“LOOKSMAXX” (v.)

(UPDATED) Of course gay blogs don’t make money. Their owners don’t know their own industries, have ungodly awful taste, and fall prey to the same malady that, like Dutch elm or the ash borer, threatens to clearcut the forest: Doggedly, dumbly, suicidally insisting on doing what is known not to work instead of what does work.

We’ve been through this before. The difference now is that journalists who should know better are marvelling at the fact that failed methods are failing.

  • Nikki Usher wrote a piece for Nieman in which she gawked, as if guilelessly, at the unprofitable niche that gay blogs scrabble around in.

  • Chuck Colbert at industry newsletter PressPassQ wrote what amounted to a follow-up report that ended up sounding just as baffled by facts that should have been obvious all along.

  • David Badash banged out what was almost a parody of a blog post – 400 words too long, undisciplined, and rife with hand-wringing.

I note that all of these writers pretended that the grizzled positoid’s site is not actually the leading gay blog in the United States. Fittingly for a country where it actually never does get better for gays, his site actually is the leading gay blog there.

All these writers are so ill-informed about the economics of online publishing that of course they don’t understand banner ads don’t work and text ads work even worse. Yet those two options, along with paywalls, are the only means of making money these writers seem ever to have heard of.

Now, why else might gay blogs be unprofitable? Could it be because they’re atrocious? You cannot separate revenue from questions of taste and user experience; the observable fact is that gay blogs have no taste and their owners don’t know the first thing about providing a pleasant experience. (Or they don’t give a shit.)

Hence when writers come along who also have bad taste and do not even know what user experience is, let alone hold it as a priority, it just stands to reason that the resulting coverage displays bafflement and ignorance, tainted with a dollop of overplayed dismay, that terribly important community resources like Queerty and Towleroad can’t make a go of it.

(None of these media critics is interested in dialogue about their criticism. Usher laid on a thick, sputum-like, top-posted layer of sarcasm and dudgeon when I repeatedly asked for comment, which she refused to provide. Colbert sounded baffled by my question and left it at that even after I linked him to more information. Badash ignored a request for comment.)

At any rate, these sites do not practise journalism in any recognizable sense. Of course Weblogs, since time immemorial, have linked out to other sites, but these sites do precious little else. They all do the same thing, all link to the same coverage of the same events, and all share the same political stance. (The only discernible difference is the proportion of coverage of “hot” boys.) Gay and lesbian readers in these sites’ presumed U.S. audience simply do not need that many links to today’s evidence the Republican party hates them.

All these sites should be replaced by a single Pinboard feed or legitimate curated linkblog. That in itself would immediately eliminate nearly all the content on these sites, since such content is almost invariably a link with maybe a quoted paragraph.

This model works perfectly well for Maria Popova, whom none of the principals involved in this tale will have the good taste to read. Maybe they’ve distantly heard of Jason Kottke. (Skill-testing question: Can they find either of those writers without a link?) Linkblogging works when the blogger develops and exhibits curatorial taste. U.S. gay blogs just link to everything and duplicate each other while doing it.

You quite simply do not need to load a blog homepage, one that might actually crash your browser, to find links to today’s minor variation of the U.S. gay news that has not changed its tenor in a generation. Writers and readers need to update their methods. Then again, these are people who find the decade-old technology known as RSS too technical.

As these distasteful, interchangeable linkblogs manqués scrape by, legitimate gay and lesbian journalism continues its steady decline. Indeed, is there any legitimate gay journalism practised in the United States?

In an honest reckoning of the gay-blog landscape, some combination of the following would occur:

  • Links would be offloaded to exactly one legitimate linking service run by one curator with taste. (No candidates spring to mind.) Do this right and you get your own panel on Flipboard, a medium none of these people will have heard of, let alone use daily.

  • Competitors like Towleroad, Queerty, and After Elton, which clearly are not, never were, and never will be commercially viable even were they monopolies, would simply merge into a single site that focusses on legitimate journalism, something these sites’ owners are admittedly incapable of producing. And you’d pay a few bucks a month to read it. Paywall becomes gaywall.

  • The remaining merged site, the grizzled positoid, and a few hand-picked sites of similar ilk would do the only thing that works and start their own ad network. Each member site would show precisely one ad at a time. That would solve every problem at once, not least including the issue of inappropriate ads featuring shirtless guys popping up alongside AIDS obituaries, gaybashing reports, and this week’s teen suicide.

Precisely none of these sites would allow comments, which are always a bad idea in a news context, are reused by religious fundamentalists, and trigger FBI investigations.

Of course the owners of these sites will have too little taste, and will be too suicidally stupid, to take the only steps available to them that will turn failed hobbies into businesses. And journalism critics will continue to be just as ignorant as their subjects, expressing bafflement that a model that obviously could never work hasn’t.

Stated a different way, neither side will take the advice that will make them relevant and secure a viable business, not least because I am the one offering it.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2011.12.05 13:30. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2011/12/05/gayblogs/

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