Monday, August 23, 2010

The Business of Blogging

On the "Fred Lefebvre and the Morning News" show this morning on 1370, WSPD in Toledo, Fred reported on a story out of Philadelphia. It appears that Philly is so cash strapped that it has stooped to requiring a $300 business license of many of its local bloggers. 

Now blogging is not a particularly profitable business for most of us out here. Few of those who monetize their blogs (which does not include myself) make anything more than a modest income (some would say a pittance). The original article in fact cites a couple of examples in the story, with the focus of the story (Marilyn Bess) touting revenues of $50 over the last couple of years and another (Sean Barry) claiming about $11 over the last two years. The city however, claims that because these bloggers are engaging in an "activity for profit", they are a business; and therefore required to have the requisite license. While both sides have something of the facts on their side (some with more than others), this should be considered the epitome of the slippery slope. If blogging is to be considered a business, what other regulatory auspices might it fall under.
  • Will bloggers be required to incorporate like most other businesses?
  • As a voice of political commentary, will bloggers fall under the restriction of elections laws in the final days running up to an election (or potential current and future Federal Election Commission regulations)?
  • Will blogger fall under the control of FCC restrictions of profanity?
  • Will bloggers fall under potential legislation under consideration for Net Neutrality?
  • Will the government, in its need to assure a level playing field, be forced to create a special agency (with a blogging Czar, of course) to oversee this effort that seems to fall under multiple regulatory responsibilities.
Like it or not, this mode of communication has become a huge part of the future of free speech and a legitimate source of information in this country. In fact, it is often bloggers rather than the mainstream media that are doing the investigative journalism required to break critical news stories. You don't have to agree with the opinions on a particular site (or even read it) to defend its right to say what it wants. Even those bloggers who don't do proper fact checking or show selective inattention when choosing the facts they do present have the right to spout out whatever misguided conclusions that they choose to draw. 

This is not a right granted by government license, but one insured by the limits and license granted to that government by the governed. Most bloggers do what they do out of a need. Their desire to do the work they do is brought about because they feel that they should, because they have to, and because they love it. It is not a business, but an addictive hobby. (Some of us even consider it exercise, both in critical thinking and in creative writing.) Any money that might be earned in the process is a validation and a bonus.

All of that being said, our elected officials may want to be careful before opening this door and redefining blogging as a business. If it is, those of us doing so might well want to write off our "business expenses" like computers, office space, internet access, and information subscriptions necessary for us to carry out our labors. 

Attempting to create yet another more revenue source to keep them from reigning in their profligate spending is not in the best interests of any city, state, or nation. Attempting yet more bureaucratic restrictions to the right of free speech in this country should be looked upon as an anathema to all that is right and proper in this country. Attempting to turn blogging into a business, subject to the taxation and control of government in any way, is just plain wrong.

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