Saturday, August 22, 2015

International Audience

If you write or make music or paint or do almost any creative endeavor, you probably want people to partake of your efforts. Certainly, there are those for whom creation is a therapeutic activity done strictly for themselves; nothing wrong with that. However, most who have the "bug" want more than anything to show off their wares. If they make some money along the way, well, bonus points. And if they can make a living off of it, it's like winning the lottery. But stripped to its essence, the original driver is the need to say something in some way, and have people see/hear/watch/read.

That was a much more difficult proposition before this interweb thing that we now take for granted. Getting your stuff out there took lots of time and money with no assurance of success. On top of that, the vehicles for connecting with consumers were guarded by gate keepers who only selected what they deemed to be the best and the brightest. Be it an editor at a publishing house or an A&R man at a record company, getting to the public meant going through them and their sensibilities. If they didn't think you stuff was marketable, your stuff never got to market.

It's a different ballgame these days. Anyone anywhere can post anything to be partaken by, well, anyone anywhere. Is your way of expressing yourself making music? There's NoiseTrade , Bandcamp and SoundCloud. Handicrafts? Etsy for sure, but also LexisPlace, ArtFire and Home and Tribe. Into Photography? Flickr is a big one, but also Zenfolio and Photobucket. There are sites for poetry, fan fiction, painting, and yes, even column writing.

In that vein I do what I can to spread this particular word far and wide. Some of you read it in actual print, others in its email form, still others take a look at the online version. To be fair, I do get some remuneration when it's gets clicked, but to call those earnings modest is an understatement. When last I checked, my Google Adsense earnings, after weekly posts for about 6 years, had reached a grand total of $16.32. In other words, I ain't doing it for the money.  

But eyeballs are another matter. I love, love, love when people read my stuff, and even better, when they write back. With their millions of fans and followers, maybe Stephen King and George Will and Dave Barry tire of getting comments and readers. Not I. In fact, one of the reasons I continue in this space after 20 years is the feedback I get. To be sure, there are some who reach out and comment regularly, and they are like gold. But just as precious in a different way are those new souls who have stumbled into my orbit, and feel compelled to reach out and add their two cents. I collect those lucky pennies, which are worth far more than their numerical value.

So when I fired up my computer the other day and found a return note to me in Arabic, I was delighted. It certainly seemed legit: the header said "A comment on your article" with the exact title and format I use. In that story the clear water at Sharm El Sheikh was featured, and I have discovered that, just like audiences at a rock concert, readers often shout out when their home town is mentioned. And I have followers in a number of foreign lands, be it family, friends or associates. So the idea of a response from that region wasn't outside the realm of possibility.

Just one problem: I can't even pretend to read Arabic. So I copied the response and navigated my way to Google Translate. I pasted it in and waited to see the response from my newest reader. A few beats while the bits talked to the bytes and up it came: an ad for a water tank and pool cleaning firm in Riyadh, complete with their web site. Seems their automatic marketing system had seen some key words of interest, and offered them up to me as a potential customer.

Oh, well. Perhaps my Saudi Arabian readership is still stuck at zero. But on the bright side, should I ever visit, I can offer my host a recommendation for a pool cleaning company. It's not much, but it's what I got.


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves when people read this space. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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