I still blame the Internet, but I also thank it

I wrote this elsewhere a few years ago, under the title “I Blame the Internet,” and as far as I can tell, it’s still true:

There’s been a lot written out there about how and why the Internet is killing consumer print media. I won’t recapitulate it. I just want to point out, for the benefit of people who don’t work in the putting-words-end-to-end business, that unfortunately for those of us who do, a lot of the writing opportunities we’re losing aren’t moving online. Oh, sure, there are lots of websites in need of consumer content. Some of them compete directly with magazines; some are adjuncts to existing magazines. But almost without exception, these sites pay less than the print media. A lot less.

Compounding this problem is the fact that with the advent of, well, blogs, everyone thinks that anyone can write. So the perceived value of being able to put words end to end has dropped — which means that when those of us who make our living that way try to say, “Hey, we can’t afford to write for these low, low online rates,” publishers are all too apt to reply, “Fine, we’ll find someone who can.” And then they go out and find someone who’s thrilled to write for a pittance, even if that someone isn’t a particularly good writer. And then the quality of the available writing goes down another notch, which in turn reinforces the idea that being able to write well is of no particular value, because after all, look at what’s getting published. And around and around we go.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Internet. There are amazingly thoughtful sites out there, incredibly well-written blogs, grass-roots work that blows me away, more good stuff to read than I’ll ever get through in a lifetime. I’m just starting to wonder whether writing for a consumer audience now requires, in addition to talent, either a trust fund or a second household income — neither of which I happen to have at the moment.

That being said, one of my professional colleagues has just posted a solidly optimistic overview of other media trends worth noting. (As a direct result of these trends, I’m doing a lot more work in custom publishing, corporate copywriting, and “brand journalism” these days.) If you are a writer, want to be a writer, or are just plain interested in the media industry, go have a look.

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