What’s that? You’re a blogger, too? Ya don’t say…
In January 1998, I began writing aweekly column titled “The Adams Report by JC Adams.” At the time, I was working as a reviewer and porn journalist and I would regularly chronicle my adventures in the column.
By 2007, however, I’d grown weary of the weekly grind and morphed the column into GayPornTimes.com. I naively felt this would ease the burden of cranking out several thousand words of original content week in and week out.
Little did I know! I quickly noticed that the more original content I posted, the higher my traffic would climb. Success! Then I would slack off for a day and my traffic would drop precipitously. Failure! This rise-and-fall developed into a dangerously OCD pattern of behavior and I began to wonder how the hell I was supposed to balance my other work commitments and a personal life and the blog?
This is not unique to gay adult. An article by Matt Richtel ran in early April in the New York Times titled, “In a Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop.” He referenced three bloggers — aged 41, 50 and 60 — who suffered a massive coronary or heart attack within the past year; two of them died.
“To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic,” Richtel wrote. “There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.”
The article quickly turned into a kind of meme that friends and clients and family members sent spinning around and around the Internet. My best friend emailed it within minutes of the story going live; an hour later, it had arrived twice more. By day’s end, six separate people had sent it to me, usually accompanied with a line or two of text along the lines of, “Hope you’re still alive to read this!”
By week’s end, my journalism teacher in college had forwarded the article. It managed to appear on my computer-phobic father’s radar and he forwarded it to me — twice, just to make sure the first one went through.
OK, everyone — relax! I’m still alive, still blogging and, yes, still tired. You can stop sending that story to me (soon after I pitched this idea to XBIZ last month, one of my blog readers forwarded the story). It’s been a few months and we’ve all had a good chuckle over the idea of bloggers dropping dead from sheer anomie, their foreheads smashed into the keyboard.
“They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts,” Richtel wrote. “This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.”
Yikes — right? I decided to poll some of my colleagues in the adult blogging biz and find out if the pressure of keeping up in the go-go-go digital world was wearing them down. We commiserated, and they agreed to share some of their hard-won wisdom.
Mark Adams is a former adult video retailer who lives in Boston. Like me, his blogging career started with a weekly newspaper column. He began casually writing online, but when his paper was sold late last year and their new bosses fired the staff, his blogging career began in earnest. You can find him at MarkAdams VidioView.wordpress.com (the spelling of “vidio” is a permanent typo).
Adams said “there is no balance whatsoever,” between his blogging and other work duties (“You have a personal life?” he asked, incredulously). Adams sets his blogging schedule by the news of the day. If nothing is happening, he slows down. If a big story is breaking, he’ll stay online as long as necessary. He doesn’t make a much money blogging — most do not — and considers it a necessary inconvenience.
Jason Sechrest of JasonCurious.com, however, has turned himself into a one-man band of self promotion and trumpet blowing for his PR clients. Launched in 2001, he maintains a painfully honest online diary, updated as the mood strikes, as well as a “News Desk” that is a part of his business.
“I feel like I had a blog before there was a such thing as a blog,” he noted, and estimated he spends between 11 and 30 hours a week generating content.
“It’s never enough, is it? I try to at least have a clip of the day, a poll, a movie review and anywhere from one to four breaking news stories up each day,” Sechrest explained. “That’s what I set for myself as the bare minimum, but I don’t always reach that goal. But what is better really? Quantity? Quality? I don’t know. I’m still learning when it comes to the blog world.”
The work-personal life formula is a tricky one for Sechrest.
“I’m still learning. Sometimes, as much as I hate to disappoint my readers, I have to take days where I don’t blog at all simply because I know if I start, I won’t stop for four or five hours,” he said.
“I am definitely on a quest, though, to find some kind of moderation where I can get a little in each day without having it take over my life. I won’t let it take over my life anymore. I refuse to go back there again. I had no personal life. I was not eating healthy and usually just eating one huge meal a day. I developed involuntary muscle spasms in my eyes from looking at the screen for too long. You know, the bottom line is: There will always be more blogging to do. You just have to walk away at some point.”
