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I Tracked the Time I Worked for Negative White

For the past six weeks, I tracked how much time I spent working for Negative White. Here is the breakdown.

Photo: Donald Wu / Unsplash

Running an online magazine like Negative White takes a lot of effort. It not only costs money but also takes a lot of time: Attending concerts, listening to new releases, researching, reading, writing, editing, and distributing. There is a reason why most music blogs are volunteer-run: Financing this operation with fair wages is incredibly hard.

Running an online magazine like Negative White takes a lot of effort. It not only costs money but also takes a lot of time: Attending concerts, listening to new releases, researching, reading, writing, editing, and distributing. There is a reason why most music blogs are volunteer-run: Financing this operation with fair wages is incredibly hard.

While it is reasonably easy to track the financial costs for Negative White, the time investment is exponentially more complex.

It is journalism's nature to constantly loom somewhere in consciousness, hunting for the next story. It makes time tracking challenging: When you see a potential story on social media, is it already counted as work?

I have previously done rough estimations of how much time Negative White requires. However, they remained rather vague. So, I set up a system to track the time I spend working for the platform as accurately as possible. 

Today, six weeks later, it is time for a preliminary analysis.

analog speedometer
Photo: Ryan Stone / Unsplash

In the past 42 days, I tracked 52 hours and 25 minutes of work for Negative White, which means I spent more than a full working day every week.

The time tracking system entailed eight categories, distincting various tasks necessary to keep the blog's engine running. Here are the individual breakdowns:

Writing: 20 hours 30 minutes

Fortunately, writing took up most of my time. It includes everything from research to actual writing, editing, and production process for almost every article published during that time. However, I excluded the newsletters «rewind» and «Weekly5» as they have their own categories.

The time invested resulted in 22 articles, which amounts to less than an hour per story. However, some were short news posts, while others took significantly longer. Also, the work for two of these stories started before the time tracking.

Weekly5: 14 hours 5 minutes

Rather unsurprisingly, the weekly song curation also took a large chunk of my time. I have already described the process for Weekly5 in great detail. The time tracking concludes that I spent roughly 2 hours on each of the six published editions.

Rewind: 5 hours 40 minutes

During the tracked period, the bi-weekly newsletter «Rewind» switched frequency to a weekly schedule. I wrote five editions and spent about an hour on each one. However, this category is undoubtedly the most unreliable since I did not track content curation from other sources.

Administration & Planning: 5 hours 20 minutes

Here is the most mundane category: cleaning up the email inboxes, managing the content schedule, and other tasks in the broad scheme of «stuff and things». It is not fun but necessary nonetheless.

Concerts: 4 hours

Again, the time tracking here is only a rough estimation of about 2 hours per evening—one was the concert of Moyka, the other one of Son Mieux. It only entails attendance, but neither travel time nor writing.

Social Media: 2 hours 5 minutes

Today's necessary evil: Managing accounts on several social media platforms to distribute and promote our content. Currently, Instagram grabs most of this time.

Archive Migration: 30 minutes

Shamefully, there was little time I could dedicate to moving the archive migration forward.

Technical Updates: 15 minutes

Sometimes, our website needs some maintenance work, but thankfully, it is almost always an easy and quick task.

black and white coffee shop
Photo: Justin Veenema / Unsplash

Now, what can we take away from all these numbers? 

My tasks as editor and only writer at Negative White amount to a good 20% position. Since I work full-time, I distribute this workload throughout the week, often early mornings and late evenings, but also on weekends.

If I reduce my workload in the job to 80% and invest a day into Negative White without taking a financial hit, the magazine would need to generate around $1,520 before taxes every month—additionally.

Then, the total running costs would increase to about $20,000 annually, and 363 premium subscribers ($55/year) are needed to cover these costs. It is not a lot of people, but at the same time, it is a lot. You can calculate the financial impact of a full-time employee yourself.


Like Negative White, most music blogs out there in the vast sea of the internet are run voluntarily—maybe with some form of small revenue streams to cover some of the costs, but nowhere near enough to pay salaries.

Managing a serious blog on any subject, however, takes a lot of time, as my time-tracking experiment showed. 

The problem inherent with this setup is its high insecurity: As the work does not pay for anything but is sustained solely by passion, it is subject to drastic deprioritisation if personal circumstances change. Maybe the editor starts a family, perhaps the job gets more demanding, or maybe the balance between creative tasks and administrative chores gets off. The latter two reasons were a driving force for Negative White's hiatus from 2020 to 2023.

No, there is no satisfying conclusion to this problem or this story. If I had it, I would be floating in money or writing a glorious takeaway lesson for you.

Instead, I can leave you with one last number: Writing this article took me about 3 hours. If you think it was worth your time, consider becoming a premium subscriber and support Negative White financially. Thank you.

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