To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.
The pressure even gets to those who work for themselves — and are being well-compensated for it.
“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.” [ NY Times ]
I have a connection to the main players in this story. Russell Shaw, Mark Perton and I all blogged for Jason Calacanis during the year leading up to Weblogs Inc’s sale to AOL; I can’t speak for Mark or Russell, but I was indoctriated into the pro blogging work ethic via Jason’s constant IMs, which seemed to know no boundaries of time zone, which seemed to assume that everyone, like him, lived to be online and had no need for sleep.
I’m not at all blaming the Calacanis factor for what happened to Russell and Marc; he was only holding up a mirror to the worklives of our competitors. Case in point: another figure in the NY Times story, Om Malik, whose NewTeeVee I freelance for. Om responded to the story this morning, and linked to a post from last week on the lessons he’s learned since his heart attack in December.
I did the 18 hour days for over a year as editor of Cinematical. I was sick all the time and had no friends. When AOL offered a much cushier job that involved little to no blogging, even though I had an inkling that it might be career suicide, I took it. I just needed a break. Nowadays, I’m back to blogging for a living, but I simply don’t work as hard as I used to, because I’ve realised that the film blog world doesn’t work the same way as the tech and gossip blogospheres. Being first isn’t as big of a deal; having something to add to the conversation is. But my work is still my life to an extent that most people seem to think is bizarre. I don’t think this is blogging’s fault, though––I think I’d have found a way to put my ego front and center even if blogging had never been invented.
UPDATE: One more thought on this: did they even *try* to talk to Denton, who invented the blog-sweatshop-as-business-model philosophy? Or anyone currently managing Weblogs Inc for AOL, who despite owning some of the higher profile blogs in various verticals still pay the same $10 per post that the story says is the province of “those on the lower rungs of the business”?