Vocational vs. Avocational Media
2 min read

Vocational vs. Avocational Media

Marc Cuban’s rant about blogging vs. traditional media doesn’t really break any new ground, but this observation did get me thinking:

99pct of blogs are about what someone has to say. 99 pct of traditional media is about making money. Which is exactly what leads to the resentment between bloggers and traditional media and why blogging on traditional media websites will find it tough to be successful.

There is almost no one who makes a living at blogging — blogging is fundamentally an avocation (and nothing suggests this will change any time soon). In fact, most “user-generated content” is created as an avocation.

The debate over avocational media has generally focused on the quality and “validity” of avocational media relative to that of vocational media. Regardless of the actual differences (real or perceived) on those scales, there is an inherent difference between activities we pursue to pay the bills and activities we pursue for other reasons.

Media has traditionally been vocational because most people could not afford the time or resources necessary to create media on any meaningful scale in their spare time. Now that technology has made avocational media possible, we see the emergence of entirely new motivations for and approaches to content creation.

Marc Cuban bemoans the limitations place on traditional media companies that are accountable to shareholders and the limitations on individual media producers who are accountable to their employers. Of course, that’s easy for someone who’s independently wealthy to say.

While avocational media is “liberating” and absent any such limitations, it is also largely absent any accountability. One might argue that the blogosphere is its own ombudsman, but that’s a bit of a stretch.

I think the tension between blogging and traditional media that Marc Cuban points to is driven largely by the vocational/avocational divide.

But there are vocational media companies like BusinessWeek that have successful blogs, and there are a handful of bloggers, like Darren Rowse, who make a living at blogging.

What’s interesting is that when you look closely at these vocational blogs, they occupy a constructive middle ground that holds many lessons for “rigid” vocational media and “unfettered” avocational media, e.g. with freedom comes responsibility.

Heaven forfend we might actually find some middle ground, where vocational media “loosens up” and begins embracing the new forms of media pioneered by avocational bloggers and avocational media “grows up” and starts behaving more accountably — as if their livelihoods depended on it.