I read a recent post today, a post that told some uncomfortable truths about where media is heading, why, and what there is to be done about it (which is not much, at least not if the media industry is continuing down the road it is at the moment). Joshua Topolsky, of The Verge and Vox Media fame, is of the opinion that all of us in the content business are facing a pretty severe challenge:
Your problem is that you make shit. A lot of shit. Cheap shit. And no one cares about you or your cheap shit. And an increasingly aware, connected, and mutable audience is onto your cheap shit. They don’t want your cheap shit. They want the good shit. And they will go to find it somewhere. Hell, they’ll even pay for it.
Indeed. Huzzah! I wanted to shout as I read on. There are more good points in that post, so please head over to Medium and read it at your leisure.
But then what? If this is the case – that we are making crap shit when we should be making the good shit – where does that leave us? Well, firsto f all it depends quite a lot on who ”us” is. In a sense, it’s anyone trying to reach other people with stories, no matter what platform, and arguably is trying to make a living of some kind out of ut. This in turn is something that will not go away. People will tell stories and other people will want to hear those stories – sometimes they’ll even be willing to pay to hear them.
Storytelling and media therefore definitely have a future. It’s just going to be a future that is nothing like what we know now.
So how do we cope? Here are three things – the factors – that I believe will be crucial for each and every one of us in the content business. I believe these three things will make or break any one of us. Try it out – look to yourself. Do they apply, and how?
When I look at my content objectively, impassionately, what do I see? Do I find that people engage with what I do? Do they comment, do they contact in return, do they create something of themselves, do they debate in forums… do they even call me up personally? If I find them interacting and engaging – in what manner are they doing that in that case? Can I observe that they are engaging less with my content and more with other peoples’ content? Why?
My own engagement
If I focus on telling the absolute truth – am I actually really interested in the people that do engage? I mean not as ”audience”, as someone to broadcast to and tell stories to, but instead as fellow humans and perhaps more than that? Am I honestly and genuinely interested? Do I have plans for how to keep them engaged that don’t sound desperate?
Would I do this even if I didn’t get paid as much as I am today? Can I see myself doing this five, ten years from now? Do I still feel the best is yet to come from me? Do I get thrill and flutters in my stomach when an email arrives or a comment is writter or the phone rings? Am I excited?
If I can answer truthfully on all these questions, and find that the sum total of our answers add up to a whole that I feel has a place in the world I want to live in, then I believe I stand a chance.
If I don’t… well, the media business perhaps simply isn’t the right one for me.