Indie blogging faces new challenges in social media wars

gag on free expression

Unless you are completely off the grid, chances are you’re aware of the controversy Facebook is dealing with over user data. Facebook isn’t alone—different social media and news entities face challenges domestically and globally.

Amid the uproar, there’s something to consider if you’re an indie blogger. 

The odds are being stacked against you, and this has been going on for at least a decade.

In the early days of the Web, there were few restraints. I think that may be called the Golden Age, at least as far as indie sites go. If you built a successful community, chances were you could pop up some affiliate advertising and maybe get a sponsor or two. You might even turn a profit. That’s become harder to do.

The search engine controlling the majority of Web traffic changed its algorithm. Many social media sites changed their algorithms. As this occurred, I watched my search referral traffic at a successful site plummet. Freelance blogging jobs once abundant began to decline. Soon I realized that in order to retain some clients, you would be forced into a clickbait approach.

I won’t debate why content began to be more restricted by power players. Use your own imagination.

What I will say is that it is becoming more difficult to run an indie site of any type. Why?

You will need funding. Some supply it out of pocket. Others may find a sponsor. But there will be costs for hosting, design, Internet services, and such. Even if you have funding, if you write something a stranger deems politically inappropriate, your site may be hampered from within your hosting. And you will have neither the expertise nor the resources to prove it.

I’d suggest directly appealing to your potential readership. How? That’s up to you. But if you’re relying on popping a link up on social media, be aware your link isn’t going to get the attention a paid link will get. Those blue check marks on Twitter may stroke the ego of many a Tweeter, but let’s face it. That blue check mark makes you far easier to track.

That’s commerce, and that’s entirely within the rights of social media companies which are largely not controlled by the government. In a word, these companies can block, shadow ban, or feature whatever content they want. The bar is low because most countries do not enjoy the freedom of expression those of us in the United States are entitled to.

If you’re thinking about blogging politics, I have a suggestion. Don’t. Unless you have very deep pockets. Accept one absolute. People are not interested in the truth any more. Politics morphed into sport, with two major teams controlling the messaging. You defy one team, you anger supporters of the other team, and it won’t make a bit of difference if all you’re seeking is the truth.

When it comes to arts and entertainment, that messaging is dominated by corporate sites. You will have to find a way around that if you think you can rely on search engine traffic.

I’ve wondered if the current clampdown on Web content may lead to a renewal of print messaging.

All social media and corporate news sites cater to a global audience. The US is the only major country with a largely unfettered First Amendment. That makes us vulnerable as a country because repressive regimes view free expression as a threat to power.

So if you decide to become a blogger, bear these things in mind. I’ve worked in media all my life and nothing I have ever written, regardless of client or publication, has been as difficult as tackling indie blogging.

Global politics didn’t just put indie bloggers on an unlevel playing field. The same thing has happened to actors like Richard Gere. Gere, who now largely does indie films, has been fearless in speaking out about human rights issues related to China. His defense of human rights has definitely impacted his opportunities in TinselTown. Gere has said as much in interviews with sites like Vanity Fair:

“There are definitely movies that I can’t be in because the Chinese will say, ‘Not with him,’” Gere tells The Hollywood Reporter in a new interview. “I recently had an episode where someone said they could not finance a film with me because it would upset the Chinese.”

Gere’s experience is one small ripple in a big pond of ripples. Bear that in mind when you decide to put yourself on a public forum. Attempts by some in state and national governments to squelch the First Amendment will continue.

Unfortunately the trend is away from free expression to controlled, politically correct expression. That is not only a disadvantage to indie bloggers—it’s an affront to the public in general.

These challenges are one reason I started this website. If you’re an indie musician, getting your messaging out is a very big challenge. Most entertainment publications and websites go with the prescribed flow–established celebs or press releases and inquiries from big corporate entities. If anything is needed to advance an alternative to the puppy mill cultural offerings Americans have, it is indie media.

Free expression, once restricted, doesn’t just restrict speech we find unacceptable. It restricts all speech.

(Kay B. Day/April 9, 2018)

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