Some of the online publishers that survive have shifted to video and sponsored posts and Facebook partnerships to shore up revenue.Aggregation and op-eds—the infamous, abundant takes—continue to thrive, although the takes have perhaps cooled a bit.
When I began writing on the Internet, I wrote personal essays for free.
For some writers, these essays led to better-paying work.
And so many women wrote about the most difficult things that had ever happened to them and received not much in return.
Most sites paid a few hundred dollars for such pieces at most; xo Jane paid fifty dollars.
She was right: a year and a half later, it barely exists.
Buzz Feed Ideas shut down at the end of 2015, Gawker and xo Jane in 2016; Salon no longer has a personal-essays editor.Of course, published a first-person cover story by Alex Tizon, with the provocative headline “My Family’s Slave.” But there’s a specific sort of ultra-confessional essay, written by a person you’ve never heard of and published online, that flourished until recently and now hardly registers.The change has happened quietly, but it’s a big one: a genre that partially defined the last decade of the Internet has essentially disappeared. To answer that, it helps to consider what gave rise to the personal essay’s ubiquity in the first place. In preceding years, private blogs and social platforms—Live Journal, Blogspot, Facebook—trained people to write about their personal lives at length and in public.Attention flows naturally to the outrageous, the harrowing, the intimate, and the recognizable, and the online personal essay began to harden into a form defined by identity and adversity—not in spite of how tricky it is to negotiate those matters in front of a crowd but precisely because of that fact.The commodification of personal experience was also women’s territory: the small budgets of popular women-focussed Web sites, and the rapidly changing conventions and constrictions surrounding women’s lives, insured it.Indie sites known for cultivating first-person writing—the Toast, the Awl, the Hairpin—have shut down or changed direction.Thought Catalog chugs along, but it seems to have lost its ability to rile up outside readers.But for many the thrill of reaching an audience had to suffice.And placing a delicate part of your life in the hands of strangers didn’t always turn out to be so thrilling.These essays began to proliferate several years ago—precisely when is hard to say, but we can, I think, date the beginning of the boom to 2008, the year that Emily Gould wrote a first-person cover story, called “Exposed,” for the , which was about, as the tagline put it, what she gained and lost from writing about her intimate life on the Web.Blowback followed, and so did an endless supply of imitations.