Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Adventures in Selling Out

I may not be doing much more than keeping the lights on here, but I'm glad this little home of mine exists on the internet so that I can still retreat here when I need to. Like, say, now.

Since the days when I used to write here full-time a lot has happened. I made the decision to burn my proverbial ships and make a life in L.A. after driving out in late 2011. I got involved with someone and, even after all I'd gone through previously, gave in to the desire for human interaction with a woman I loved. Maybe most importantly in terms of my output here, I finally started getting paid to write full-time thanks to The Daily Banter. Being a professional writer was what I had been working toward since May of 2006, when I started this little experiment of mine and began cranking out material for it, so when the Banter offer came along I jumped at it. In some ways, even though it was the chance I'd waited for, I still felt like some kind of sell-out because I had always promised my readers that I would be completely independent. That's what DXM was. That's what I was so proud of.

Over the past few years, Banter has done something extraordinary. With just a few regular columnists working their asses off and creating only as much as a few columnists could, the site grew to the point where even though it wasn't a household name, it was still pulling in upwards of five-million hits a month at one point. We broke stories, went to Ferguson, did some genuine good, and took absolutely no prisoners. It was and is the best job I've ever had and I have no doubt my fellow contributors would say the same thing. But running a website is a herculean task financially, especially if you've made a promise to readers not to talk down to them or inundate them with clickbait. Investors want a concept -- and no, creating decent content and making it your mission to slap down those who deserve it doesn't really count as one -- and in lieu of venture capital the best you can hope for is to pummel readers with ads and pray it's enough to keep the lights on and the writers paid. It's been a struggle and, as any regular reader has noticed, it's one that's had a drastic impact on output at the site lately and the roster of writers on the payroll.

I don't write at Banter as much as I used to, but I still have to write. I want to write. But here's the thing: I can't come back here and do it for free anymore and I can't see this site, even with options like Patreon or GoFundMe, bringing in enough money for me to live off of. I need to keep myself out there both in terms of making a living and to keep my name in the conversation so that I'm helping to draw traffic to the Bob & Chez Show podcast I do with Bob Cesca. So in addition to the few pieces I post at Banter, I'm going to be branching out and pitching to other publications from this point forward. Which brings me to the thing I feel kind of shitty about. Thanks to a recommendation by my good friend Mary Beth Williams -- and with the knowledge that Cesca has taken to writing for them regularly -- I'm probably going to start writing for Salon. I feel like a hypocritical asshole for this considering the amount of criticism I've heaped upon Salon over the past couple of years, but the fact remains that the site pays shockingly well and has already agreed to accept my contributions. There will likely be other outlets where you'll be able to read me, but branching out to Salon is the immediate path of least resistance toward continuing to write and continuing to get paid for doing so. Maybe it seems like an odd choice considering, but really it's no choice at all: the pay is great, they're still a site that hosts a lot of really good writing, and they've even toned down the lunacy quite a bit as of late.

As I sit here and type out these words at DXM, I think to myself how great it would be to just come back here full-time. To try to make this site into something that pays me well enough to be able to abandon almost everything else. I have no idea if that would even be possible but I know that it's the future I would choose over any other. Maybe that's what's really left my head spinning. I owe no apologies or explanations to anyone when it comes to where I write, considering that nobody's paying my bills but me, and yet I've always known that nothing makes me happier or prouder than simply working for the people who read this site for so long. The best stuff I've ever written was published here because this was something I took more pride in than almost anything I've ever done in my life. DXM was and is my home, even if it's largely abandoned these days. I can't afford to come back here and put in a lot of effort when my day is so busy as it is and when I'm now in a position where literally everything I do that's work has to come with a paycheck. I can't do anything for free anymore. That's the reality.

So, I get to move on and push further out into the world yet again, which I guess is a good thing. Maybe the words I write won't be quite as meaningful as the ones I published here or even at Banter, but who knows. This is the life I chose nine years ago. I guess I'm stuck with it now.