The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Blog-Related Stress Disorder

It’s been a while since I blogged about blogging or, more specifically, about the various tiers/levels/castes of blogging. In fact, it’s been since I blogged about the myth of the flat blogosphere. Not the first time, mind you, but now that that myth has been declared by folks with more authority than me there’s little need to write about it again. But also because of a realization I had, that came around the time of the Clinton blogger lunch controversy, and finally voiced when I wrote about blog amnesty day.

It’s been a long time since I’ve focused on the subject at length; that’s mostly because I’ve found it has little to no effect, and partly because I got the sense that people were tired off reading about it. Most of all, I finally realized a few things: the topics I blog about and the kind of blogging I do will never attract a huge audience, and if attracting a huge audience would most likely mean changing what I blog about and how I blog. I’ve decided against the latter.

I’m not one of those people, and I’ll never be one of those people, because I’m not willing to change what I’d need to change to be one of those people. I don’t hang with them, I don’t roll with them, and I’ve pretty much stop listening or participating in their conversations. Kos and Atrios don’t know me from Adam. And that’s fine.

And now I wonder if there aren’t some things that come with the territory of being “one of those people,” like blog-related stress and heart attacks.

Om Malik’s blog, GigaOm, regularly breaks news about the technology industry. Last week, the journalist turned blogger broke a big story about himself. Mr. Malik, 41, blogged that he had suffered a heart attack on Dec. 28.

…His heart attack — and his blogging about it — raises the issue of what happens when a blogger becomes a name brand.

“The trouble with a personal brand is, you’re yoked to a machine,” said Paul Kedrosky, a friend of Mr. Malik’s who runs the Infectious Greed blog. “You feel huge pressure to not just do a lot, but to do a lot with your name on it. You have pressure to not just be the C.E.O., but at the same time to write, and to do it all on a shoestring. Put it all together, and it’s a recipe for stress through the roof.”

The founder of TechCrunch added this.

Michael Arrington, who founded the popular TechCrunch blog, said he did not know to what extent stress had to do with Mr. Malik’s attack, “but the stress is crushing in what we do.”

“I was a corporate lawyer and an entrepreneur, and I know about working all the time. But now, you’re always worried a big story is breaking in your e-mail, and if you wait an hour, you’ll miss it. Every morning when I wake up, the panic hits and I have to see my e-mail as soon as possible.”

It’s funny. I am probably, at best, a moderately successful blogger. If only because it’s taken me places where I probably wouldn’t have ended up otherwise, and opened up opportunities I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. But I don’t make my living from my blog (for the very reasons mentioned above). I certainly don’t employ anyone in relation to my blog. There’s no conference that bears, or use to bear, my name Nor do I have hundreds of thousands of readers stopping by every day, though I am very grateful for the readers I have.

Yet, though not approaching the degree that Malik and Arrington apparently experience, I’ve found a certain amount of stress seems to come along with maintain my modest spot somewhere along the base of the long tail. It became more acute in lat year, as changes in my family and professional life have led to a slower pace of blogging here, less time spent promoting this blog, and less traffic as a result. (Ironically, I think I did some of my best writing last year.) Pam also touched on it when she wrote about the difference between full-time and part-time blogging.

For those of us who have full-time jobs unrelated to politics, one can only devote so much time to blogging, let alone networking and building a profile and traveling to events like this. It presents an interesting challenge for pols who wish to inform or attempt to influence bloggers. In spite of not being able to blog full time, many part-time bloggers are becoming influential in their spheres, despite not being connected to a DC/NY political thinktank or entity — and we’re not dependent on ad revenue to survive. We survive and thrive by building a base of loyal readers who stumble upon our blogs, like what they see, and return and contribute their comments, ideas and strategy. We squeeze in posts between winks of sleep, before getting up to be a wage slave in the Bush economy.

What does all of this hubbub mean in terms of inclusion in the jousting match that is American politics when practicalities of life get in the way of a blogger with a decent following? For instance, on my day job I may have to deal with subbing for staff who are out of the office or database troubleshooting; what if I receive an invitation to meet a potential candidate for office who wants my ear because of the blog? The full-time job has to win out almost every time. I turn down plenty of blog-related conferences and writing/guest posting opportunities simply because I have no time.

Even during September, and again last month, with a newborn in the family, I found I couldn’t completely stop blogging. Like Arrington, I’ve worried about stories breaking that I might not even have time to read let alone write about, if I could offer a perspective readers might not find elsewhere. I think it’s even a little different for someone at my level than, say, for someone at Malik’s or Arrington’s level.

The reality, I think, is that the top-tier bloggers don’t really have to worry about breaking a story, or being first with a story, because no matter what they write about or when they write about it, it will be news to thousands of readers who probably won’t read about it anywhere else in the blogosphere. I’ve seen it happen several times that a mid-level blogger actually gets hold of a story first, and covers it, but it’s not until laster—sometimes weeks or months later—that it becomes news and “breaks” in the blogosphere when a bigger blogger breaks it. I’ve even been in that position myself, where I’ve been among the first to blog about a story and covered it in depth, only to hear that another more well known blogger—who covered it weeks later—was credited on some panel or another as “breaking” the story.

And that’s because, though it may have been written about earlier by a lesser known blogger, perhaps even skillfully, almost no one reads it. It doesn’t become news until it reaches the masses. It’s like the old question of a a tree falling in the forest and nobody hearing it.

But for a mid-level blogger, there is a possibility that catching a story and writing about it at just the right moment can make a difference in terms of more traffic or reaching a larger audience. At the same time, stopping for any length of time means running the risk that readers will move one to one of the thousands of new blogs starting up every day.

And so, I find myself sitting up at night, basking in the glow of the laptop screen, while the baby sleeps, trying to keep up between bottles, burps and diaper changes, when perhaps I should be getting what sleep I can until he finally sleeps through the night. But two or three months out of the blogosphere would be effectively like starting all over again.

No, I’m not about to have a heart attack. But at times, it does wear on one a bit.

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