6 Things I've Learned from the Blogging Business in Lebanon

I’ve been in the blogging business for three and a half years now. I say business not because it generates a bottom line (it doesn’t), nor because it is my sole occupation (I work full-time in strategy management at a Lebanese Alpha bank).

I say business because between carving out my niche in the blogosphere, attending events, and rubbing elbows with media at social gatherings, it feels like a full-fledged commitment and more.


Photo source: http://www.innovationvillageng.com/

When I first launched Beirutista, I had no idea where or what it would lead to. I sought a channel wherein I could document my trials and observations in Lebanon, a sort of virtual diary to preserve memories and analyses through the written word.

I also wanted to provide a window through which friends abroad could peer in and see how starkly different my life had become. Beirutista was a tabula rasa, an empty slate I could populate with the fragments of my mind. Where categorization is necessary, it is a lifestyle blog with an emphasis on the gourmet.

I’ve learned a whole lot from the blogging enterprise, some of which has been mere reassurance of my own assumptions, and some of which has knocked my socks off. Here’s the low-down, in totally unadorned fashion:


1. Few bloggers really know how to write
I’m not demanding the literary fluency of Oscar Wilde or J.K. Rowling, though admittedly I’d love to read that caliber of writing on blogs. I’m talking about general mastery of the English language, from basic spelling, to diction, to syntax, and perhaps even decent storytelling. 

Much of what I come across is bland, redundant, and recycled garbage, with the same rehashed expressions over and over again and constant misuse of vocabulary. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “succulent” used to refer to salads, chocolate, and banana bread pudding. No, no, NO! "Succulent" is reserved exclusively for tender cuts of meat!

Photo source: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/

2. Few bloggers really blog. 
Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? Well, the truth is, numerous blogs are advertising platforms, or news aggregators, or a collection of sensational headlines but zilch in the way of content. Driven by clicks and hits, some bloggers craft enticing post titles only to lure in sheep, but the articles themselves are nothing more than regurgitated news or links to articles. 

Other bloggers post press releases verbatim from companies and brands. You think we’re not clever enough to catch on?


3. Some bloggers write nothing but sponsored content.
Three years ago, if you asked me what sponsored content was, I’d have looked at you in confusion. Today, I see it everywhere, and it makes me cringe. 

A certain pool of bloggers collaborate with brands because it either lands them freebies or monetary compensation. I can understand a collaboration when it accurately and genuinely captures the interest of the blogger. But when every blog post screams advertisement, it grows sickening. The blogger loses her true identity in pursuit of material fortune, and it's chillingly obvious. I’ve stopped reading a myriad of blogs because they've gone the route of sponsorships.


4. Many Instagrammers refer to themselves as bloggers
The word blog derives from weblog, which is a concatenation of web and log. Log means diary or journey. It implies the written word. 

So why do folks posting pictures on Instagram and tacking on a caption feel entitled to dub themselves as bloggers? The worst bit is that in Lebanon, people don’t care to comprehend the distinction. 

I can’t tell you often I get invited to events where a fair number of guests are avid Instagrammers who brandish their smartphones at every photo op. Power to them, but they are NOT bloggers.


Photo source: http://levoleague-wordpress.s3.amazonaws.com/

5. You can buy “likes,” “fans,” and “comments” on social media platforms. 
This one is benumbing. I’ve never really focused on the number of followers subscribing to my Facebook page or listed in my Google circles. To me, what really matters is the quality of my readership and the level of engagement with my posts. I care about the interaction, the oft-quoted quality over quantity. 

Having grown my blog single-handedly and organically, my numbers don’t stand a chance next to handles with 20k+ followers who buy likes and fans to bolster their appeal. Can’t readers see through those shams? They're only driving these phonies deeper into self-delusion.


6. "Blogger" is not synonymous with "celebrity," so please get off your high horse
The best blogger holds herself to the highest standards of journalism and critical writing. She does her research, cites sources appropriately, and establishes her authority with the test of time. In no way is that license to entertain a hubris and stare down her nose at others. 

