December 8, 2016

Blogging for Passion or for Dollars

When I saw this story this morning, my jaw dropped.

Taking a step closer to an eerie Orwellian state where creativity is crushed in the name of “the greater good,” the city of Philadelphia is demanding that bloggers pay $300 for the privilege of writing on the Internet.

This $300 “business privilege license” is for all local bloggers – even the ones that make no money off their words.

The city doesn’t stop there. In addition to the $300 for the license to write on the World Wide Web, bloggers must pay city wage taxes, business privilege taxes and taxes on any net profits — on top of state and federal taxes — even if the blogger only made $11 over two years, reports the City Paper.

Full story at NBC Philadelphia

Even though I’ve never heard of anything like a blanket “business privilege license”, I understand paying taxes is something we all have to do. If that’s how it is in Philly for any business, then fine.  But when you automatically label bloggers as businesses then I have a problem with that.

Taking a step back to the mid-1990’s, I used to publish a ‘zine (and yes, ‘zines are still alive and well in 2010).  We printed 100 copies, got some free music to review, had a few small ad sales, and if we were lucky we broke even.  But it was about our passion for the subject and it was nothing more than a hobby for a group of college kids.

Step forward to 2002 and I jumped head first into blogging and haven’t looked back.  The idea of being a zinester & the idea of being a blogger were pretty much the same thing for me, but with blogging there was a lot less overhead and many more potential eyeballs.

Now jump to present day 2010 and I find myself making a living off of blogging.  (Note that I didn’t say from blogging.)

When Watershed Studio was started back in 2004 our focus was on web design and building PHP based web  applications since that’s what I was doing as a day job back then. Today that has morphed into a lot of WordPress development for clients as well as social media related consulting, coaching & training.  Last year WordSprung was launched as an extension of our WordPress services and earlier this year we launched Indy Media School to focus on the social media training side of things.

On the flip side of the coin, in 2006 the decision was made to separate our content (blogs, podcasts, writings, etc) from the design & consulting side of things and Surge Bucket Media was formed.  Four years later Surge Bucket Media (SBM) consists of dozens of web properties, many of which are networked together.  The difference here being that SBM is currently nowhere near the money maker that everything under the Watershed Studio umbrella is.  And a lot of that is on purpose as we are trying to keep advertising down to an absolute minimum and frankly we do that because we like to do it.

All of that to say, we have seen quite the spectrum of blogs & bloggers throughout the years. While many of our clients are businesses, both small and large, we also have numerous clients who blog out of their own pockets. In other words, their blogs are their passion and they are funding them themselves without a concern for monetary gain.  And it’s this crowd that the vast majority of bloggers would fall into.

Going back to Philadelphia, I honestly don’t see how this will hold up. There are just too many issues at hand, not to mention the moment when freedom of speech and press are brought up (and Philly should be pretty familiar with those, right?).   If I were a small potatoes blogger in Philly I wouldn’t be packing my bags just yet, but I certainly would raise a ruckus with your city government.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Please leave us a comment or leave a voicemail at 317-565-4250.


  1. […] Blogging for Passion or for Dollars – Would you blog if the government taxed you to do so? The city of Philadelphia is trying to do just that. […]

Speak Your Mind