It’s a rare but persistent criticism: all I do is take the work of other writers, repackage it on Bleacher Nation, and profit off of their efforts. I don’t do any original work, and I don’t provide any value to the readers or the writers to whom I link.
I grew tired of that criticism some years ago, but now I’ve got a vanity platform on which to address it.
The criticism is bullshit for at least two reasons.
First, the criticism ignores the value I provide to those other writers by sharing/emphasizing/highlighting/linking their work.
Setting aside the evolution of the blogging medium, and the important social nature of the link-discuss-comment format, the criticism is, at its most basic level, ignorant of the incentives of the Internet. In the olden days, if you wanted something you’d written to spread to new eyes, you’d have to hope folks discussed it at the water cooler (or the stables, as it were). Now, your words can spread instantaneously, and, if you understand the currency of the Internet – links – you’re crazy, super excited when something you’ve written is linked on a site like Bleacher Nation. Virality isn’t just a business-speak buzz word, it’s also a current reality. The spread of your work – even if nobody clicks on the link, though we know that hundreds or thousands do – has tangible, real value in the Internet age. I won’t bore you with the details of SEO and authority indicators, but suffice it to say: the more you are linked to, the better “The Internet” thinks of your work. That has real, financial value – and other writers/publications are getting it from me for free because I think their work deserves to be shared on BN.
Thus, to suggest that any aggregation done at Bleacher Nation does not provide value to the linked site represents an unfortunate – and perilous – misapprehension of the precursors to success in 2013. (And, of course, these things are always changing, so I speak only of this day, and maybe the next month … )
Second, in terms of the work I actually do, the criticism is bullshit because I do gobs and freaking gobs of original work.
Even if I exclude the original work it takes to do thoughtful human curation/aggregation, and I exclude the original Enhanced Box Scores, the Series Previews, the Spring Training Miscellany, the reports and analysis of transactions, the humor posts, the thousands of comments and message board posts, the thousands of Tweets and Facebook posts … I still do gobs and freaking gobs of original work.
In the past week alone, I wrote 1260 words on the financial disconnect in the Cubs’ front office, 650 words on the Ian Stewart/Luis Valbuena problem, 550 words on Dale Sveum’s job security, and 910 words on Anthony Rizzo’s struggles/non-struggles. That’s *one week,* and it’s only Thursday. I did all of that while still doing all of the other stuff … with no editor, no access, no sales staff, no administrative staff, no IT support, no social media person.
But because I also aggregate, and cover every possible thing I can, I’m punished.
I’m punished because that original work falls between the cracks of the five to ten posts I write a day. Folks who are predisposed to rip me for what I do (and yet who are regular readers) point only to the aggregated pieces, and always ignore the original work, which will necessarily be smaller in quantity.
I’m described as a person who simply steals everyone else’s work. It is implied that what I do is easy and not useful. Fortunately, I can sate myself with the knowledge that, if what I did were actually easy and not useful, I wouldn’t have as many readers as I do. (I also know how many hours I work.)
Even within the aggregation, the vast majority of what I write is a collection of my own thoughts on the subject at hand. The most frequent form of aggregation I do is some variation of “here’s an article someone else wrote or here’s a quote they got (which I can’t get), and now here are 800 words of my own thoughts and analysis on the issues raised by that piece, which, incidentally, I just brought to your attention.”
In what universe is that not original work?
If I sound defensive, I am. I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I know how much work – and thought and skill – it has taken to get here. For some to use the fact that I value and share the work of other writers as a sword against me really pisses me off. Were I a less forthright person, I assure you, a great many of the pieces that include discussion of another writer’s work could be created just as easily without any link or mention of the other work. But that’s not me, and I don’t think that’s right (or as useful for the reader). So I link. I aggregate. I discuss. I analyze.
And I also do gobs and freaking gobs of original work.