The Drawbacks of Environmental Blogging

loggers in the present day are everywhere: voluntary journalists covering, in often exquisite detail, everything from hair and beauty to politics and, of course, the environment. There are so many now, in fact, that most people (myself included) will visit a blog on a daily basis, to ascertain new information, form opinions, kill time and procrastinate. Visits which combined have enabled certain bloggers – the Paul StainesPaul Johnson‘s and Kach Howe‘s of this world – to now treat blogging as a career, as opposed to a mere pastime. In some cases giving up their real jobs to focus on online writing and living comfortably off of the revenue generated through advertising, product testing and reviews. Indeed, some bloggers (and I am talking the really big fish in this extremely large pond) now make more money in a year than most people would working a high-end full-time job – heck, just look up Perez Hilton.

The worlds top bloggers, whether they focus their efforts on gossip, technology or mummy products, all share one common trait: they write about subjects close to the hearts of many. They tackle mainstream topics at the forefront of public consciousness and, in doing so, reap the associated rewards – sponsorship, freebies and companies ready and willing to flash the cash for access to a new and untapped audience base. For the humble, literal and often rather dry environmental blogger, however, this poses a few distinct problems. Mostly centred on the niche content we create which, despite interesting us profoundly, bores so many others senseless.

It is difficult for eco-bloggers to aspire to the same level of success as our mainstream peers: the breeding habits of Willow Tits will never interest the wider population half as much as script leaks from Game of Thrones, and news of the latest developments in climate research will often find themselves trumped by tales of the scandalous celebrity love-triangles. That’s life, I’m afraid. And for environmental bloggers, drumming up the kind of viewing figures seen elsewhere within the community is a near impossible feat – people are simply not interested, thus we are faced with the issue of building an audience base from scratch. No easy feat in itself when members of your core audience – nature lovers – are already scarce: a minority of society within a second minority of those who favour the outdoors. Yes, environmental bloggers may as well give up the notion of blogging professionally: we simply do not have the readership and even the best of us (I’m looking at you, Mark Avery) would struggle to blog for a living. A shame.

So, if environmental bloggers draw only middling viewing figures, fail to convert their work into revenue and, ultimately, exert a substantial amount of effort for very little reward, why do they bother? Well, because they care. About their content, the wider environment and prospect of influencing their readers – however scant they are – for the better. Eco-blogs, whatever their subject matter, are a labour of love. Carefully crafted and finely tuned as a tool to educate and inform in the hope that one day, somehow, they will break free of the environmental eco-chamber and reach the people we really want to influence. Everyday people, disinterested or disconnect from the natural world: the people who would benefit most from our content. Alas, I certainly dream of a day when preaching to the converted becomes a thing of the past and the doors open to mainstream success; though I fear I will be waiting a while.

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Despite the hurdles faced by environmental bloggers, however, it is not all doom and gloom – the community is growing. Each year, more and more blogs rise to prominence online covering everything from agriculture and marine litter to creative nature writing and poetry. A promising trend, hope amplified further as certain bloggers begin to find moderate success and mainstream bodies, organisations and competitions begin to view the environment as a topic worthy of time and attention. We may have to wait a long time to see environmental bloggers stealing the limelight from our conventional counterparts, but the signs of a brighter future are clear to see. As long as we remain optimistic and persist with our written efforts, the current drawbacks of environmental blogging will soon be banished.


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James Common
James is a nature writer, conservationist, blogger and birder; holding an MSc in Wildlife Management and working previously in the fields of ecology and practical conservation. He maintains a popular natural history blog at commonbynature.co.uk, writes regularly for Northumberland Wildlife Trust and, as its managing director, runs New Nature - the youth nature magazine.
James Common

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