Here’s a graph from my Twitter Quitter post:
A basic premise of independent authorship is that authors should establish their own platform in order to reach out to readers and potential customers. I believe in that premise. What constitutes a platform, however, remains undefined.
Implicit in the idea of an author’s platform is the creation of an online presence. Because the internet has become commonplace it’s easy to forget that an independent platform for individual artists would be impossible without it. (Prior to the internet an artist’s platform was limited by geography. Bands were limited not by their music but by their touring range.) While the advantages and opportunities provided by the internet are astounding relative to the pre-internet age, the internet is still a communications medium devised by human beings, with inherent strengths and weaknesses.
Understanding how the internet works in a business context is an ongoing process. Two days ago the New York Times put up a paywall, attempting for the second time to derive revenue from its own online platform. (The first attempt failed.) That one of the most prominent newspapers in the world is still struggling to monetize content despite almost unparalleled visibility and economic muscle is a reminder to everyone that the platform question has not been answered.
Depending on your perspective, the tendency of the human mind to cherry pick information can be seen as either a bug or a feature. In the context of online platforms, it’s easy to see successes like iTunes as indicative of potential and promise when it’s actually the result of a unique set of circumstances. Finding gold in a stream may spark a gold rush, but only a few people will stake claims that literally pan out. The internet is no different. As I noted in a post about the future of publishing:
In return for making distribution almost effortless and almost free, the internet promises nothing. No revenue. No readers. Nothing.
Possibilities are not promises. Possibilities are chances, which is why I always say that writing for profit is gambling — and gambling against terrible odds. Determining what your online platform should be, and how much time you should devote to that platform, is an important part of nudging the odds in your favor. [ Read more ]