RÃ©gine Debatty from We Make Money Not Art gave us an insight on how the blog started and developed over the years. Debatty used to be a teacher in Latin and Greek but moved to the film and tv industry. She was working in the office pretending to be creative. She had a lot of spare time in the office so she jumped into media. She started collecting items and information on new media artists and festivals and printed everything.
Her boyfriend suggested that it might be easier to write a blog. She initially didn’t want to do that because of her associations with the word blog. She used to be a journalist and associated blogs with American diaries that exposed the most futile things. In the beginning she was kind of afraid of technology but in March 2004 we-make-money-not-art.com launched.
She started writing about gadgets and things people do with technology. It was more about technology and less about art. She was contacted by Nokia who gave her money which enabled her to quit her job and focus on blogging. Her new challenge was to see if she could make money with the blog. In the beginning it worked quite well and she became quite famous. She used we-make-money-not-art.com as a personal archive.
She was talking about gadgets from an artistic point of view and got linked by Gizmodo. She notes that “the blog got bigger than me” and in 2006 she won a Webby Awards. She couldn’t go to New York City to pick up the Webby because she had to pay for her own flight.
Another example of the blog becoming bigger than her is when a Chinese version of the blog started. It is not an actual copy of the blog in Chinese but it is more of a tribute. It is interesting to note that the title of the blog is different: We Need Money Not Art.
Debatty also writes a column for Art Review but she feels like a Trojan Horse there because “they don’t know anything about new media art”. I guess writing the column for the Art Review is about making money and not art?
The we-make-money-not-art blog is now shifting focus and moving into art in general. The blog is no longer about new media art but more and more about contemporary art. She currently writes a lot about bioart which has angered some of her readers. She is interested in the way artists are engaging with other technologies (in the form of bioart).
What does this shift of focus mean for making money from the blog? When she used to focus on RFID technology ads were definitely generating more money for her. An entry related to sex was the best she could have ad-wise.
She stopped looking at stats and at which kind of entries generate the most traffic and money. Even though she doesn’t check her stats anymore she acknowledges that they are important when she shares that her boyfriend now checks her stats. She is bad with money and marketing and rather leaves that to other people. She is now focusing on what she likes which ranges from gadgets to art in general. She now also covers non-tech art such as bioart which does not only angries some readers but also has an impact on her revenue from ads. She decided that ads are ugly and that she rather focuses on the aesthetic of the blog. Advertisers don’t want to buy banners anymore because she has shifted the focus of her blog. She likes the way her blog is now and she doesn’t write what the market wants. Her blog has gone through an evolution.
How does she deal with the decline in advertisements on her blog? Her revenues are more diverse now and come from events, conferences and curating shows. She states that bloggers are becoming curators because you are curating your own show online. She likes to show the work of young artists online and her dream is to be invited by ARS Electronica one day.
Debatty doesn’t see her site as a blog but as a magazine. She practices a dualistic attitude towards the label “blogger.” On the one hand she calls herself a blogger at conferences but at the same time she dislikes calling herself a blogger because she feels that sometimes she is being regarded as subhuman being, she is “just” a blogger.
While she ends her talk with this somewhat pessimistic view on blogging I would like to end on a positive note that we should just have a little patience with the public acceptance of blogging as a profession.