Blogging for Money – The Hard Way

Michael J. Totten has returned from a six month stint in most dangerous parts of the Middle East as a freelance online journalist (aka, a blogger). He is pleasantly surprised.

I raised more money from [reader PayPal donations] to cover Iraqi Kurdistan than I’ve made covering any other country on paid assignments. I also had a lot more fun publishing my own material here instead of somewhere else. It is so much nicer to have the freedom to write whatever I want without any oversight, without any rules or restrictions, without any word limits, and without any delays. (The LA Weekly sat on my Libya story for more than a year. Four months after publishing it, they still owe me money.)

Buoyed by this success, he has ambitious plans to travel the world as an independent foreign correspondent. But he’s a bit worried:

What I need to know before I can do any of this is if you’re willing to “hire” me to write about places other than Northern Iraqi Kurdistan. Can I turn this blog into a job? Or was I lucky just this one time?

Share your views with him in his comments section.

I’d like to see him succeed. There is something liberating in having private correspondents out there writing diaries. My guess, though, is that it would be pretty hard to make even a modest living doing that sort of thing full time. Travel is expensive and there are, after all, plenty of people who actually live in the countries in question who can and do blog about it for free. That would seem to give them a rather substantial competitive advantage.

The Web culture would seem to conspire against the plan, too. People have an expectation that everything online should be “free.” Indeed, they even resent non-intrusive advertising, let alone registration requirements. Getting people to pay for content, even at premier sites like Slate or Salon, has been a failure.

Of course, I would not have predicted the success of Totten’s initial foray into this experiment, either. Even with his high name recognition and networking with established bloggers, it was a daunting task. So, maybe I’ll be wrong on this, too.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

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  1. […] Blogging for Money – The Hard WayOutside Beltway – Michael J. Totten has returned from a six month stint in most dangerous parts of the Middle East as a freelance online journalist (aka, a blogger). He is pleasantly surprised. I raised more money from [reader PayPal donations] to cover Iraqi […]