Why We Write, continued
Matt Becker, the midwestern cricket-blogger who at times seems like my intellectual twin, wonders if cricket bloggers are a special breed. Are we non-competitive and helpful to other bloggers? More so than bloggers in other domains? And if so, why?
Something about cricket writing touches nerves with people, and for some reason it attracts phenomenally talented writers, and for some reason those writers want to promote other, less talented, writers, instead of simply ignoring them or even worse actively dissuading people from reading them.
I started writing on the Internet in 1998, when we just called it “writing on the Internet” instead of blogging, and we were all webmasters. And over the last 14 years, I’ve blogged about Star Wars, technology, tech policy, film, Apple, and oh, I must be forgetting some other topics.
But rarely have I found the sense of community, camaraderie and the general rising-tides-lift-all-boatsiness that is common among cricket-bloggers. Like Matt said, it makes me keep writing.
Before Twitter, blogging was very different. To build a community, or participate in a community, you had to go to forums or be a good citizen in the comments of other people’s blogs. In short, you had to build a reputation on other people’s territory before they came to yours.
It often felt like I was blogging in a vacuum. Do people read what I write? Why? What do they think when they read it? How do I find other like-minded people who find my obscure hobby interesting?
These days, with Twitter, if you’re good, consistent and focused, it’s a level playing field and the community is all in one place. And the live nature of sports (and the 24-hour nature of cricket) makes it a perfect match for Twitter.
Since cricket doesn’t have an audience the size of soccer or isn’t as media-rich as some American sports, the Twitter cricket community is of a manageable size. It’s not rare to have a meaningful, short conversation with the Editor of Wisden or an Editor at Cricinfo or your favorite blogger.
The currency on Twitter is “sharing cool stuff”, so naturally it’s a great community of people who will go out of their way to share your stuff. As long as it’s cool. The niceness of cricket bloggers that Matt Becker refers to is largely a niceness of cricket tweeters.
Deep Backward Point would have no readers without Twitter. Sana Kazmi tweeted a link to one of my early posts. Jarrod Kimber saw it and linked to it. A few more people started following my tweets. And the rest was history.
A few months later, hours after I posted my first Willow TV story, Subash (The Cricket Couch) sent me a direct message on Twitter that he wanted my phone number so we could talk about the story. I had been writing for more than a decade and nobody had ever wanted to call me about something I wrote. That turned in to the Boredwani podcast.
Later, I was invited to join The Sightscreen team because of a single tweet of mine that Minal responded to. (Someday I hope to follow through on the contents of that single tweet.)
Twitter is where this blog gets its traffic from. It’s where I formulate my ideas. It’s where I’m challenged and encouraged. And it’s where my people live. And I’m convinced that’s how it is for the cricket blogging community.
Money, Money, Money
When I was writing about Apple, or even Star Wars during the prequels, competition was intense. You wouldn’t send traffic to your competition. You still see this play out regularly in the tech blogosphere (e.g. engadget, gizmodo, theverge)– they will re-write each other’s stories, and barely give credit. Bloggers in other fields worry a lot about losing rank on Google, which results in less traffic, revenue and relevance.
Here in cricket-land, since readers don’t translate to money, we’re not really competing for readers. We can send our readers away in the hope that if we send them somewhere cool, they will come back.
It is our gift and our curse that cricket is a small sport. At Internet scale, the number of people who are interested in reading non-mainstream articles on cricket is minuscule.
The advantage is that the community is manageable and no money to be made.
The disadvantage is that there is no money to be made. Yet.
Undiscovered Business Model or No Business Model
There are no independent cricket bloggers who make real money without going mainstream. Those who have turned this in to a full-time gig have done so under the banners of ESPN or media-conglomerate-du-jour. There is no business model to support what we do.
But perhaps that will not always be true. Maybe there is a future where money flows in to the amateur, alternative media producers.
I know I have some ideas. And I hope others do to. And when it happens– if it happens– I hope we can keep the good parts of what we have now.