After many years of blogging professionally at Dooce, Heather Armstrong is stepping down to focus on speaking and brand consultation. She's planning to write for fun again.
But what makes this livelihood glaringly different are not only the constant creative strains of churning out new and entertaining content -- content we cannot delegate to anyone else because our audiences read our stories for our particular voice and perspective -- but also the security systems we've had to set up as an increasingly more diverse group of people throw rocks at our houses with the intention of causing damage: passersby, rubbernecks, stalkers, even journalists. We have separate security systems for those who take every word and decision we share and deliberately misinterpret it, disfigure it to the point of it being wholly unrecognizable, and then broadcast to us and to their own audiences that they have diagnosed us with a personality disorder.
"Living online" for us looks completely different now than it did when we all set out to build this community, and the emotional and physical toll of it is rapidly becoming a health hazard.
There's a lot in what Heather wrote that resonates with me. (See also Amateur Gourmet, Dylan Byers, and Marco Arment.) Two or three years ago, I thought I would do my site professionally for the rest of my life, or at least a good long while. The way things are going, in another year or two, I'm not sure that's even going to be an option. The short window of time in which individuals could support themselves by blogging is closing rapidly. There's a lot more I could say about that, but for now, I'll offer my best wishes to Heather in her new endeavors. Dooce is dead, long live Dooce.
Dooce gets the NY Times Magazine treatment this weekend. More than anything, reading it made me nostalgic for a certain short period of time where people could write personal blogs intended to be read by more than just family and a few friends without worrying about money or a "personal brand". God, those were the (clearly unsustainable) days...here's the new reality:
Amy Oztan, who blogs at SelfishMom.com, is particularly transparent when it comes to her sponsors. She has a lot of them -- companies who pay her, in money or in product, to advertise on her site or to mention them. Oztan has an entire section explaining how she makes her money, including an extensive index of tabs she uses to alert readers to the economics of everything she writes. It starts with Level 1 -- "The product or service mentioned was provided to Amy free of charge (or at a considerable discount not available to the public)" -- and goes up to Level 13: "This is a sponsored post. Amy was compensated to write this post. While Amy's opinions in the post are authentic, talking points may have been suggested by the sponsor." In between these extremes are compensation for inserting links to a certain Web site, attending an event or administering a product giveaway. Which pretty much explains why, between daily witticisms, she so regularly describes how she offered Kleenex to the woman next to her at a conference or placed her HTC HD7 Windows phone on the tray table next to her when she lucked into an empty row on her last plane trip.