Chicago Blogosphere, Heal Thyself…Not

Last month, Wells Park Bulldog editor Patrick Boylan and I were interviewed on WLUW’s indie Outside the Loop Radio, talking up the idea for a community blogger ad network in Chicago (hear OTL episode #211.) This post arrives late because there was a lot to ponder between then and now about the ability of this town’s blogosphere to collaborate on things involving money. Especially considering how often we talk about collaborating on revenue schemes.

Every year seems to bring another chance (or three) for Chicago’s blogging and online media community to sit down and discuss ideas about making community news pay in an era when printed news remains on the decline. September’s multiply sponsored Block by Block: Community News Summit 2010 was another great opportunity to continue that discussion. As I blogged after the summit, perhaps the most important message to come out of it was that the only way to launch a local blogger ad-sharing network is to stop talking and start working on one already. That admonition was from the CEO of Growth Spur, an already up-and-running–and successful–blogger ad service that isn’t based in Chicago.

We should have paid more attention to that final detail.

In October, Boylan and I reached out to several of our blogging peers and sought to get buy-in on building an actual, real-life, honest-to-goodness, non-imaginary (you get the point) ad network. As usual, lots of folks thought it was a great idea and a great effort…but, meh, not for them. Not right now. But, you know, good luck with it.

That’s fine. But I have to say, the next time I sit in a room full of Chicago bloggers belly-aching that this community can never get off its collective butt to help itself out in a non-selfish way, I’ll probably have to bite my tongue or flash on images of crying puppies to hold back the giggles. Here’s the thing. One very long-running discussion topic at our overly annual conferences is how some local bloggers resent the idea that it’s foundation funders and other nonprofits who always seem to organize the things, offer ideas, at times even make policy decision on behalf of the community. So I have to ask at this point…

What else are you expecting?

At Block by Block 2010, Chicago’s grassroots nonprofit Community Media Workshop laid out a comprehensive set of recommendations for helping this town’s online media achieve some semblance of financial self-sufficiency, including the creation of an ad-sharing network. Key among the Workshop’s recommendations was the very thing some local bloggers resent (and for full disclosure, Boylan and I have both at one time or another been counted among those resentful bloggers): the likely need for a foundation funder to be take leadership to make anything of substance happen. The Workshop’s work was funded by the Chicago Community Trust, which would be the most likely funder to be assume that leadership mantle.

At this point all I have to say is the Workshop and the Trust have my support, not to mention a tough road ahead. Because until Chicago bloggers get over their rampant tendency to consider each other mortal enemies in the futile quest for the next-big-multimillion-dollar online idea, none of us is getting off the blogger bread line anytime soon. At least not by our own efforts.

And that’s too bad. I think together we’re capable of so much more.

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