“I write,” I say, punching the “T” for emphasis.
“Oh really?” he says, mildly interested, “Publish anything?”
“Oh yes,” I say, “I write a monthly humor column, and I’m working on a book about Russia, and,” I pause for effect, “I have a blog, which is about the funny side of life in Russia.”
“Do you like, make any money from the blog thing?” he asks.
God, how mercantile, I think.
“Do I monetize, you mean?” I query, tilting my head to one side and using the singsong, quizzical, and annoyingly gravelly voice well-educated women five to seven years younger than myself seem to these days. “Put ads on it you mean?” I note with satisfaction: my jargon has momentarily trumped his condescension. He nods. “Oh no,” I say, shaking my head gravely, as if he has offered me something toxic like cigarettes or a ride on a Harley without a helmet, “No, I don’t do that.”
“What’s the point, then?” he asks genuinely perplexed.
I dial up the gravel several notches, and babble about keeping the space pure, creating trust with my readership (all six of them including Aunt Debbie), and drop in some other sound bytes I read in “Typepad for Dummies” about monetizing. His eyes begin to wander about the room, and pretty soon, he knocks back the rest of his glass in a gulp and mutters something about getting more to drink and beats a hasty retreat.
Cards on the table: I can’t monetize, because, if I did, my blog would be immediately and irrevocably overrun with semi-pornographic ads for Russian and Ukrainian women looking for Western husbands. Sites called creepily racist things like “Vanilla Love,” would establish permanent resident alien status on the extreme right hand side of my blog, flashing garish neon blue messages: “Hot Ukrainian girls are waiting for you!” or “Russian babes want you!”
This isn’t the message I’m trying to convey. I spend a lot of time researching various things for a part of the blog which covers all of Russia’s professional and public holidays, and doesn’t matter what I Google or Bing: “Siberian dumplings,” or “Baltic Fleet,” or “Peter the Great,” there, alongside the search results is a column of scantily-clad live blond Barbie dolls called things like “Snezhena,” which I’m pretty sure isn’t even a name. Surely, I won’t be taken seriously as a blogger or a writer if I allow this kind of cyber hoi polloi onto my “platform.”
And yet… If I were, hypothetically, willing to go down the monetization route, it occurs to me that I could make a fortune, although I cannot believe this Russian bride industry is still going strong twenty-five years after perestroika. Are there still Western men of sub-human intelligence who are stupid enough to be taken in by: “Hello, my name is Masha and I have not found my soul mate yet,” or “I’m Nadia, I’m 19 and I’m a student.” I thought they all cycled through the system a decade ago: 60-something expat men making asses of themselves by marrying the first 20-something guided missile they meet at work; or oil rig employees too cheap or lazy to get on a plane themselves, sending off for 19-year old Nadia, and then astonished when 37-year old Lena plods down the jet way, with her 72 year-old mother, Svetlana and 11-year old son Ruslan in tow; and, on a somewhat later flight, 51 year-old Vlad.
Googling “Russian meteorologists” today, there was so much resulting “Vanilla Love” that I started to seriously re-examine my whole approach. Should I face facts, give up the high road, and turn the blog into a “portal” rather than a “platform?” If I’m honest, most of the traffic I get is from people looking to save a failed Beef Stroganoff, which would be great if I were a food blogger. But I’m not. Could I offer advice to these silly men? Could I sell them my unique, patented insight into the personality of a Russian woman based on her first name? “Olga,” for example: very scary. Could I blow the lid off the “Snezhena hoax? Should I de-gravel my voice and start making some real cash? $14.99 a month, I could charge, or 12 months for only $99.99. I could get a PayPal button!
Or would I just get people looking for cheap vanilla extract?
Author's Note: This article first appeared on "Powder Room Graffiti"