For some reason, people in the entertainment business really like glamorizing the lives of anyone who writes for the Internet. (The show Entourage is supposed to be about a blogger, right? I don't actually follow that show.)Well, regardless of what you may have seen in the movies, being an Internet writer isn't all rock music and promiscuous sex parties (though, yes, that is in fact a pretty substantial part of it). So, before you go trading in your medical degree and stethoscope for some whiskey and an Internet gun, there are a few things you should know about this place first ...
4The Internet is Goddamned Enormous
If you've got a TV show, you're competing with other shows in your time slot, or maybe you're competing with TIVO, or Netflix Instant. There's a lot of competition, but as long as you have someone sitting on their couch in front of a television, at least you know that they're probably going to watch something. In the war between sitting in front of a TV and going outside, you've won. They're down to watch, and as long as you exist on a network, there's a decent chance that people will find you, because there are only so many channels.
According to Google Analytics, there are, as of this writing, over infinity active blogs on the Internet. And your article is battling all of them for attention. And you're not just competing against other articles, or even other blogs; you're competing against Facebook, and Wikipedia, and YouTube, and the news, and The Daily Show, and last night's sports scores, and tomorrow's weather, and online games, and an impossible amount of pornography. Just because someone's sitting in front of a computer doesn't mean they're going to read a 2,000-word article, because they can be doing almost anything else. It's a tough market on the Internet. Cheers gets a lot of credit for being a popular show, but Cheers never had to compete with the most comprehensive and specific library of free pornography that has ever existed in human history.
"Let's see, a show about a bunch of alcoholics, or all of the porn?"
There's just an insane amount of content that is constantly pouring into the web, every single day, even without the porn. And that's just the new stuff! You've still got the archives of the entire internet to compete with. Let's put it this way: If Cracked stopped publishing content right now, it would still take one person at least 15 years to read everything we've ever published. And we're just one site out of millions, and we're only four years old.
With all of the content that already exists and all of the content that will exist and every other hard-to-ignore distraction, finding and keeping an audience online is almost impossible, and the early stages of that journey are thankless and terrible. You have to publish a lot, even though absolutely no one will read your stuff for a long time. And before you get an audience, when you're describing your articles or your online novel or whatever you decide to work on, you'll still just be person with a blog in the eyes of anyone who will listen to you, because everyone has a blog. On paper, you are indistinguishable from the 14-year-old with the Angelfire website.
"You run a blog, huh? Neat, my niece runs 135 of those."
But let's say you did find an audience. You published something so good and so smart, something that so perfectly articulated something that everyone was thinking but couldn't put words to, that it spread on the Internet and yielded thousands and thousands of positive comments. That's great. You've done it. You've reached people, and if getting your writing seen was your only goal, you can relax and get that "Nailed It" face tattoo that you hadn't earned until right this minute.
But if you were hoping to get a job, or some recognition, or praise or, let's not split hairs, ass, then you've got another thing coming, because ...
3Your Audience Doesn't Know/Care Who You Are
They don't. Obviously, there are exceptions. If you're talented enough, lucky enough, and you work hard, you could develop a legitimate following full of people who know your face and care about the success of your career enough to want to support you every step of the way. But those are the rare exceptions.
Over the past four years, I've written over 200 articles and videos for the Internet. Some were good, lots were bad, most were OK, (and this one, one of my favorite articles of all time, is as terrible as it is riddled with typos). When I tell people who aren't my parents what I do for a living (they think I'm doing investment banking in Pennsylvania), they generally say "Crack.com?" And I say, "No, Cracked." And they say "Cracked like 'broken'?" And I say "Yes, 'Cracked' like 'broken.' Remember the old Cracked Magazine? We're that, but also and mostly not that at all."
"Wait, so are you a magazine or a website? And is my hand in my mouth?"
When the name of this website is finally successfully communicated, it is generally politely pointed out by whomever I'm talking to that they've never heard of the site. Then I explain that we write funny, fact-based list articles about science, history, badasses and pop culture. When I reference a few articles, they light up and say, "Oh my God, I read your site all the time! Every morning at work! It's 'Cracked,' you say?"
And they're not bullshitting. They do read the site, they just don't know it by name. And why would they? This is the Internet, where we're all information junkies. We want the facts, and we want them delivered in the most efficient way possible, maybe with some jokes thrown in. If someone is clicking on an article called "Six Farts That Changed the World (And Four That Didn't)," they're not clicking to see a byline or the personal theories of some author; they're clicking to see if the time Gerald Ford non-sexually farted into Rita Hayworth's open hand made the list (it didn't).
"What can I do to distract from my pardoning of Nixon?"
But, like I said, this isn't an insurmountable problem. There are a lot of ways you can get your audience to remember your name, though the biggest is probably consistency, both in terms of your publishing schedule and the quality of your content. Publish good stuff, and do it often, and people will notice you. If you're a particularly demanding glutton for recognition and attention, I suppose you can regularly include pictures of yourself in your articles, or appear in one or two Web series playing a character named after you, or you could even insert your name into the title of your column twice, if you're some kind of huge prick, or something.)
"Self-promotion? More like 'Self-promO'Brien'!"
Mostly though, be consistent. If you do it long enough, people will notice you, and they'll regularly read your stuff. Maybe they'll even be invested in your stuff, and passionate about it, and then they'll stop being readers and start being ...