I don’t post everything I see. Or, just because I don’t post something, doesn’t mean I don’t know about it. The week before Labor Day a lot of folks-in-the-know were tweeting vaguely about some bit of Star Wars casting news that the trades were sitting on. This turned out to be the Benedict Cumberbatch thing, but I didn’t post about all the vague tweeting because hearing there is news without actually seeing the news is frustrating. Why make my readers deal with it until there’s an actual name in play?
Posting a rumor is not the same as believing a rumor. Yeah, I hammer the cynic thing a lot, but with Star Wars fandom, sometimes anything short of an anvil is too subtle. (I love ‘em, but… yeah.) Sometimes I do play it down the middle, usually because it’s something I think is somewhat probable (like, say, returning cast members) and don’t mind being true. But don’t think that means I’m gullible. It also pays to get a feel for who out there is at least somewhat dependable, and who isn’t, but we’re still in a stage where that’s a bit up in the air in regards to EpVII. But it’s worth keeping in mind.
What is and isn’t breaking news. This is where it’s everyone for themselves. Everyone will have slightly different ideas of what’s important – if not, why are there so many damn Star Wars fan sites? What I post depends on a number of factors:
- How newsworthy is it? Again, this can mean different things to different people/sites, depending on what their focus is.
- Am I excited about this news? Instinct! It’s a thing, but this is also where it also pays to know your audience. (Will they be excited? I don’t give a crap about The Clone Wars, but I know much of my audience will.) Right now, a lot of Episode VII is still ‘drop everything,’ even if I think it’s bogus. I can’t really turn off the part of myself that wants to post certain things NOW NOW NOW. Still…
- Do I have time to post that now? There’s some news I will make time for, and some that can wait. (And sometimes I just really don’t have the time, period!) If I get a lot of ‘can wait’ items, they generally become some sort of roundup. (And a lot of the more fannish things will go to the Tumblr these days.)
- If it’s in a roundup: Is this news still somewhat fresh? I sometimes shave off a few items if I have ‘enough,’ or if on second glance it’s something pretty iffy.
I try not to blog about the things I don’t really care about, because the more I do the more I move from ‘I don’t care about this thing’ to ‘I truly, deeply hate this thing.’ This is why I tried to cover The Clone Wars as little as possible. (I didn’t – and still don’t – mind writing about TCW occasionally, but the constant every-week thing was just too much.) I honestly think I might have quit – or at least backed off – blogging if Episode VII didn’t come along when it did, because between The Clone Wars being the only thing going on and the two-punch of awfulness that was Fate of the Jedi and Crucible, there wasn’t that much for me.
This is where it’s good to have other people whose interests don’t entirely overlap with yours. James, for instance, came on as a blogger to cover Indiana Jones stuff in 2008, and eventually he ended up doing a lot of The Clone Wars and even other things I probably wouldn’t ever cover on my own, like the Cartoon Network LEGO specials.
What Benjamins? Sometimes see people say things like ‘Oh, they only post these kinds of things for hits,’ because, y’know, fan bloggers make mad bank. Yeah, hits are nice and all, but they’re really only of use to me as indicators of what takes off and what doesn’t. CJ is not making any money based on hits (based on anything, really) and that one time we actually got huge Reddit-driven numbers? Actually cost us money because we ran over our bandwidth. I think we gained a few more regular readers, which was nice, but even if we did run a bunch of (annoying) ads, we’re not really at a place where it would make us a ton of money. Serious money-making on the internet requires – at the very least least – Vin Diesel sized numbers every day. And while our hits have grown, we’re nowhere near that and not likely to get there soon.
Yes, web folks are obsessed with hits, money or no money. Posting things ‘for the hits’ is totally a thing, but let me tell you one thing: If you go too blatantly off-course for it, your audience will notice and tear you a new one. (I’m not about to go out and write a “50 hottest characters in Star Wars” listicle, basically, even if it would get us crazy hits. And no James, you’re not either.)
What drives those hits best for fan sites like CJ? Original content, which is pretty much the most time-consuming thing on the site to produce. A rumor or other news post – since we’re generally not breaking them ourselves – can take me anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes; An opinion post or review will take at least a couple of hours, even if I have a burst of inspiration or the mood strikes. (This post has taken some decent chunks of time, even, and this is a hell of a lot more casual than something I’d do for CJ.) And that’s not even counting the time I take to massage the damn things, or sit on them for a day or so if the original inspiration was something that pissed me off, or run them past a few people to see if it actually says what I want it to say to anyone other than myself.
I did think for a while of quitting the daily(ish) grind of news and just doing opinion stuff at leisure, but you know what? I like covering news. That’s why I’ve kept blogging on CJ for what will be 10 years sometime in June next year. I can’t say that I’ll keep it up forever – who knows what the future holds – but I like doing it now. Still. Even if there are dozens of others out there doing it.