I’m looking forward to attending the annual Blog Indiana conference in Indianapolis tomorrow and Friday (August 9 and 10, 2012.)
Blog Indiana began the same year I started this blog: 2008. I have attended every year except one and I have learned a lot every time, even though most of the people that attend are marketing/social media professionals rather than hobby bloggers like me. I learn a lot from the official presentations and even more from the informal interactions.
Last year’s education was unintentionally drama-filled.
I was sitting in a panel session on working with ghost- and guest writers. One of the panelists said something like “We don’t have to pay writers. Everyone wants to write for us for free. We have to turn people away.”
Suddenly I realized who he worked for: a tourism site that had used my theatre reviews without asking me – let alone paying me – for a few weeks before a number of phone calls from me and, I assume, the other writers they’d been ripping off, made them stop.
For a moment, I was no longer in the panel session at Blog Indiana. I was back in that time when I had called the tourism site and left my name more than once, asking for someone to call me back and discuss our options. I could see the win-win possibilities in a relationship with them, including new readers for my blog and the satisfaction of helping my adopted home town, but I wanted the tourism site managers to respect my brand. I may be a hobby blogger but my blog has a name (Indy Theatre Habit) and so do I (Hope Baugh), and I paid a lot of money for my head shots. I wanted a link back to my blog, I wanted my photo on their website instead of a generic avatar, and I wanted my full name or the name of my blog instead of just “Hope” at the top of every post they copied from me.
Payment would have been nice, too, but I was more interested in respect than cash.
When nobody called me back and my posts kept appearing unbranded on their website, I got more and more frustrated. I didn’t know what to do except call again and say something like, “Look, just stop stealing my work.”
A few days later, the theft finally stopped. The appearance of the website changed a bit. I think they put out a call for volunteer bloggers and got themselves organized in a more ethical way. However, no one ever called me back or acknowledged my phone calls in any way, which left me feeling hurt and invisible.
Back in the room at Blog Indiana I raised my hand and vented all of my frustration, disappointment, and yes, rage, at the tourism site representative.
That poor guy must have felt blind-sided. He was fresh out of college and this was probably one of his first professional speaking gigs.
He said to me, in so many words, “What the f*ck are you talking about?”
Too late, I told myself to take some deep breaths. I asked, “How long have you worked for… (the tourism site)?”
The date he gave meant he had not been on their staff when I was trying to communicate with them.
I immediately apologized, but by then the damage had been done. People in the room started taking sides, in person and on Twitter.
I was surprised, and then touched, that anyone took my side but people did. People that already knew me from previous Blog Indiana conferences came up to comfort me and to share their own experiences – both of being ripped off and of making mistakes.
I read later in the conference Twitter feed that someone that didn’t know me said something like “I don’t think it’s bitchiness. I think it’s passion,” meaning she understood that I hadn’t meant to attack the speaker, I just cared about my work and about every writer’s need to be respected and valued, about every human being’s need to be seen and heard.
As soon as the panel session ended, someone from another tourism site came up to me to ask me to write for them, which was flattering, of course, and also kind of funny. However, I wanted to apologize again to the guy I’d attacked, so I excused myself and went over to him.
Heart pounding, I apologized again for yelling at him.
He said something like, “Yeah, that really sucked. Next time, get your facts straight first!”
I nodded and then we both went on with our lives.
In the year since then, I’ve had several other conversations (some equally heated, some more measured and calm) about sharing vs. stealing. I’ve come to realize that it is a complicated topic, not one I can fully discuss in one blog post.
However, I can say now, after a year of percolating, that for me, theatre blogging is not about promotion, ownership, influence, or altruism, although I do care about all of those on some level.
Nor is it about making money, but that’s just because I am lucky enough to have my basic financial needs met through other work and because I don’t have a lot of free time in which to work with advertisers or whatever.
For me, the most important thing about blogging is that it helps me be more visible to myself.
The second most important thing is that it helps me connect with a few other people that are as passionate as I am about attending live theatre.
If you are one of those people, thanks very much for reading! I’ll get back to writing about theatre soon.
If you’re going to be at Blog Indiana tomorrow, I look forward to learning from you.
I’ll try not to yell.
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com
(P.S. – I tweet about theatre as @IndyTheatre. I tweet about books, reading, and libraries as @HopeBaugh. The hashtag for this year’s Blog Indiana conference is #BIN2012.)