Blogging Becomes Health Risk

If you’d just die to have the advertising revenue or page views of some of the most successful bloggers, pause a moment to think at what price comes fame. For a growing list of bloggers, the price is often wracked nerves, ill health and even death.

 

Within the past few months, we’ve seen two bloggers die and one survive a heart attack after years of abusing his health.

  • Russel Shaw, ZDNet’s VoIP blogger, died at age 60 of a heart attack. Shaw died after flying cross-country to a California trade show. In his last e-mail, Shaw said he was taking a nap after feeling like he “come down with something.
  • Just before Shaw’s death, fellow ZDNet tech blogger Marc Oliphant died at age 50 of a coronary.
  • Om Malik, the 40-year-old Business 2.0 senior editor turned tech blogger, lived through his own heart attack in December.

Instead of glamor, New York Times reporter Matt Richtel describes bloggers working in a “digital-era sweatshop” where workers are paid by each post rather than by piece of clothing.

Bloggers are “toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment,” Richtel writes.

Michael Arrington, an iconic figure in the up-and-coming world of professional blogging, says he’s gained 30 pounds in the past three years, suffers severe sleep problems and converted his house into an office. Arrington, who champions the go-go world of Internet startups, admits such a pace cannot continue.

“At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen,” he tells the newspaper.

At the heat of this competitive environment is Nick Denton’s Gawker Media. Denton pits writer and against writer through so-called “advances”, or bonuses that are paid per thousand page views. In other words, bloggers become glorified vacuum salesmen or insurance pitchmen, paid more for more sales. Recently, although more people are visiting Gawker sites, Denton cut the bonuses by 33 percent.

Richtel talked with a blogger for the gadget site Gizmondo, part of the Gawker Media collection. The 22-year-old Matt Buchanan blogs nearly constantly, sleeping just five hours, staying awake with the help of coffee spiked with protein supplements.

All of this asks us at what cost come blogging fame. Blogging, instead of turning into an industry capable of challenging traditional media, threatens to implode. Just as there were laws, regulations and prohibitions against slave-labor, we must enforce the same protections for the heart of blogging: its writers. The first step is dismantling the dangerous trend toward “advances” and bonuses and instead pay writers what they are worth.

Maybe then bloggers can get a good night’s rest.

 

Post originally written by Ed Sutherland

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