Quote For The Day

“I’m only getting paid two and a half cents per click on this story. That’s more than what 99.9% of contributors on Medium get paid. I have a $60,000 graduate journalism degree from Medill, nearly a decade of writing experience, and, let’s be honest, I’m super smart and seriously good at what I do. I can write and report a kickass story with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back. But the algorithm that decides how much I get paid for all that badass-ness doesn’t put any value on how good I am. It cares not at all how well written this story is or how much experience I have. All that’s important is how many times you guys click,” – Erin Biba, Medium.

And there you have it: an economic ecology online that militates against good writing, thoughtful prose, serious engagement. And, look, we can all intend to produce content that lives up to that standard, but, in the end, the structural incentives for ADD-fueled crap will overwhelm us. That’s why shifting toward a subscription model has been such a revelation to me. Sure, I thought I was above pageview whoring, but I see now I wasn’t entirely. When you’re writing every day to gain pageviews – period – you’ll find yourselves looking for crowd-pleasers for complete strangers rather than interesting shit for a committed readership. To blog now with only a minor concern for traffic really is a different way to write online. It’s been a revelation to discover how subtly I’d been corrupted by the pageview metric, as I explained last night.

That’s why it’s such good news that Slate, for example, and TPM are moving in our direction. Josh is re-launching TPM Prime today for exactly those reasons:

In the history of publishing – publishing the printed word – there are very few examples of publications that are 100% dependent on advertising. Not only is it difficult to get enough revenue from advertising, as a revenue source it’s inherently unstable. Both are distinct and important. Advertisers are fickle; they change their schedules and goals, the amounts they’re ready to spend. It’s your core fans that are really invested in you being there every day and next month and next year. So it’s really important to build a reliance on people like you who want to be sure TPM is alive and well.

I think it also matters in wresting new media from the growing sense that it’s increasingly a corporate marketing scheme, rather than another independent part of the fourth estate. If you edit a site that has 100 percent of its revenue from advertisers and 0 percent from readers, who do you think will ultimately control the end-product? Even the best editor cannot get traction against that kind of advertiser power. What we may be seeing now is an evolution past this trashy, desperate period in online media.

Well, I can hope, can’t I? And if you want to help, subscribe!