(seeing as everyone seems to have a bee in their bonnet about good blog writing style, particularly headlines, how’s that for a blog title, eh?)
This is the intriguing story of the (male) owner of a popular multi-author pro-feminism blog, who hits hard times and needs to make some money quick. Enter the cunning SEO agent who has panache for improving the hit rates of his porno-peddling clientele…
Barry Deutsch is a political cartoonist who also runs the blog “Alas” which specialises in a pro-feminism view point. Recent posts include “Another Gender Essentialist Study– on Clothes and Ovulation”, “In Defense Of No-Fault Divorce” and “Protecting children from their depressed, working-class parents”. Interesting and thought-provoking stuff.
So it seems slightly odd that on the same site, one can find promotional links and write-ups of the latest porn sites, including Amateur Allure (NSFW) and MILF Next Door (NSFW) (whose review includes the line “These smokin’ hot moms aren’t taken care of at home, so they look elsewhere to satisfy their needs” – maybe this is the flip-side of all these depressed, working-class parents that the Alas bloggers are examining? ).
The explanation given as to why these explicit reviews sit awkwardly with the pro-feminist prose (albeit on a marginally separate part of the site) is as follows…
“…I was in real financial trouble – we were paying all our bills, but by a slimmer margin each month, and if things had kept on going that way it was only a matter of time before we’d come up short. Plus, one person in the house hadn’t been able to pay his rent in a long time, while another seemed on the verge of being unemployed (although as it turned out, that was a false alarm)…”
Barry also reveals that his web host was informing him that due to the popularity and functionality of his blog he really needed to pay for a (more expensive) dedicated server account.
…”a buyer approached me offering to purchase amptoons.com, so he could use it to improve search engine rankings for his clients (how that all works isn’t something I have any knowledge of). He offered a substantial sum of money – not enough to erase my money worries, but enough to ease the pressure for a while. Plus he offered to provide a free dedicated server for ‘Alas’.”
It’s a shame Barry didn’t understand what he was getting himself into. The sneaky SEO’er was essentially buying the PageRank generated by the goodwill linkage that his domain had received. It’s disappointing that the opportunity to continue to blog one the same domain (post-sale) was sadly seen by Barry as a kind favour – when in fact it was a cunning ruse to keep those in-bound links pointing to the domain when the blog would have otherwise disappeared.
Barry does concede however:
“I kept the [porn] links off of ‘Alas’, but I knew that he would be putting links to porn on his own pages [on the domain].”
I’m still dumb-struck that a pro-feminist would knowingly give up control of his wider webiste (albeit not the blog itself) to someone who was openly going to paste porn links across it.
There was pretty much a furious response from the pro-feminism community, as one would expect. Many cited particular issues not only around the sale of the domain but also that the expectation that a pro-feminism blog would continue to be served right next to this kind of linkage/content.
Hugo Schwyzer writes:
“Amp has been one of the most important voices in the pro-feminist men’s blogging community; indeed, he might well be the best-known male feminist blogger.
All of us, however, are concerned with the impact that the male-dominated, male-centered commercial sex industry has on our lives. All of us are concerned with the impact on the women who work in the ‘industry’. Alas, A Blog was a forum for discussing this very topic. But it is impossible to see Amp’s blog as ‘safe ground’ for that discussion when it is sponsored and supported by pornographers.”
Dr. Violet Socks (I couldn’t confirm the exact nature of her docterate) wrote more bluntly:
“Barry didn’t bother to tell any of his readers about this until someone discovered the links and asked him what the fuck was going on. Even now I’m not sure most of his readers are aware of it, since Barry’s explanatory post didn’t allow comments and so rapidly sank to the bottom of the list.
I think this is absolutely vile.
There is a large contingent of feminists who oppose pornography on explicitly feminist grounds, so it’s definitely a feminist issue. It’s not like Barry’s just linking to stock-car racing sites or something that is of no concern to his feminist readers. That’s why it was dishonest of him, I think, not to be upfront about this. The pro-porn feminists who are fine with XXX BangBros can continue to patronize Alas, but the feminists who don’t want to support that kind of thing deserve to be aware of what the site is linking to.”
It raises all sorts of questions that the pro-feminism blogosphere needs to address – which are beyond the scope of my blog post. However, there are some interesting and important issues for the wider blogosphere to think about and digest.
The main point for me here is that having ran a fairly long-term and established blog on a niche topic, the ultimate value of the site was only realized when it was turned into a porno link site – what gives? Why did the owner of what looked like a pretty well written, interesting and valid blog end up having to sell out to a pornography SEO merchant? Did he exhaust all of his more traditional monetization opportunities (link adverts, etc) and if so, why was his content not felt valuable enough by advertisers to provide an income that at the very least could off-set the technical serving needs of the site (a $100pm dedicated server in this instance)?
Where were the site’s community in all of this – were they aware of the financial issues and given an opportunity to donate/help find funding, etc?
There is also the important issue of the integrity of blogs when the sites/domains they live on are sold to third-parties who have an alternative (often ulterior) motive for the site. By having Barry continue to blog on the domain, the SEO guy was setting up something very smart (albeit negative). I can see this model occuring elsewhere, because on the face of it it’s a win-win for both the blogger and the SEO merchant (but undernethe bad news for both the blogosphere and the blogger concerned).
It’s a shame, however, Barry couldn’t or wouldn’t see that his editorial independence – and thus his credibility in that expert community – was being flushed down the toilet by accepting this offer. I’m sure this could apply to many other bloggers given hard times and a golden cheque being waved in their face. But in this case, he not only soiled his own reputation but potentially those of the co-authors of the blog.
Barry makes the point in a response to the critisism that what he has done is no different to being hosted on blogger.com, where you have no control over who else is blogging on the wider site – and of course there are probably more spam blogs on Blogger than anywhere else.
The response to that, of course, is that you have no control of what others do on Blogger.com and they have no control on you. Your own independence is not jeopardized and maybe only your credibility as a blogger is dented (slightly – if you’re blog is really worth something you might demonstrate that by paying for some hosting but that’s not true for every good blog)
Finally, perhaps the saddest thing of all for Barry is that he’s actually been cheated in his contract. He says that he was promised to be hosted on a dedicated server but alas some technical IP lookups show that he is actually being served from the same box that hosts such bastions of bad taste as FistMyWifePlease.net, CastingCouchTeensOnline.com and BabyGotBoobsOnline.com.
15 sites are hosted from this box, which probably makes it no different to the shared hosting environment amptoons.com (Barry’s old domain) was hosted on before.
I’ve given Barry a hard time on this blog post – my one wish is that if he reads this post he can use the technical evidence I’ve ended on as some kind of leverage away from his original for-porn deal.