One of my biggest pet peeves is bloggers who insist on projecting their social calendar to the world by Instagramming as many social functions as they can attend. To them, it’s about checking in, flourishing a presence no matter how brief, and swiftly moving on to the next event. Often I wonder where family and friends fit in their endless charade of spectacles.


Photo source: http://image.rakuten.co.jp/



At the end of the day, we have a choice when it comes to who we read and what blogs we bookmark. I’ll be the first to admit that I steer clear from the mainstream, preferring boutique blogs for more meaningful and informative recreational reading. I’m a sucker for sophisticated prose, and I can quickly distinguish sincere from superficial. 

Really, it isn’t that hard. You just got to be in the blogging business long enough to know.


Comments

  1. Yes! Yes and yes!! Thank you Danielle for writing this and getting it off my chest heheh. I can't tell you how much I'm irritated by the first three points. Oh the things they write (or don't) for a freebie!

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    1. Your very welcome. Spread the love! Feel free to repost/share/retweet :)

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    2. Speaking of basic English and good spelling, it's 'you're' and not 'your' very welcome.

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    3. I stand corrected. Thank you, Chadi.

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  2. While I totally relate to your frustration, and have often spoken out myself against the types of blogger-figures we see out there, I believe this is what the public wants and they have effectively won.
    There's a point where standing on a crate in Hyde Park, and shouting out one's own words of wisdom, gets so tiresome for the lungs that it's just better to go whisper those words in small circles with select audiences that are actually interested in the subtleties of intricate thought.
    On the other hand, I think you should cut the bloggers some slack when it comes to the use of "succulent" and similar finely nuanced words, especially that most readers who actually bother to read an article where succulent is used with a salad are not there for the quality of writing, but rather for the adjacent photography and the promise of discovering the next trendy place to be seen eating at, while gulping on 2400 calorie meals.
    I wish you the best of luck in the face of CeleBloggers and WordPress divas, who are about to unleash their wrath on you as they read your post. After all it’s all one big sorority/fraternity of the cool and privileged who can comfortably feel superior in mediocrity.

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    1. Succulent and decadent as well. And you're right, most people are clicking for the pretty pictures and not for the words.

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    2. Brilliantly put, Patrick. Sometimes it does feel like we're just shouting into a black hole. But as long as what we're saying doesn't fall on deaf ears, we've got a fighting chance of improving the blogosphere. We have to insist on being an emblem of quality, even when this space no longer demands it.

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    3. I like when bloggers want to share their experiences and blog for the sake of it. For me, I love when people read what I write because their my personal stories and it's always interesting to see how others perceive them. I admit to boosting posts on Facebook or trying to increase my views but it's mainly because, when I write about Lebanon, I want others to see and feel what I do. There's a lot of trash (literally) out there and I want another version of Lebanon to break through the clutter.

      Most bloggers who have good content and interesting storytelling aren't doing it for the numbers or the freebies anyway. If that happens, I don't have an issue with it as long as it's a brand or cause that they genuinely support or believe in, as Danielle said. Unfortunately, a lot of the content I've seen lately appears bought and labelled. There's no credibility anymore when recommending a product, service, or restaurant.

      Props on the instagrammer/blogger distinction.
      That one is a major pet peeve of mine.

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  3. And this is exactly whey I decided against "blogging" about topics of interest. I was quickly approached companies who wanted to capitalize on my venture and buy my time with their marketing schemes. I started my blog because I was passionate about a social topic and companies thought "hey! cheaper marketing alternative!" so, no thank you!
    Thank you for being so honest in your depiction.
    Love your blog, by the way ;)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Deena. I really appreciate your faithful readership :)

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  4. Thank you for writing this! I agree with you on all the points you listed. It can get really frustrating to keep a blog running when the majority treats it as a popularity contest, rather than focusing on delivering good content, engaging with the writer and the audience, and learning something new.

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  5. I love this post. I have been lettinh ny blog sit in furrow for awhile now, but I will definitely keep your list in mind as the goal when I'm ready to take up the pursuit again. Thanks for such a great post.

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  6. This is very interesting. I've recently started blogging and this just made me smile. Everyone has these unreal expectations because of a number of blogs that basically got caught up in their own bubble.

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