Content, writing, and gates

There’s writing and then there’s content.

It’s an unfortunate distinction. It sets up a dichotomy that doesn’t have to be there. It creates a content versus writing situation, in which “real writers” look down on content creation as a lower, commercialized activity. This isn’t new. Real writers have always been looking down on commercial writing, then remembering they have to eat, and then rethinking their standards.

When I started writing, I often created 6 or 7 or 10 articles a day, for $10 each. It was terrible. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But it helped me become a better writer, not a worse one. Also it helped us buy diapers for our babies and food for our bellies. Win win!

Being paid for writing often has a weird, opposite effect and causes a devaluation of the writing in terms of artistic merit.

That’s stupid. Let’s get over that. Being paid for something is good. Art has value, both intrinsically and existentially and (gasp!) financially. Commercial value does not take away artistic value.

Anyway, that’s not the real point here.

The real point is that you need content, if you want to get attention, make a living, run a business, freelance, do art, etc. Live, and stuff.

Content is the word we use when we want to say “commercialized writing” without sounding like sell-outs. And now, thanks to the Internet and technology and stuff, you can make all the content you want, whenever you want, wow!

The old versions of things were not so available. But The Internet! has changed all that. Old news. You already know this.

Look at all those things you can make! All sorts of content. Anytime.

Like to talk? Podcast. You don’t need a radio station, or a radio interview.

Like to talk and make interesting faces? Youtube. Vimeo. Etc.

On and on. The Internet created new means of publication and changed everything for everyone.

See the before and after here in this inept illustration:

Here we see how The Internet Super Highway!has allowed all the people with all the messages to create all the content and send it straight to all the audiences.

It’s a big YAY for everyone.

Except for one problem.

There’s a new gate.

The means of publication now live out on the open highway where we can all get to them and use them. But there’s still a gate between the content makers and the audience.

In commercial writing, there is a clear flow: concept/message to publication to distribution to attention to conversion. It doesn’t always flow that cleanly, but that’s the hope.

The gate didn’t come down, really.It moved. It’s further down the line.

So this is the problem to solve. We need to think about it. I like gates coming down. I like open access. I like content being created in droves by all sorts of people with all sorts of messages. Even if it means that there’s 100,000% more terrible content produced, it also means there’s 1000% more great writing, excellent thinking, important messages, so on. Creativity develops best in a big crazy mix of information and influences.

The problem to solve looks like this:

  1. The gate has shifted and now stands between content makers and their desired audience.
  2. The price to get through the gate is either a) a HUGE amount of content (one might say infinite) or b) money, a significant amount.
  3. Attention is a limited resource.
  4. Most of us are trying to get attention (a limited resource) by creating infinite amounts of content. We’re trying to solve a scarcity of supply (not enough attention!) with a surplus of demand (more content that needs attention!). This actually exacerbates the problem, doesn’t it? Yes. Yes, it does.

Think about it.

I’m going to think about it. I’m going to draw and write about it, too. I’m going to make content about it, in other words. Yep.