Monday, February 25, 2008

Freelance writer, freelancing

To be a writer you have to write. To be a freelancer, you have to freelance.

Allow me to emphasize that in no way should "freelance" actually involve "free." Last January I sold a story to a popular online gaming magazine. Two months later I'm still waiting for the check. (Hey, isn't a signed contract good for anything anymore?)

By far though, Paidlancing has been a very fun gig. I've enjoyed writing the newsletter for Home Tutoring Plus. I enjoy researching the topics--sustainable living and parenting/teaching methods--and find it's rewarding to delve into related projects.

I'm kick-starting my old column blog Wordslinger again, as well as keeping three fiction blogs for various role playing games. I'm also taking a break from World of Warcraft, and officially retiring the Shadow Council Strider for now.

I have joined the Asian American Journalist's Association. The local chapter here is quite active. I have no Asian heritage that I'm aware of, but luckily for me that's not a factor in membership.

Please Turn Out the Lights

I've been eying public relations jobs lately. In a shrinking, uncertain, groping-about-for-revenue industry like traditional print journalism, there is a sense of looming doom that has investors unwilling to invest in everything, from freelancing to jobs to digital media equipment.

ASAP News, a long-time leader in multimedia journalism, folded last October. Its final issue left a nonsensical yet tragic plea cross the top of the page: "Will the last person viewing this page please turn out the lights?"

ASAP began as an experiment two years ago by the AP wire service in multimedia feature presentations. Its target audience was me, the younger tech-embracing who rely on the internet for their news. Right up until the end the team delivered relevant (and irrelevant, in that quirky internet way) video, slide shows, audio, interviews, blogs, illustrations and features.

Though it sometimes was too much feature and not enough information for me, it still represented a model the larger papers could follow, I felt. It did multimedia. It did internet presence. And through the blogs and multimedia emerged a depth of coverage I'd not seen in many other places.

So what went wrong? Was there not enough traffic? Why didn't the site sell advertising? Was something wrong with their search-engine optimization? Why wasn't this monetized?

Prosper Magazine also recently folded. Its pages were full of good writing and photography. Apparently, they weren't full enough of ads.

And as I've unfortunately realized, the internet-only publication I sold to earlier this year (with original multimedia content and international following) isn't doing so well either, despite its low production cost (comparative to print).

If there's no commercial value to the product I love, perhaps it's time to invest in it the way the fine arts are supported. NPR and the BBC do it. The axe that is bottom-line driven would destroy so many valuable services, works of art and writing.

The lights are winking out, one by one.