February 14, 2009
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Dan Lyons wrote a tolerably silly piece in Newsweek to say that it’s hard to make a lot of money from a weblog. (Why silly? Because he argues that his own failure to make a fortune means that it’s all a high tech fairy story. That’s no argument: lots of people don’t make a lot of money doing things that, at other times or in other hands, make plenty of money. Ask your favorite starving artists. Ask just about any actor, novelist, chef, or historian you meet. C'mon guys.)

Jason Kottke’s such a smart fellow that his response, “the business blogging bust,” leaves me scratching my head.

As businesses go, blogging is a lot like shining shoes. There are going to be very few folks who own chains of shoe shining places which make a lot of money and a bunch of other people who can (maybe) make a living at it if they bust their ass 24/7/365.

Now, perhaps the rich are not like you and me, but Kottke wasn’t always rich, and back in the day he himself made a few bucks from his weblog and, if I recall, seemed pretty pleased about it.

But seriously: who owns chains of shoe shining places? And in what city do shoe-shining places make a lot of money? Do chain shoe-shining places even exist? Are they a secret among New Yorkers, something they don’t tell the tourists? Did Starbuck’s suddenly start shining shoes? Back in the day, you got your shoes shined at the barber. What is Kottke thinking?

Seriously: some people have so much faith in power laws that they see a power law even where there’s no power law to see. Kottke with a power law is like a Republican with a tax cut or a Cylon with a baby.

Dave Winer retorts that he made over $2 million with his blog. I’m surprised Dave’s number is so low.