Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Does Tech Blogging Kill?

I was surfing Google News yesterday and came upon a news item that caught my attention. The headlines ranged from things like "tech blogging can damage your health" to "blogging to an early grave" and even "blog stress a killer". What? Needless to say, my mouse pointed and clicked faster than you can post a blog entry.

The story, originating from The New York Times, examines the high-pressure lifestyles of those involved in the cut-throat tech-blogging industry, citing that three influential tech bloggers have had heart attacks over the past few months, two of whom have passed on. Although the cause can not be linked directly to the stress of their daily jobs, those who knew the two guys who died, (Russell Shaw, 60 and Marc Orchant, 50), as well as Om Malik, 41, who managed to survive, allude to their high-stress lives, include frequent lack of sleep and constant weight loss or gain. Many tech bloggers are independent, freelancers that work from home 24/7, trying desperately to be the first to scoop that big story and beat everyone else to the punch, so it's no surprise that these guys would suffer such symptoms.

The Web world is, of course, different from standard magazine and newspaper publishing, where getting the scoop means printing your magazine on time, and getting it to readers before anyone else. Sure, daily newspaper employees often work through the night to ensure that a "breaking news" story makes it into the next day's issue. But online, the timelines are constant, and the competition more fierce.

In the New York Times article, the magazine talks to a few popular bloggers to get their insight on the topic. Michael Arrington, founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, reaffirms the point by admitting that he's gained 30 pounds in the last three years, and has developed a severe sleeping disorder.

If you think that only the older ones are being affected, think again. Gizmodo blogger Matt Buchanan, who's just 22, says he sleeps just five hours every night, and "doesn't have the time" to eat proper meals. His boss (who himself often pulls all-nighters) goes on to say that, if they haven't heard from Buchanan back in the office, they figure he's just passed out at his PC...again!

It's safe to assume that much of this pressure is felt by the dedicated, online guys (and gals!) who make their daily living by being the first to post, and getting insider information. I often walk into the office in the morning and discover that some blogger found out a big piece of industry news and reported on it at 4 a.m. while I was still deep in slumber. How can one compete with that? Naturally, as this report might suggest, there is a price. Hopefully bloggers who put too much pressure on themselves will slow down, take things easy, eat right, get some sleep, and get away from the PC screen once in a while. Arrington mused to the Times that it would be a good thing to restrict blogging to the hours of 8 p.m. and dawn. This is unlikely, but it might become necessary is this industry becomes even more cut-throat then it is.

As for readers (of which I am one as well), it sort of makes you appreciate the timeliness and frequency of certain blogsites that much more. Hopefully there isn't a haggard, sleep-deprived, high-stressed person behind every one.

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Lee_D said...

Well put, Christine.

In addition, Felix Salmon's rebuttal from Portfolio.com is worth reading.


Marketnews - Christine Persaud said...

Thanks for the link, Lee. Although I do agree with many of Mr. Salmon's sentiments, I think he's only looking at the "get it first" mentality in black or white. If someone gets it right after you, it isn't going to make all the difference. True. But if you're constantly known as being the "source" for always getting information first, this will make people start visiting your site, unitiated by any specific topic, more often. This is how some of the biggest sites have become so big - build the reputation of "getting it first" and THEN that builds the traffic through that reputation. Sure, being there second, or even there 100th, but having more enticing information or opinions matters just as much, and sometimes more. But speed DOES play a BIG role in building a reputation, I think.

JET said...

Call me crazy but maybe some exercise and some vegies may cut down the death rate?

Marketnews - Christine Persaud said...


Sure, exercise and veggies are great, regardless of one's profession. But if you aren't getting any sleep, nor eating properly overall (meaning three meals a day and ALL the food groups or required nutrients), then no amount of exercise and veggies will help. It sounds like these guys had more issues hanging over their heads than just bad eating habits and lack of exercise (if these two factors were even existent in their lives, which we don't know for certain). Stress and over-working to the point of severe exhaustion seemed to be the underlying problems.

Thanks for the comment!