Thursday, June 21, 2012

NEED HELP: Every little bit counts

If I were panhandling on  a street corner in Denver, that's probably what my scrawled, cardboard sign would say, although I might try to make the message a little more original.

I'm a blogger; not a dreaded blogger I hope, but a blogger nevertheless.

I'm a journalist turned blogger. That means I continue to write about the things I used to cover as a journalist, primarily small business and politics. But in launching a personally branded blog of my own, I allow myself to go beyond the limits of assigned areas of coverage imposed on journalists working for established media outlets.

I have written here, for example, about my five-year bout with colo-rectal cancer.

My being a blogger is the result of the collapse of the newspaper business and other print journalism outlets. The Internet blew down the doors that limited writers' access to those industries, allowing anyone with a computer to become a publisher simply by starting a blog.

I started mine on March 19, 2009, and have achieved some limited success if success can be measured by an average of 550 unique visitors to the blog each month and occassional pickup of my work by Huffington Post Denver. Those pickups also allow readers from around the nation and across the globe to occasionally find my work and comment on it.

I have been seeking sponsors for my blog for about the last 18 months, and display a list of eight individuals and couples on the left side of the blog whom I identify as supporters of small business and the new journalism of the 21st century.

I believe personally branded blogging is a permanent element of the Internet-driven journalism of the 21st century, and if journalism is to survive at all in this century, bloggers, especially journalists independent of any large-media organization, will have to figure out a way to sustain themselves financially through the publication of their blogs.

When I first started asking my readers to sponsor my work, I expected several business friends who had their own firms to step forward to "support small business and 21st century journalism." I planned to list those businesses in a prominent spot at the top, right-side column of the blog, a place traditionally used to display advertising.

That space still remains empty of either sponsors or advertisements. One businessman turned me down flat, reporting through an associate, "No, he did not want to do something like that!"

My blog is political at times and this businessman's political bent leaned far to the right from mine, so I could understand the rejection. But other past business acquaintances also fell silent when asked to support what I was writing, and frankly their rejection was disappointing.

I thought business had an interest in good business reporting, and either my audience was judging my journalism not to be as good as I judged it to be, or my readers who were business owners simply decided investing in my business was not a good business decision for them.

I've learned since going out on my own as a businessman who is trying to make journalism his business product that the market is tough and business decision-making is always a cold calculation of hard fact. Small business owners usually  have few dollars to spend supporting other small businesses; their own bottomline has to come first.

But I'm going to keep writing about small business for as long as I can, and keep trying to find some support among the business community that I write about.

I'm also going to write about the future of journalism and other journalistic small businesses that have evolved from the creative destruction and reconstruction that has occurred in my industry since the Internet began luring readers to screens and away from printed pages.

I think continuing to write about my profession might help it survive, and that eventually small business owners will see the wisdom and value of the work I do.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

SBA budget an icebreaker?

It would be ironic if the 2012-2013 budget for the U.S. Small Business Administration were to break the partisan gridlock in Congress during this election year, but House Republicans have offered the Obama administration and Senate Democrats just that opportunity.

I rely on Robb Mandelbaum's reporting yesterday in the New York Times small business blog, You're the Boss, to bring you this pleasant political development. "In all," Mandelbaum writes, "House Republicans have proposed appropriating $1.16 billion to SBA ... about $40 million more than the Obama administration has sought and $237 million more than the agency received this year."

For a variety of reasons, usually philosophical bordering on radically ideological, SBA funding -- most of which goes to guarantee small-business loans that help the nation's business owners make more money -- has been a partisan battleground where the ideologues win and small businesses are left to gasp over a lack of capital.

But the House Republican proposal here, at least on its surface, suggests a mutual understanding that SBA is no evil wielder of reckless deficit-producing government spending. And that small business could use the government's help to pick itself up from the Great Recession. The confluence of good vibe over SBA was further reinforced on Thurday when the Senate Appropriations Committee proposed a similar total spending bill for SBA at $1.12 billion.

Any senator or representative could legitimately share a drink with a lobbyist over such legislation. And maybe the Great Partisan Divide in Congress will grow a little narrower when the three parties discover how good it feels to be both doing their jobs and some good for the commonwealth at the same time.