Performer Steve Cruz, like Sechrest, has made a point of blogging regularly to cultivate a fan base, a habit that has paid off. Cruz fans are noted for their fierce dedication to their idol’s every sexcapade.
Online since 2006 at SteveCruzxxx.blogspot.com, he keeps things fresh for himself by constantly changing up his formula. A featured called “Ask Steve Cruz” is among his most popular — and also the biggest time-eater. It can take up to six hours to write the responses and post original photos.
“It’s insane! When I am on tour, photo gallery posts take the least time, about an hour or less,” he says. When he’s on a normal schedule, Cruz will post original content on a daily basis and estimates at least six hours a week at the task.
About generating content, his secret is “More, more, more! More photos! More content in general! Maybe it’s too much at times.”
An Unzipped magazine article recently reviewed Cruz’s blog and criticized it for being too impersonal.
“Since that article, I’m doing journal entries,” he said. “It requires more thought but it takes less time to post.”
His advice to budding bloggers? “You have to be a good multi-tasker.” Still, his response was the same as most others when I asked about balancing his blog with a personal life: “What is a personal life?”
Porn journalist Vincent Lambert started Vincent Lambert.blogspot.com as a repository dedicated to his decade-long career covering the adult business. He began daily updates with fresh content about one year ago and quickly realized with painful clarity that dedicated blogging is a full-time job.
“Once I get on the computer, time just goes by and I often don’t realize how much time it’s taking up,” he said. Each entry requires “a couple of hours reading, researching, watching movies. It’s a balancing act and it’s not easy. You want to be timely and current, so you have to make time to do it if you want to keep the site up to date.”
He agreed with his fellow bloggers that “too much content is never enough. The more I post, the more traffic I get. If readers know you are writing a lot, they will keep coming back to check for updates. I have found that readers love to look at pictures and it’s probably best to have fewer words. I think it’s about having a good mix of content to keep things interesting.”
Webmaster Mark Kliem established his LavenderLounge.com blog in 2004. “I never keep track,” he said of the time spent updating it with fresh content, but estimates it can take up to four hours per day. Like Sechrest, Cruz and me, his blogging is designed to fuel his online persona and professional career.
“My blog is my main source of traffic for the rest of my websites. If I add something to my membership section or promote an update to an outside affiliate program, I blog about it,” he said. “The blog is the key to everything else I do.”
“Working in the adult business full-time causes my personal life to overlap all the time — and my blog reflects that. I get to go to places and do things that allow my readers to live vicariously through me,” he noted.
Sechrest follows a similar, successful formula by billing himself as “the porn star who has never been naked.”
Kliem maintains a focus on what he feels is of interest to gay adult consumers.
“Unless you are a porn star or celebrity, nobody really wants to know what you had for breakfast. Celebrity bloggers have it easy. Readers are mesmerized by the most mundane personal things and all you have to do it spew it,” Kliem explained. “For bloggers who are Average Joes, you need to live vicariously through other beautiful people, always hoping to score a big scoop before everyone else discovers it.”
“I want other bloggers to link to my items and quote me,” he added. “There are too many blogs with the same pictures with copy-and-pasted press releases or no next at all. I put a lot of effort into my writing and I try to cover things other bloggers don’t cover. Given the choice, I prefer to create news rather than report news.”
The lesson here, whether you have an existing blog or you just want to start one, is to settle on a point of view.
There are lots of news aggregates already, so if you’re going to run press releases, be aware that the same information has likely already been posted elsewhere. Ask yourself if you can put a spin on that information? Can you add historical context? Background color? Snark? That’s what I try to do with GayPornTimes.com; I try to put a unique spin on the day’s news that my readers can’t find anywhere else.
And you should understand that dedicated blogging takes time; lots and lots of it, whole piles of it, especially if it fuels how you make your living. That means you simply must close the laptop periodically and go to the beach or for a hike and maybe get yourself laid — and then blog about it.
JC Adams is editor of GayPornTimes.com.