For Some, the Blogging Never Stops

TO celebrate four years of of writing about blogs, Kevin McKenna, the editor

of the New York Times Circuits section, and his deputy, Henry Fountain, recently

spent a week working

wirelessly from Bryant Park. Early on the morning of their fourth day dodging

pigeon droppings, Mr. McKenna saw his deputy get up and wander over to the lions

guarding the New York Public Library. He stayed there for a long time.

"I didn’t get any IMs from him for more than five minutes, so I wondered

what was going on," Mr. McKenna said. When he finally walked around the

library to find out, he found his deputy seated with his laptop balanced on

his knees, his head balanced on his laptop. "It’s desperate," Mr.

McKenna recalls Mr. Fountain saying. "I can’t think of a single new angle

for a blogging story!"

Writing about blogs is a pastime for many, even a livelihood for a few. For

some, it becomes an obsession. Such people often feel compelled to commission

new pieces several times daily and feel anxious if they don’t keep up. As they

spend more time hunkered over their computers, they neglect family, friends

and jobs. They try to come up with story ideas at home, at work and on the road.

They beg openly or sometimes, like Mr. Fountain, quietly so as not to call attention

to their despair.

Sometimes, too, the realization that no one is reading sets in. A few parts

of the New York Times have millions of readers, but never have so many freelance

journalists written so much to be read by so few. By Jupiter Research’s estimate,

only 4 of the New York Times’s online users read stories about blogs.

Where some editors might label themselves merely ardent, Mr. Fountain is more

realistic. "I wouldn’t call it dedicated, I would call it a problem,"

he said. "If this were beer, I’d be an alcoholic."

Mr. Fountain described the rush he gets from what he called "the fix"

provided by seeing one of his ideas appear in print. "The pleasure response

is twofold," he said. "You can have instant gratification; you’re

going to hear about something really good or bad instantly. You know what bloggers

are like. And if I feel like I’ve commissioned something good, it’s enjoyable

to go back and read it. Sadly, that hasn’t happened much recently."

Jeff Jarvis, president of, a company that builds Web sites for

newspapers and magazines, and a blogging enthusiast, defended the fact that

he is quoted in every single article about blogging ever written. "The

addictive part is not so much extreme narcissism," Mr. Jarvis said. "It’s

that you’re involved in a conversation. You have a connection to people through

the blog."

The constant search for blog stories is what led Alan Krauss, a staff editor

at the Times, to commission to the point of near-despair. Hounded by his boss,

Mr. Rothfuss, 27, asked for 750 words that focused on technical topics. "I

was trying to record all thoughts and speculations I deemed interesting,"

he said. "The obsession came from trying to capture as much as possible

of the good stuff in the blogosphere in as high fidelity as possible."

Eventually, Mr McKenna recalled, he reached rock bottom: he sent

a photographer all the way to Key West just to take a photo of a blogger.

Still, he does not rule out running even more articles about blogs someday.

Maybe even next week.

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14 Responses to For Some, the Blogging Never Stops

  1. Gothamist says:

    Bloggers ♥ Their Blogs

    The NY Times writes about how lots of people keep blogs even though few read them, and the bloggers become obsessive over posting entries. (News flash: People really get into their personal hobbies!) It includes the requisite quote from Jeff Jarvis (s…

  2. John Edwards says:

    Well done, Felix. By the way, you probably don’t remember me, but I interviewed you once for a job at How far we’ve both come since then!

  3. When I Read This I Had To Post Immediately

    Disturbing article concerning bloggers on Technology > Circuits > For Some, the Blogging Never Stops” href=””>blogging obsession in the New York Times Circuits section today. Are you addi…

  4. e says:

    i saw lindsayism link you. this is great.

  5. Nichelle says:

    Liar, Liar, pants on fire! Blogging isn’t an addiction, right?! I can totally handle it. If my wi-fi stops working and Six Apart claims that my typepad bill hasn’t been paid, then I would be OK. Now if I could just text message my sponsor to find out where the nearest (BA) Bloggers Anonymous meeting is…

    Very funny post, Felix!

  6. Donald says:

    Gee, maybe I’m hanging out in the right place after all. Thursday and Friday at Bryant Park, I used a borrowed iBook, TextEdit and Terminal to create – my virtual rent party. I messaged a friend detailing my observations of the rat race, but rescinded a bit by admitting that a lot of people might actually be running to jobs that they enjoy very much. Hell, this economy is enough to make you reconsider lots of things …

  7. YL says:

    The photo was taken “for The New York Times,” which means it was a free-lancer, probably one based in Key West. So the NYT didn’t send a photographer anywhere.

  8. Nole says:

    Hilarious. I was led to your version by Poynter Online’s “E-Media Tidbits.”

  9. My wife just stumbled on this post from 2004. I am the Richard Wiggins profiled in Katie Hafner’s article in The Times back then. The story told here of that article’s provenance is false.

    I was an early tester of Google’s Gmail. I contacted Katie to report on its privacy shortcoming: it lacked (and still lacks) timeouts. Log into Gmail at a public terminal, forget to log out, and anyone can search your life for gigabytes and years.

    Katie, like any good reporter, asked if I had told anyone else about this. I said “I posted about it in my blog, but no one reads my blog.”

    Katie found that fascinating. She asked why I would post to a blog that no one reads.

    This led to an extended discussion that took place over a period of weeks. Her article ran on May 27, 2004. By then we’d been talking for weeks.

    Katie called me with some follow-up questions while I happened to be in Key West, a week or more before the article ran. She didn’t want to interrupt me on vacation. I told her in fact it was my honeymoon, and I’d added a blog entry in the middle of the night. Katie was astounded that I’d done this, in fact on my anniversary, and asked to speak to my wife about all this.

    This escalated the tale to the “blogging in the bathroom” lead. I was touring the Truman House when someone from New York called to schedule a photographer. They wanted me to meet a photographer in Miami. I told her that was 5 hours away, and I suggested they hire someone from the Key West daily, the Citizen. I had the impression she thought Key West was an island with no utilities. They did hire the lead photographer for the Citizen. He posed the photos by the pool.

    I love the parody of editors’ IM conversations, but Katie thought that my story of blogging only to myself was much more interesting than my concerns about Gmail privacy. I think this was Katie’s story, not her editors’ idea.

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