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 Substack.com, 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.

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Expanding my Footprint

avatarMy experiment over at Tsū is going pretty well, but that platform is not as text-friendly as I’d like it to be for sharing my writing. I’ve started an account at 3tags, a profit-sharing blogging platform, to house Jerry the Writer, while at Tsū I will be Jerry the Photographer. I will of course always be Jerry the Muddled Rambler right here.

3tags may become home to a more-polished version of TFNIWLNW, but first I have to come up with an actual title. Right now all the ones I come up with are too generic (“The Soul Thieves”) or too glib (“Stabbin’ the Soul Thieves”). Hopefully I can come up with something soon. The rough-draft version of TFNIWLNW will continue to accumulate here. (There’s about 1.8 episodes in the hopper as I type this.)

I have no evidence to back this up, but I think keeping identities focussed will be more follower-friendly. I’m not sure 3tags is the right platform for me simply because there aren’t very many people there – I was able to grab the user name “Jerry” — so building a following will be a long and slow process. One thing that helps is that 3tags makes it easier to announce new posts on Facebook and twitter.

When people read my stories there, I get paid! If you accept the following invitation and then you create things people like, you get paid (and, since I invited you, I get paid a little, too).

Currently only a handful of people over there will see my stuff based on the tags, so I really hope folks like you will click the links on Twitter and Facebook to see my words. This means I’ll finally have to figure out Twitter, I suppose.

Here’s my invite link if you’d like to check out 3tags — it seems like a pretty capable blogging platform, and I hope they hit critical mass. Heck, if you’re gonna blog, you may as well get paid for it, right?

Writing for Social Media

It used to be that here at Muddled Ramblings I would just develop ideas at my own pace and trust my readers to hang with me for a few sentences to let things get going (there is actually no evidence that they did that, but I like to believe). Lately I’ve become (perhaps detrimentally) aware that most of my audience is only presented the first couple hundred characters of my ramble before they are presented with a go/no-go decision.

I’m a little bit embarrassed to say that it has changed the way I open my episodes here at MR&HBI. I’m fishin’ for the hook.

Last night as I posted episode one of TFNIWLNW to a new social media platform, I was compelled to add a little preface. The thing is, in all these platforms, what shows to the casual feed-grazer* is only a couple of sentences. TFNIWLNW starts with sexual assault. So, aware that said assault is going unhindered for the first 250 characters of the story, I decided to graft on a little intro with two goals: tell readers that the asshole’s gonna die before we learn what the asshole’s doing, and to introduce the audience to the narrator’s voice. I’m pretty sure I had only a partial success, but you’re welcome to tell me I’m wrong.

Then, not knowing the culture on this new Social Media site, I put in a little parental warning that also used a pretty sweet metaphor and accelerated the understanding that our narrator is, in some fundamental ways, not a nice guy. From a literary point of view the extra words serve a good purpose. From a “goddammit tell me a tale” standpoint they come off as masturbation.

Writers have always needed to put a hook at the start of a story, but the hook now has to catch in the first few words. I’m pretty sure I unhooked TFNIWLW:1 in an attempt to fix it. But if I’m going to keep it up over there, i’ll have to be very careful with the first 70 words of each episode. Maybe that’s a good thing. A book where every scene starts with a hook is the kind of thing about which reviewers say “I could not put down.”
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* I am a little bit proud of the phrase feed-grazer, so please don’t tell me how many times you’ve heard it before.