- The Washington Times - Monday, September 13, 2004

NEW YORK — If you think those Web journals of opinions and obsessions are a way to get rich, consider Jeff Soyer, a self-described “gay gun nut” in Vermont.

Mr. Soyer, who runs the journal Alphecca.com, pleaded for donations last month alongside an image of a tip jar topped by gun-toting cartoon character Yosemite Sam. “Ten bucks buys a box of bullets or feeds my cats for a week,” he wrote on the blog.

Days passed and he received nothing. “By next week this domain could belong to a porno site,” he subsequently posted. “Maybe you folks think that would be a better thing. I’m starting to think so, too.” Only after other bloggers linked to his request did he receive enough donations to pay the $117 for a domain name and a year of Web-hosting fees.

He is not the only blogger not getting rich. Bloggers at this summer’s political conventions brought heightened visibility to blogging, but the money, for most bloggers, is still missing.

“There’s a very tiny percentage of people who are making anywhere close to a living from blogs,” said Sreenath Sreenivasan, professor of new media at Columbia University.

Andrew Sullivan, former editor of the New Republic, has a high-profile blog that takes American Express and PayPal payments and posts an address for checks or money orders. Bloggers point to Mr. Sullivan as the blogger most likely to be succeeding.

But Mr. Sullivan said in an e-mail he makes his living through freelance writing and speaking. “I’ve managed to pay all my expenses and an intern and give myself a minuscule salary, thanks to the generosity of my readers,” he wrote. “I couldn’t live off the blog alone, and I see no prospect of that happening in the near future, despite having one of the biggest audiences.”

The money that is in blogland goes to only a few.

Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and “The Manchurian Candidate” movie remake have advertised on a few blogs. Nike hired blog company Gawker Media to produce a three-week blog this summer.

Henry Copeland, owner of blogAds.com, said some of the bloggers he represents make $120,000 a year from ads — though he won’t say how many — and that “dozens” make $1,000 a month. His clients include Glenn Reynolds, a law professor who writes a popular conservative blog called Instapundit.com, and Tucker Max, whose site features his own drunken exploits.

A few organizations have added paid bloggers to their staffs. Among the bloggers is Towson University student Brian Stelter, 19, whose TVNewser.com blog about the television news business was bought this year by Mediabistro.com, a Web site that posts events and job listings for journalists.

The money is “good, for a college student,” said Mr. Stelter, who recently broke a story about MSNBC airing incorrect information from a satirical Web site. “It pays my tuition. For a living, it wouldn’t work.”

“I’m hoping I won’t be blogging forever,” he said. “I’m hoping to go into journalism, not blogging.”

Freelance financial writer Michelle Leder may be closer to the norm.

Miss Leder spends two or three hours a day on footnoted.org, which reports on juicy information in the depths of public companies’ regulatory filings.

Mentions in Time and Business Week haven’t helped sales of her book, “Financial Fine Print: Uncovering a Company’s True Value,” which is featured prominently on the blog. The blog hasn’t led directly to freelance work, either, she said.

“It is in no way a moneymaking device,” Miss Leder said. “I’m enjoying it. If it got to the point where it was becoming a hassle, I’d rethink it.”

For a few, blogs are a path into print.

Julie Powell was a secretary cooking her way through Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and blogging about the experience when she was plucked from obscurity. Salon.com hosted her blog. The New York Times wrote about her. Freelance writing and a book contract followed.

Some say that is how it should work. “Bloggers blog as an anchor freelance gig” — one stream of income, but not the only one, said Nick Denton, who owns Gawker Media, which runs Gawker and Wonkette, among others.

Mr. Denton hires young writers, for fees that Wired magazine reported were as low as $1,500 a month, though Mr. Denton disputes the figures without saying what he really pays.

What he offers writers is high visibility and a chance to have fun. His pitch seems to be: Why cut your teeth covering sewer board meetings for a small daily paper when you can spend your formative writing years covering supermodel Naomi Campbell’s violent outbursts or trolling the Web for diaries on the sex lives of Washington’s congressional clerks?

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