Every once in a while the author Stina Leicht will post the latest in a series of bloggos about the danger our society is in of being destroyed by the libertarian non-ethic. She focuses particularly on the lives of creatives.
I’ve restrained myself from commenting in support of these posts because I can’t face the depression. To respond properly I need to go to a very dark place, but a place I essentially live on the rim of.
Today it hit me after reading her latest The Center Does Not Hold that creatives can’t fight back because advertising has been the de-facto revenue stream for popular publications for almost two hundred years. This is especially true for journalists but it holds for everyone who rides the interface between the writing life, a living, and the day-to-day consumption of media by the general public.
Even here on my own blog: I was too cheap to upgrade to an advertising-free site so if you came here by a direct link you will see ads at the bottom. Sorry. I don’t get anything from the ads beyond the pleasure of resisting the shove to upgrade. WordPress doesn’t get anything either, to be honest, because no one reads this. Mostly it creates a spam queue full of automatically generated comments trying to lure me onto the SEO bandwagon. For the record, a worldwide purge of online griefers of the con-artist kind is a genocide I could get behind. Barbed-wire garrotes, gibbets, flaming truck tires, the whole bit. The hellscape I wish to rule over is decorated with the broken remains of human insectoids culled from strip mall back offices in the lands of Flora and Russ.
Moving on, the rise of robust adblocking extensions, DVR, commercial-free cable TV and Netflix-style subscriptions are changing the world of advertising. Until twenty years ago ad-revenue was a cash cow for the media companies at the top of the heap. Deregulation allowed conglomerates to buy captive markets. This allowed them to cut costs by cutting coverage and quality without losing many consumers. Deregulation increased their leverage over advertisers too, raising their rates. It was the classic rentier ecosystem made more obnoxious by the conglomerates’ ability to keep the public from viewing exposés about their scam. Political support for maintaining the status quo was a trivial expense.
So in the early 90s Big Media had a license to print cash on newsprint and twiddle their bank balances using the broadcast spectrum. But since the rise of the Internet, no more! I for one welcome our adblocking and DVRing
overlords underdogs. And the Youtube subscription channels? Bring it. At least that’s the theory.
Why am I more optimistic about the future for creatives? Because making production and distribution vastly cheaper levels the playing field between the subscription-for-quality-content model and the quick-n-dirty-content-as-a-vector-for-shoveling-shitty-ads. The greater demand for quality content (knock on wood) means that power will shift back toward creatives and their abilities.
There’s some distance to go yet and that distance will be paved with the coming rise of local ad-free subscription journalism in both dead tree and online forms. That’s a different topic for another post, though. Right now the paving doesn’t exist but I’m fiddling with blueprints and wandering around in the weeds with a machete, an armload of stakes and a spraycan of orange paint.