Feb 09 2011
It’s time for another somewhat meta post here on the site, where I talk about what it’s like to actually do this for a living. I’ve previously detailed how my day goes, that I write about 12-15 posts across four sites currently, and depending on the day’s events, can work long hours into the night doing so.
I’ve been writing full-time, in one form or another, for a little over two years now, and I’ve learned a few solid facts from my time on the web that I thought I’d share with you here. I’m guessing any of you out there who are writers yourselves, or write for any other sites will be able to relate with a lot of what I’m saying.
1. There is Someone Out There Who Will Disagree with ANYTHING
This is what I quickly learned after starting to write on the web full time. Early on, and still to a degree today, people seem to like my writing because I often encapsulate their views on things. For this site, that’s usually film, TV or video game related, but I’ve found the same to be true about college life and politics as well.
But I also learned that no matter how right you think you are about something, there is always someone waiting to rip your head off for what you think is a reasonable assertion.
The Town was a fun film? WORST MOVIE EVER.
Mad Men is a great show? BORING AS SHIT.
Mass Effect 2 has a good storyline? GODDAMN EMO SPACE SOAP OPERA.
Olivia Wilde is hot? FUGLY BUG-EYED TRAMP.
Honestly, it never fails to impress me how people can manifest pure hate for almost anything that most of us would generally agree is pretty alright, and it’s something I definitely had to get used to, though I’m pretty immune to it now.
2. Original Content is Hard to Find
Sometimes we get complaints on the site that we don’t feature enough original work, that we pull images and video from other places instead of doing things ourselves.
This is something I constantly struggle with. I really do try to put out as much original content as I can, which is why I do things like comics or lists or reviews or meta-posts like this, but fact is, when you’re running a site with two people, you have to make some hard calls. Do you spend all day creating one really awesome amazing fantastic post you think people will like? Or do you divide your attention up between one or two solid posts and then some other fun, but easier ones. Fact is, a site can rarely exist with only one or two posts a day. Really awesome webcomics do that, but I’ll be honest, my skills and creativity and other commitments just don’t allow me to devote that much time to getting something like that out every day.
I often get called out for finding these other picture or video posts on other sites or aggregators like Reddit. If it’s a site like mine that’s found it, I try to give them credit, but more importantly I always try to find the original artist or author, and make sure THEY get credit for original work. That’s what websites do. We don’t have time or manpower to make 100% original content, so we feature original content from OTHER places, and they do the same to us. As long as proper credit is given, it’s no big deal.
3. Working Without an Editorial Staff is a Double Edged Sword
Everyone loves writing on the internet because it’s more or less complete freedom. You can usually write about whatever you want with no repercussions, and so long as you don’t offend your advertisers, you’re OK.
This is a far cry from the traditional newsroom, where everything goes through five different editors and fact checkers and copy hounds before it goes to print. When your site is staffed by two people, these kinds of checks don’t happen, and that’s why often errors get through to final drafts of posts. This is true here, but even larger sites I work for, there’s really no editorial oversight, and I’m personally responsible for making sure everything is perfect. And as I said, I write 15 posts a day, so this is often extremely hard or impossible.
You may say, well why don’t you just read over everything. I can and do, but when YOU’VE written something, YOU know how you want it to sound, and even if there’s a typo on the screen, your brain has automatically brushed past it, autocorrecting it in your head. That is why you ideally want fresh eyes looking over your work, as they’re more likely to catch errors. It’s one thing from the print media era I miss, but it’s just not cost effective for small sites, or apparently even bigger ones anymore.
4. I Have Mixed Feelings about Internet Anonymity
Being a writer who authors everything under my own name, I have a different perspective on internet anonymity than most. Almost all of you do not post comments under your real name, and though most of you are civil, there are legions or horrible people on the internet that use the cloak of anonymity to make the internet truly a worse place. Take the comment above for example on this post.
I made an assertion where I wondered about Summer Glau’s bankablity if all her shows end up dead, and if networks would continue to hire her despite that. I love Glau in all her roles, and I wasn’t suggesting this SHOULD be the case, but just posing a question.
But that’s the response I get! He makes a solid point about the genre pilots, but peppers it with hatred that I really didn’t need to see. And this happens ALL the time. How would you like it if at whatever job you have, someone routinely curses you out for any opinion you choose to share.
It’s not fair to me, as I have to put myself out there, and people can snipe at me from the shadows. If people couldn’t hide like this, I feel the level of discourse on the internet, across ALL varieties of sites (I think political ones would benefit substantially) would rise.
Problem is, the total number of contributors would probably plummet. People would be afraid to voice their opinion on controversial issues, as what you say on the internet is more or less permanent. I want to yell, “Welcome to MY world bitches!” but I can see the point of view of the average web surfer. Also with personal info out there, forever anonymous groups, like 4chan’s Anonymous, would be able to harass specific people far more easily. It’s a tough issue, and I’m curious to see how it evolves as the internet does.
5. It’s Hard to Stand Out
There are a thousand different sites out there for movies, TV and video games. Why mine? Why do you come here? It’s a question I’m genuinely interested in the answer to, and one I need to dissect so I can figure out how to attract even more people to my little corner of the web.
I would love to have amazing programming or web design skills so I could design the next Facebook or Twitter and retire at 25 the world’s newest billionaire, but I have to realize I can’t, and so I have to use the skills I DO have to stand out.
But that can be hard. With so much of the same stuff floating around the internet, and so many sites covering the same topics to choose from, it’s a daily struggle to figure out how to keep your work fresh, and find something you offer that other places don’t. I try to use my point of view and attempts at humor to do that, and it seems to work to some degree, but it’s hard when you’re looking for ways to continue to evolve the site.
Well established sites do this all the time, often with massive re-designs that are often spectacular failures. But I understand their pain, because standing still is death in this industry, and it’s kind of a scary tide to get caught on if you’re unprepared for it.
If YOU guys have anything you’d like to see on the site that we don’t do now, or more of something we do post, please let me know.
So that’s just a few of my thoughts on the world of online writing. Perhaps it gives you a better view of myself as a writer and what I deal with when creating and writing stories. If you want to start your own site, that’s awesome, but be prepared for things like this to give you pause and make you question yourself.
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