NY Times: Bloggers are working themselves to death

Filed as Features on April 5, 2008 5:56 pm

Tomorrow’s New York Times will carry a story focusing on professional blogging – and outlining how the 24/7 news cycle that is the internet is literally causing bloggers to work themselves to death.

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.

Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

Maybe that has been their blogging experience, but it certainly hasn’t been mine.

I’ve been through the blog startup phase when we launched what was then The BlogMedia Network – and lived through its maturity with our purchase of The Blog Herald and the launch of other sites. I won’t deny that I worked alot and occasionally had sleepless nights. So did everyone else that was involved in this effort from our end.

But I don’t believe that the lifestyle that is portrayed in this article represents the bulk of the bloggers that are making or seeking to make a living through professional blogging.

Witness this focus on Matt Buchanan from Gizmodo from the NY Times story:

All that competition puts a premium on staying awake. Matt Buchanan, 22, is the right man for the job. He works for clicks for Gizmodo, a popular Gawker Media site that publishes news about gadgets. Mr. Buchanan lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn, where his bedroom doubles as his office.

He says he sleeps about five hours a night and often does not have time to eat proper meals. But he does stay fueled — by regularly consuming a protein supplement mixed into coffee.

I realize it’s difficult for the New York Times to look past the high-end competitive blogging industry at the rest of us – but they should have. By focusing in on Arrington and Buchanan from Gizmodo, they’re looking at a very small fraction of the industry – and certainly not most of us that make a living through blogging or other online revenue sources.

When I was blogging full-time back in 2006, my days consistent of a 5-6 hour workday during the day coupled with a 2-3 hour timeblock in the evening after my girlfriend had gone to bed. Weekends generally saw 2-3 hours of work a day coupled with an hour or so producing the podcast. By my math that’s a 55-60 hour workweek at its worst. And for that I made a six figure income…

How did the New York Times article make you feel? Are all of you working as much and in as poor health as the New York Times says you are?

Update (6:46am): Howard Lindzon probably has the best comment on this in his post on the matter:

I read The New York Times business most days and if this is Sunday Time’s worthy, we are f@#ked. They are officially out of money or ideas. The article only proves one thing…that the New York Times has allowed itself to get caught up in the hype, not real journalism. There is no real link betweeen blogging and heart attacks.

Update (12:43pm): Tony Hung, former editor here at The Blog Herald, and a MD in Canada, weighs in with some medical information.

Others: Blogging Stocks, Worker Bees, Howard Lindzon, Tony Hung

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  1. By Neil Miller posted on April 5, 2008 at 6:21 pm
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    Matt,

    I have to disagree with you on this one. As a movie blogger, I find myself constantly burning my candle at both ends. My work day includes 10-12 hours of time in front of my computer, a steady diet of protein bars and a limited amount of breaks, spent reading blogs outside of the movie news world. It gain be a tough life — but I think that if you are a serious pro blogger, it has to be this way, at least at first. In order to be successful and make a living, you have to work hard — especially if you blog in a genre like tech or movie news, where the information must be constantly up-to-date. That, by itself, can cause serious strain.

    Reply

  2. By Matt Craven posted on April 5, 2008 at 6:42 pm
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    Yeah – but why? There is a better way to do this and maintain some semblance of a life.

    Have you tried some different methods?

    Reply

  3. By Aaron B. Hockley posted on April 5, 2008 at 7:03 pm
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    I don’t see blogging as being any different than any other occupation. There are some that are going to put in a 40-hour week, and there are some that are going to work 14-16 hour days. “Success” may or may not be related to hours worked.

    Reply

  4. By Neil Miller posted on April 6, 2008 at 12:43 am
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    I suppose it is the nature of the on-demand culture of the internet. Gone are the days where I (as a movie blogger) can prep 5-10 solid posts for the next day and enjoy my evening. Personally, I am still working it all out — so I’m sure there is someone better to speak on this than me, but as for my experiences thus far (a few months blogging full-time, to be exact), I will say that it is harder than it looks and that it doesn’t surprise me to see that some bloggers are working way too hard.

    Reply

  5. By Rhys posted on April 6, 2008 at 2:49 am
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    I don’t find this in the slightest. I usually blog for 2-3 hours a day (have a full time job), and – whilst not on megabucks, I’m earning what is the equivalent of 2 weeks extra pay per month from my job, after tax.

    It’s like anything. Some people are good at what they do, others aren’t, and the ones who aren’t generally work longer and harder to compensate. People should step back and decide if problogging is for them, quite often though, they don’t.

    Reply

  6. By Matt Craven posted on April 6, 2008 at 6:13 am
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    Aaron – I agree with you – it’s often just like any other job in terms of short days v. long days.

    Today will be a short day for me ;)

    Matt

    Reply

  7. By sfvrealestate posted on April 6, 2008 at 1:09 pm
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    I disagree, too. While my husband and I don’t exactly blog for money, we extensively promote our businesses through blogging. I’m a Realtor and I love blogging about my industry. Husband is promoting The World Is Your Litter Box, a cat book, all over the cat blogosphere and I’m helping with that too. We’ve agreed we’ve never had so much fun with “work” in our lives.

    Reply

  8. By Rick Calvert posted on April 6, 2008 at 3:08 pm
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    yes some people are obsessive about their blogs, just as some obsess on their jobs, or video games. That does not mean all bloggers fit that mode. Lots of well respected bloggers some of them making good income have a healthy life / blog balance.

    It would be interesting to see a scientific study to determine if bloggers were different from any other group. One thing I think that might set us apart, and Pew had done some research on this is that bloggers are not just busy creating content all the time, they are also far above average content consumers. Watching more combined TV, Newspapers, Magazines, music and internet than the average person.

    That makes sense to me. /shrug

    Reply

  9. By Darnell Clayton posted on April 6, 2008 at 3:15 pm
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    Hmm…so according to the NY Times, it would be better to work a 9 to 5 job for forty plus years that you may (or may not like), or to do something you love and get a heart attack.

    To quote a famous actor playing a famous role in a famous movie:

    “Every man dies–Not every man really lives.”

    ~Darnell

    Reply

  10. By Dominic Rivera posted on April 6, 2008 at 7:00 pm
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    As Om said in his post at Gigaom pertaining to the NY Time article, “blogging doesn’t need to be a race.”

    Reply

  11. By Matt Craven posted on April 6, 2008 at 8:21 pm
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    Exactly Dominic ;)

    Reply

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