense in a central theme, and have that nonsense resonate with people who have never actually met me. There has to be a connecting point.

Like maybe an overweight greybeard trying to climb a mountain on a bicycle. That might sell, if the “newsletter” built a larger story about goals and effort and self-loathing and it was written well enough that people who read one installment would look forward to the next. There might be a formula for the episodes — some logistics, some details of ride to the base of the mountain, then getting to the grind of the climb with a juicy piece of crazy thought that went through oxygen-starved brain, then the discomfort and pathetic fear of a timid descent. Some background, here and there, about the world, about life, about whether pursuing happiness is an oxymoron.

I think I could do that.

I also think that because I am completely hopeless at marketing, that the “newsletters” will die in obscurity. But is that any reason not to do it? It’s an autobiography, and Lord knows I do like talking about me. It’s a story, but unlike serial fiction each episode is built on my latest run at the mountain. “I got this” one week turns into “I don’t got this” the next. There might be discussion of bicycle infrastructure. Or blimps.

But my two subscribers will be pushing me forward, lifting me, and when I get to the top of that damn mountain, our roar will be heard all the way to next door.


4 thoughts on “Blogging for Dollars

  1. I know this was, like most MRHBI posts, tongue in cheeck, but allow me to remind you that you had a pay system at one time here through a system that rewarded you for reaching milestones in your episodic installments. That it didn’t work out (that is, that you are not now the James Patterson of the blog-o-sphere) I took as confirmation of what we always knew: your motivation in writing fiction or blogging is really purely personal, for your own enjoyment. Not monetary or even based on ego-driving likes, kudos or retweets. As you yourself acknowledged some time ago, you had a pretty vibrant and involved reader community that naturally atrophied when you stopped blogging regularly, because (I imagine) you had more important things to do in the real world.
    I am okay with that, and clearly you are, too.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Both flattering and illuminating.

      The community decay I lay mostly at the feet of Facebook. The community that gathered here was drawn to the wide-open platform that seemed built for precisely such interaction. I wouldn’t even be bothered by that except that Facebook then completely fucked those communities, and now they are mostly extinct.

      The serial fiction failure is on me; it turns out that serial fiction is really difficult. What really knocked the stuffing out of the project for me was the almost-universal reaction of new readers: “I was loving it but I am busy.” The story just doesn’t carry new readers past a few chapters. I still play with new chapters, but there’s this thing in my head saying it doesn’t matter, no one will get to these words I’m so proud of.

      So I have to redo the first chapters, but I like them. And that’s put me in a bad spiral for that story. I think on the fantasy-novel scale this thing is moving blisteringly fast, but it’s serial fiction, and the last sentence of every episode has to be “this is why you want to read the next episode.” So there’s a bit of a retrofit project there.

      A Substack thing about me and the mountain would be different, in that there are no concerns about continuity, and the only call to read the next episode would be the quality of the previous. The allure would be that the future is opaque to both reader and writer. And the goal is a secondary thing, subordinate to the observations I make when I ride. Was that carpet I just rode over a prayer mat?

      Honestly, it wouldn’t even be a blog, it would be a monetized LiveJournal.

      We’ll see. If I do launch it, I might not even mention it here, in some bloody-minded self-imposed mandate that it succeed without my vast network supporting it – or at least not making my current supporters feel the need to jump on yet another Half-Baked scheme.

      Most likely, I’ll just keep adding to “Gotta Ride.”

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