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Offering my neck to a leash ? March 21, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, humor, internet, italian blogs, language, personal, politics, science.
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Today I received a very alluring proposal, and I am pondering about it.

Should I be one of 100 “innovator” bloggers (among which are successful writers, artists, and men of culture) that will contribute to a new prospective portal from one of the leading newspapers in Italy ?

Alluring it is. Because I will be offered a contract, I will be free to blog about whatever I “promise” my readers to discuss from the outset, and I will be unmoderated, uncensored, and as free as I am here. Plus, I will probably get a five-fold increase in readers (my estimate).

Oh, and thrown in to boot is a share of the portal’s profits in advertisements revenues. I am told one might make a living out of that (I seriously doubt it).

However.

However, I am concerned by two or three things:

  1. I will be framed in a prearranged supplied interface which prevents me from checking daily the traffic, what is being read, and what is ignored by my audience.
  2. I will have no control of the advertisements my blog’s activity will passively support.
  3. I already have a job, and when I sign a contract of collaboration with a newspaper I may be breaking some rules.
  4. Will I have the time to do it at the level I would want to do it if I had a larger audience than the one the present blog grants me ?

Ok, point 1 is silly. I will get a monthly report, and that should suffice. It is true that detailed traffic reports such as the one provided for free by wordpress are of great value to understand what is considered interesting by one’s audience, but maybe one can live without it… I did so during the year at quantum diaries (they left us totally in the dark!).

Point 3 is irrelevant, I actually am quite sure I would be legally allowed to do whatever I want in my spare time.

Point 4 is plain stupid – I have been doing this for more than two years already, and my research did not particularly suffer from it (maybe my family did, but things are just fine).

Point 3 really bugs me though. I can imagine all sorts of advertising banners which would drive me insane, on a daily basis… I can’t even bring myself to making a list here.

Mumble, mumble, mumble…

So I am brought to ask myself: why do I blog ? Can I be sincere with myself for once ?

  • I blog because I love to write.
  • I love to share my thoughts.
  • I enjoy other people’s attention.
  • I love to make online acquaintances.

Ok, that maybe was too crude. Let me qualify the statements above.

  • I love to write about science, because I think by doing it I complete my assignment as a scientist, by trying to fill the gap and get people interested about fundamental questions.
  • I love to share my thoughts since I think it can be useful: to teach something, or if by doing that I get to learn something in return.
  • I enjoy the attention of people who are intellectually stimulating to me, and I love to argue with people who utterly disagree, if we keep the thing at a civil level – and by owning a blog, one decides the level one is comfortable with.
  • Some of the people I got to meet with my blogging are among the smartest sons-of-a-bitch I know.

… Plus, at times I am just a show-off.

Ok, I came clean. Now, would the above be possible, or enhanced, by running a blog in a newspaper’s domain ?

I think so. But the advertising thing still bothers me… I guess it depends on how fat is my share of the revenues.

…Oh, no! Too sincere again!

Comments

1. cowgonemad - March 21, 2007

Hi T.

Will you be allowed to write in english there?

Helge

2. Kea - March 21, 2007

Advertising is bad. Don’t do it!

3. Fred - March 22, 2007

Hello Tommaso,
Selfishly, my only concern is what happens to this blog and how it is affected should you decide to accept their offer, which I think holds great potential for you personally. Your family’s well-being and input should always be your major considerations.
Best wishes.

4. Tony Smith - March 22, 2007

Kea said “… Advertising is bad. Don’t do it! …”.

I agree.

My web site has no advertising and I have not published any version of it for commercial sale, and
the whole thing is available in pdf format for free (around 100 MB), and any pdf “books” or “papers” on it are also available for free just by downloading.
That means that my web site, and everything on it, is non-commercial fair use for expression of individual opinion and free speech,
so that I can use images and excerpts from other sites, from books, from magazines, from TV shows, from movies, etc., as fair use without violating USA copyright law.
I avoid problems with the USA DMCA law by getting TV and movie images through an analog connection.

When you sign up with a commercial venture like the “portal” you describe, you cease to be just an individual expressing your own free-speech opinion, you become a part of a big money-making machine, and you may lose come control of your own material.
For instance, suppose you wanted to have a personal blog as well as the commercial one.
Your commercial bosses might not like that, and try to force you to close it down or restrict it, claiming that they own all your blogging rights.

Another point is that you will probably have no control over who are the other bloggers on your portal. They may not all be ” successful writers, artists, and men of culture”, but may include anyone from prostitutes to murderers, anyone whose “blogging” might increase the “audience ratings” of the portal and therefore increase advertising revenues for your commercial bosses.
As to how much of the ad revenues your bosses let you have, they probably will promise you the moon to get you to sign up, but you will have to be very careful about contract fine print and shady accounting practices.

I should say that I am not licensed as a lawyer in Italy, but I have seen accounts indicating that the USA has been somewhat successful in imposing “intellectual property” laws in the EU (and therefore in Italy) that are similar to the ones in the USA.
I don’t like most aspects of those laws, but they are there and you have to live with their existence.

On the other hand, if you really want to go commercial as a syndicated columnist/blogger for a newspaper, then it seems to me that you should regard that as a career change and make sure that your contracts etc do in fact provide a full living at the level you want to live. You would then cease to be an idividual sharing opinions and thoughts, and would become a syndicated columnist like all the rest of them, which is OK if that is what you want to do with your life.

Tony Smith

PS – I apologize for such a long comment, but I am not as concise and eloquent as Kea, who said the same thing in only six words.

5. a - March 22, 2007

if your political opinions are close to those of the newspaper, it would be better to decline.

6. dorigo - March 22, 2007

I left a day pass before answering here, to collect my thoughts for a moment.

Helge: I could blog in English or in Italian or in both languages. But I am thinking about keeping this blog active, if that is what you are thinking.

Kea: I appreciate your input… We seem to share an ad-version to ad-vertisements. But things have to be weighted both ways… I am still doing it.

Fred: thank you for your positive support / as I said, this blog will not die anyway. As for my family, my wife is positive about the offer…

Tony: as I said above, I concur with you, but the contract would indeed leave me free to do what I want – as I understand the issue, it is only regolating the administrative aspects. And of course, if I found out I was not free, I would fly away in a second…

A: I think my political opinions are not in the equation, although I must confess I do not like much a few of the columnists in the newspaper… But I will soon know who would be my fellow bloggers. Much more important for me would be to see I am not in the company of a psychic or a religious preacher. However, I do not understand the reason of your statement. Maybe you meant “aren’t close…” ? Please explain…

Cheers to all, and thank you for your as always valuable input.

7. a - March 23, 2007

hi, let me explain. What you write is often very interesting. But (depending on who they are) it is possible that they select bloggers with political opinions close enough to the ones they like. If this were the case, your freedom of talking about whatever you want would be a fake freedom.

8. dorigo - March 23, 2007

Oh, now I get what you meant. Ok, then… Because it so happens that I am not quite aligned with their opinions. The newspaper is not too easily categorizable in its political sympathies, so there could be no strong disagreement anyway. But the danger you mention is not there.

Cheers,
T.

9. A dubious offer « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - April 30, 2007

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10. Paul - June 22, 2007

Good luck to you with your choice.

I hope it goes well for you.

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