There was a magical time in my professional life. It was between the years of 2007 to 2011. I was in my mid 20’s (and early 30’s). I felt invincible. I was brazen enough to quit my day job to become my own boss. I remember it clearly. I was stuck in a routine 9-5 job. It was a Saturday at the office (I know right!) and I was online looking at blogs from the US. I honestly do not remember the website, but I do remember that there was “a call for bloggers” listed on it and it involved something unique and different. There were interesting names behind it. Darren Rowse of rising ProBlogger fame was there. Duncan Riley. Jeremy Wright. These were the netizens of 2006, making their way through the WWW x 2 (the wild wild west of the world wide web).
At that time, monetizing your site through Google ads was fairly new and I always had this belief that, as an underpaid writer in Manila, we needed to end the idea of a writer as a starving artist. Back then, writing for a blog network made decent money if you were from Manila. Writing for two or three sites easily earns between USD $500 to $700.00 for daily posts of about 300 to 500 words. The average starting salary in Manila was USD $300 so you can see why this made sense. The fact that working from home was a relatively new concept back then allowed you to save money as long as you had an Internet connection where you worked.
I found my calling as a community organizer. My new “day job” was working for a blog network called b5media. It was a crash course in what is today known as SEO and content marketing. Trust Rank, Page Rank, Google’s ever-changing algorithm, affiliate marketing, etc. This was the scene before the rise of social media .In my spare time I would apply what I learned in the local scene. Since I had a media background writing about technology and gadgets for more than 5 years, it was easy to set meetings with PR agencies and media buyers and talk blog evangelization. Starcom, Ogilvy, Geiser Maclang, Green Bulb PR.
At that time, I was trying to prove that bloggers were the new front page of the Internet as Google search favored organic content. If you searched for feedback on the best internet connection, you would get instead consumer complaints on the front page. This was worrying for brands. By that time I had set up a small company called Blog Bank. It was similar to how modern day ad networks worked,but this was made exclusively available to a network of bloggers. I remember in our first year we were able to pay out about P1,000,000 worth of cash to bloggers on the network. This was a feat, because it validated that (1) writers could earn money online from the local PH scene and that (2) brands can trust opinions of bloggers.
When a telco sent me to Barcelona in 2011 to cover the Mobile World Congress, I knew that this was it — my Seinfeld moment. I was the very first blogger from Manila to be sent on a trip like this. It instilled a core memory – everything that I had done for the past several years was validation for this.
As time passed, social media took over the blogosphere and the “old guard” faded into the back end of the industry. Yesterday’s top bloggers are today’s social media strategists and digital heads. Because of the way social media’s algorithms fueled addiction to likes and hearts I decided to focus my blog on underwater photography. For three years I took photos and video that made it to Milan and to the Department of Tourism’s “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaigns. One of the more poignant posts was a documentation of the whale shark tourism practices in Oslob.
Looking back, like most communities, my learnings were to always find ways to spread kindness. I was exposed to so many passionate bloggers — most of whom became good friends and in those rare times that we meet, we reminisce the ‘good old days.’ What a run.