A reflection on digital publications

This morning I was clicking through OM’s Twitter feed, looking for interesting links to quality blogs to include in TTRO and in the process I stumbled upon this Tweet from Peter Sciretta.

I have to admit that I have not followed the latest WWDC so I don’t know what he’s talking about in regard to the Apple announcement. But that’s not really important for this conversation. Personally I think less tracking and more privacy is a good thing but at the same time I understand his point. My real issue here is with this part:

In a few years when most of our favorite websites either go out of business, become horrible clickbait, or get filled with advertorials looking like content, I think you’ll feel differently about protecting our cookies.

My first issue is with the concept of protecting our cookies. Cookies are not the problem, I think we’ll all agree on that. The problem is never the technology itself, is the use we make of that technology the main issue. And the issues are pretty clear: tech company are ruthless when it comes to data collection and that’s something we can’t ignore.

My second issue is with this notion that the only possible outcome is a descent into clickbait hell, where most of the content is either trash or paid for. As if that’s the only possibility.

Om in his post We are all trapped in the "Feed" writes:

Whether we like or not, for now, advertising is the only accepted currency of the web. The modern Internet, thanks to the duopoly of Facebook and Google, has become an advertising-monetized attention economy. The core tenet of this philosophy: “most” attention is “more” valuable.

And I agree. But I don’t necessarily think that’s the only possibility. We’re seeing platform like Patreon growing precisely because ads can’t be the future long term. Not for everyone at least.

Then there’s this notion that less publications on the web is a bad thing. I personally disagree on that. If you’re a person and want to express your opinion on the web you can easily do it. I’m doing it right now. There are no financial plans here nor ads. I pay for this site and I’m fine with that. If I want to turn this into a job (not gonna happen) then yes, I’d probably need to work out a way. And if I don’t generate enough traffic and people are not willing to pay for my content (and why should they, it’s not that great...) then I need to find a “proper job” and keep doing this as a hobby.

I think this is true for business in general, not only for the web: if you have a good product and an audience who wants that product, you should be able to figure out a way to make it work. You’ll probably need to charge some amount of money and that’s a good thing. If you can’t then you’ll inevitably need to shut down. And that’s ok.

Does this mean we’ll have fewer good site to read? Probably. Does that also mean that less people are going to be able to make a living this way? That’s also quite likely.

But hey, maybe that’s just me, maybe I’m wrong, maybe you have a different opinion. If you do, let me know.