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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.