Yep, it’s true. This week TIME Magazine quotes me, tells tidbits of my life, and pretty much makes it sound like my job is blogging.

So next time someone asks me that all-important question, “What do you do?” I’m thinking of saying, “I’m a blogger.”

Right now, when someone asks me what I do, the conversation goes like this:

“I’m a career columnist.”

“Oh. Where is your column?”

“I write for the Boston Globe, and my syndicated column has appeared in about 100 publications.”


That’s it. No fireworks. Maybe a nod. And then I ask the person what he or she does.

But if someone asked me what I do and I said, “I'm a blogger,” we’d talk about it. They’d remember me. And maybe they’d check out my blog. To most people, being a blogger for a profession is like being an astronaut: Shockingly cool.

But I’m starting to think that no one really is a blogger. In my quest to understand the blogsphere, I have easily spent 100 hours combing though Technorati to understand the ranking system. (I have a spreadsheet full of stats on all career-related blogs like I am playing fantasy baseball or something.) I have a good understanding of who the top bloggers are, and let me tell you, they are not blogging for a living. They are using their blog as a tool.

For example, Guy Kawasaki’s blog is part of his venture capitalist brand: He is in the know and you need to know who he knows to be in the know. Curt Rosengren’s blog, is a platform to launch a book career, speaking career, one of those multi-pronged adventures in passion that he promotes through his writing. Seth Godin’s blog, fuels his book sales which fuel his consulting business.

Let’s look outside the work world, though. Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, who writes DailyKos is not a blogger per se, he’s a political pundit, and maybe a political fundraiser, or political gate-breaker. But you can’t just be a blogger and get all that attention. Cory, at BoingBoing, quit his day job to blog. Maybe is the closest thing we have to blogger, only blogger. But really, he is a cultural critic. Maybe a community organizer. Or, you could argue, blogging gatekeeper, since it’s hard to hit blog paydirt without getting a link from someone like BoingBoing. (HintHint)

But I don’t care that blogging is an amorphous job. I want to call myself a blogger because I want to see what happens when I do that. The way you answer the question, What do you do? tells the world how you see yourself and what’s important to you. And the world responds differently, depending on what you project. Maybe I’ll think of myself or my career in a fresh light. At least I will get to talk to people about blogging, which is what is at the front of my mind right now.

But one thing is for sure: My syndicator will tell me this is not a good idea. He is adamant that my blog is an offshoot of my print columns and not the other way around. I am not so sure. But, as always, it comes down to this: I get paid for the columns, not for my blog. So I’d be hard-pressed to talk about my blog if the question were not “What do you do?” but, “How do you keep a roof over your head?”

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13 replies
  1. Emily DeVoto
    Emily DeVoto says:

    These are great questions, Penelope. Do you think anyone does blog for a living? I’m wondering whether bloggers have successfully attached themselves to online publications. It’s not a plan, mind you, just a thought.

    I told my mother the other day that I’d started blogging. She said, “Be careful what you put up there” – I thought at first she was worried I’d be stalked, but it turned out she was warning me against posting garbage that some potential employer might see. I reassured her that I did not intend to post any garbage, but what I was thinking was that nobody is ever going to read the thing anyway! My fear of obscurity was heightened when I read David Sifry’s analysis of blog statistics, and how the blogosphere is doubling every six months; I wrote about that yesterday at

  2. The Zero Boss
    The Zero Boss says:

    Congrats on the mention!

    Your syndicator may indeed be right – for now. But it’s not exactly like most newspapers are fat on cash at the moment. Their economic model is winding down, and writers are struggling to find new models online. It’s not easy. It takes an oogle of traffic to make good money via ads alone. Plus, for programs like AdSense, the subjects that you blog about determine what ads you get, and what dividend they pay to you as a publisher.

    I’ve heard some talk about venture capitalists investing in individual bloggers, to see them through their early days until they hit it big. Not sure if that’s actually happening, but it would be a sweet development.

  3. Alexandra Levit
    Alexandra Levit says:

    Way to go, Penelope!!!

    The September issue of Business 2.0 has an article on people who earn a living blogging. Already, certain prestigious bloggers have the cache of print columnists. At the moment, though, I think you have the best of both worlds!

  4. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    When people ask what you do, you could say:

    “I write a syndicated column to support my blogging habit.”

    Congrats on being mentioned in Time.

  5. Anton Chuvakin
    Anton Chuvakin says:

    I would venture a guess that unless you see it as blogger=”journalist 2.0″ or blogger=PR person, there is not much sense in being called “a blogger”, just as you can’t just be “a speaker” – you have to have a passion to speak (or blog) about SOMETHING.

  6. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Anton, what an intelligent comment. You’re right. You can’t just be a blogger. You have saved me from a dinner party snafu. But, just thinking out loud here… people do call themselves just journalists, which is sort of similar to just blogger. But maybe that’s why newspapers are dying…

  7. K
    K says:

    Hey–I thought your question on the GS call today was really cool, especially since I’m semi-fresh out of school.

    Hope we can all connect as a group sometime, I though this experience was awesome!

  8. Emily DeVoto
    Emily DeVoto says:

    Re. labels – I HAVE found myself saying I’m a journalist now that I’ve actually started writing for public consumption, but it’s not necessarily accurate; it just sounds a little more like a real job than “blogger” – at least this year…

  9. Anna
    Anna says:

    Have you checked out Darren Rowse’s Problogger? He blogs as a living and has written about the same issue about blogging as a profession. BTW, Congrads on the Time piece.

    When people ask me why I blog, I tell them it is a stepping stone to becoming a better green building and green living consultant. Every day, I am bombarded with different green products through PR agencies and owners that I would not learn about otherwise.

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