5 Ways The Blogosphere Is Like The Entertainment Industry

by anna on January 24, 2011

Viewing “blogging” (or blogging-related activities) as a means of making money is still fairly new. Whenever I’m not sure how to articulate how something should work, I tend to look at the entertainment industry, because I think it is the closest thing there is to how the “blogging industry” (or social media, if you’d rather call it that) might be structured. Below are some examples of the ways I think the two industries are comparable.

1. The people in front of the camera get the most attention.

In entertainment, actors get the most attention. The most popular and best paid actors are usually the ones who get the most attention, because they generally spend the most time in front of the camera. This is also true in the blogosphere, even though access to attention through social media is ostensibly democratic. Some bloggers spend more time in visible places: they have more readers, they have more followers, they attend and speak at more conferences. These people can be thought of as the “talent” segment of the blogosphere.

2. The most attention does not always equal the most money.

As the world of supermarket tabloids and reality TV demonstrates, appearing everywhere does not necessarily mean you are being paid the most. There are certain people who appear everywhere and are highly compensated, but there are also people who appear everywhere for other reasons. They might have a particular train wreck appeal that sells well, like the has-been starlets who frequent tabloids. Or, they might be well-connected and have access to particular outlets, like the socialites who have become famous for, basically, being famous (Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie, Kim Kardashian). Being visible and being successful are not always the same thing, but because people often confuse the two, sometimes being visible can lead to being successful, both in the entertainment industry and in the blogosphere.

3. There is a whole other universe of jobs that exist beyond those that get all of the attention.

If you live in Los Angeles, there is a good chance that your income is touched in some manner by the entertainment industry. People think of actors, directors, writers, and producers as the key players in entertainment, but they might forget that there are a ton of other people involved: lighting, photography, costuming, makeup, styling, set designers, set builders, publicity people, advertising people, agents, etc. The people you actually can see on the screen are only a tiny part of a giant thing that is the entertainment industrial complex.

The same is true for the blogosphere. Visible bloggers — “famous” or “celebrity” bloggers, whether they make their living from doing this or not, are only one tiny part. There are tons of other kinds of jobs — ad company owners, ad manangers, ad sellers, brand consultants, web designers, conference organizers, app designers, people who match up brands and bloggers for campaigns, PR reps, blog consultants, etc. We don’t really have names for a lot of the different kinds of jobs there are at this point, in fact.

4. Some of the less attention jobs pay far better than the higher attention jobs.

The high-attention jobs can pay very well if you manage to get one of the very top slots. For example, if you are an actor and you manage to make it to George Clooney’s level, then you are going to make tons of money. But not everybody who tries to be an actor is going to make it to that level. Not everybody is even going to make it to George Lopez’s level.

The thing is, there some of the less-attention jobs are far more lucrative than the higher attention jobs, because they involve putting together deals for both kinds of Georges. But to take those kinds of jobs, you have to be comfortable with spending less time in the limelight.

5. The higher attention jobs tend to come with an expiration date and/or worries about over-exposure.

Positions that rely on a lot of time in the public eye are more difficult to maintain for a variety of reasons. It is generally easier for younger, good-looking people to get jobs as actors, and in order to stay on top they need to maintain a perfect appearance and pay a team of experts to manage their reputation. Even with all of these safeguards, an actor has to be careful about the kinds of projects they take and alliances they make, or else they may become overexposed and jeopardize their overall value as a brand.

To a lesser degree, this is also true for popular bloggers. If they do not innovate, they risk losing their audience in the passage of time. If their blog’s story is tied to something that is time-sensitive (child rearing, their youth and beauty), they may have problems maintaining it as the center of a career in the long term. And, finally, working with too many brands, too often, can jeopardize the goodwill they have built up with their audience.

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{ 7 comments }

1
Anne-Marie @ This Mama Cooks! January 24, 2011 at 7:55 am

Anna, not sure I totally agree with your last line – “working with too many brands, too often, can jeopardize the goodwill they have built up with their audience.” It depends on the nature of your blog, your readers and if the brand is a good fit for both.

Since I have a healthy recipe and lifestyle blog, bringing the best healthy food and exercise brands to my readers is a top priority. For example, when I recently did a sponsored review of Panera Bread, I showed my readers how they can eat there in a healthy way. Hopefully, that brought value to my readers. I try to partner only with brands I believe in and feel my readers will benefit from. A sponsor has to be a good fit or audience goodwill will indeed be jeopardized.

2
anna January 24, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I do think that the amount of sponsored content you can use varies *greatly* according to niche. There are some niches that are really open to it, and it doesn’t matter as much, and then there are others where even when it’s done really well people tend to get annoyed. That said, I do think that there’s a finite amount of sponsored content that an audience will tolerate — regardless of the niche — before they start deciding that a blogger is just another brand outlet. Not everyone agrees with me on this. I definitely think how long that takes and how much sponsor involvement it takes varies greatly according to the blog, and if the placements are good that makes a huge difference.

3
Kerry January 24, 2011 at 8:49 am

I like #2 especially. Your goal can be to be (internet) famous or to make money, but the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

4
anna January 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I think people tend to believe they go hand in hand, and partially this is because there is this persistent belief that the only way to make money is through display ads and/or the kind of stuff that requires a huge audience.

5
Susan Tiner January 24, 2011 at 10:56 am

I think #3 and #4 also apply to the world of App development. We knew the economics of Apps were dicey, but didn’t realize just how dicey until after we’d invested significant development time and expense in our projects last year. It’s really hard to charge anything for Apps when Apps like Angry Birds are free.The Ads model makes money for Apple and third-party ad networks, but it’s hard to make significant money from ads as an App developer, and anyway ads aren’t appropriate in Apps for kids so we couldn’t use them. Sure, we could have pursued other ways of monetizing but at that point blogging a business model seemed more realistic, so we’re back to drumming fingers on the desk. Your #3 and #4 apply to the App world in that it’s very lucrative to outsource services such as App development and App design.

I have been curious, in your own case, what you think about balancing blog consulting vs blogging itself?

6
anna January 24, 2011 at 1:28 pm

There is a huge market for App developers right now — from what I understand, there are not enough to go around, in fact.

Re balancing blog consulting and blogging, it’s manageable. I would not have a blog consulting business without also blogging — the two are inseparable in my mind, so it would always have to be something I manage to balance. For the time being, it works, though I will probably always have a cap on how many clients I can have at a time in order to maintain everything else.

7
attorney jovan January 31, 2011 at 11:58 pm

#2 seems to apply universally. Rarely the person who gets the most attention also get the most money. The big earners are usually too busy making all the money. John Paulson doesn’t spend a lot of his time doing interviews and red carpet events. Plaintiff attorneys who focus on class actions don’t do the talk show or local news circuit for each and every issue about which they could possibly comment.

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