In yesterday’s post I made the case for my own rejection of the free/freemium content-pricing model, as well as the celebrity-first marketing model that seems to be its genetic twin. In a nutshell, the idea of giving away content in order to get people to care about me so I can monetize affection on the back end is not what I’m interested in doing. Were I the kind of writer who also wants to be a celebrity I could see the utility and appeal of that approach, but I’m not that kind of person. There’s nothing in me that wants to be on stage in a spotlight, and there never has been.
This leaves me with two choices. If conventional wisdom is right, and celebrity is a critical component of any writer’s ability to make a living, then I need to quit writing and do something else. The only alternative is the contrarian view that content in and of itself still does have some value in the marketplace. Because I tend to come by contrariness honestly, that’s the path I intend to follow.
If I’m right and conventional wisdom is wrong, then I’m effectively buying the content-first model at a discount. Later, when everybody realizes that celebrity is simply another endlessly-available, valueless commodity that they will have to root, grunt, scratch, claw and eternally fight for, I can leverage resurgent interest in non-celebrity content (formerly known as ‘entertainment’ or ‘knowledge’) and make a killing. Or something like that.
Obviously, the trendy idea that information or content has no inherent value rests on the bedrock premise of the internet as an free and open information pipeline servicing a world-wide society of hackers, spammers, pirates, griefers and anonymous cranks, as well as sundry meeker citizens. And I have no problem with that. I don’t think the internet should be regulated, or that people should be forced to give up their anonymity in order to join ongoing cultural conversations. If quality really doesn’t matter any more simply because there’s so much quantity, I can live with that.
However…it’s hard not to notice that comments about the ubiquity of internet content often dovetail with comments about the general lack of quality, value, merit, meaning or worth in that same infinite stream of words and ideas. And here I’m not talking about the difficulty of finding the good stuff. Rather, I’m saying that most of the stuff that’s out there is just plain bad not by my measure, but by anyone’s measure. [ Read more ]