The Revolution Will Not Be Intermediated

So I just followed this tweet by Chris Messina to Mike Arrington‘s The End of Hand Crafted Content. The tweet-bite: “The rise of fast food content is upon us, and it’s going to get ugly.” Meaning that FFC “will surely, over time, destroy the mom and pop operations that hand craft their content today. It’s the rise of cheap, disposable content on a mass scale, force fed to us by the portals and search engines.”

Just as an aside, I’ve been hand-crafting (actually just typing) my “content” for about twenty years now, and I haven’t been destroyed by a damn thing. I kinda don’t think FFC is going to shut down serious writers (no matter where and how they write) any more than McDonald’s killed the market for serious chefs.

Mike explains, “On one end you have AOL and their Toyota Strategy of building thousand of niche content sites via the work of cast-offs from old media. That leads to a whole lot of really, really crappy content being highlighted right on the massive AOL home page… On the other end you have Demand Media and companies like it. See Wired’s ‘Demand Media and the Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell Media Model‘… They push SEO juice to this content, which is made as quickly and cheaply as possible, and pray for traffic. It works like a charm, apparently.” By “works” I suppose Mike means that they make money.

His penultimate point:

My advice to readers is just this — get ready for it, because you’ll be reading McDonalds five times a day in the near future. My advice to content creators is more subtle. Figure out an even more disruptive way to win, or die. Or just give up on making money doing what you do. If you write for passion, not dollars, you’ll still have fun. Even if everything you write is immediately ripped off without attribution, and the search engines don’t give you the attention they used to. You may have to continue your hobby in the evening and get a real job, of course.

Good advice. In my own case, I sometimes make money writing, but usually I don’t. I do get paid well for my counsel (and my speaking), mostly because of what I’ve been writing in places like this. SEO for me is linking and crediting generously. That works like a charm, too. And I have fun doing what I trust is good work in the world. That has SEO qualities as well. (None of it is a hobby, though. At least I don’t think of it that way. And if I don’t, it isn’t.)

Mike concludes, “Forget fair and unfair, right and wrong. This is simply happening. The disruptors are getting disrupted, and everyone has to adapt to it or face the consequences. Hand crafted content is dead. Long live fast food content, it’s here to stay.”

Well, no. Nothing with real real value is dead, so long as it can be found on the Web and there are links to it. Humans are the ones with hands. Not intermediaries. Not AOL, or TechCrunch, or HuffPo, or Google or the New York Freaking Times. The Net is the means to our ends, not The Media, whether they be new disruptors or old disruptees. The Net and the Web liberate individuals. They welcome intermediators, but they do not require them. Even in cases were we start with intermediation — and get to use really good ones — what matters most is what each of us as individuals bring to the Net’s table. Not the freight system that helps us bring it there, no matter how established or disruptive that system is.

The title of this post plays off the 1971 poem/song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, by Gil Scott-Heron. The passage that stands out for me is this one:

The revolution will not be right back after a message
about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

The lyrics were not addressed to me, a white guy from the suburbs, but they spoke to me all the same. Especially that last line.

We still seem to think that progress on the Net is the work of “brands” creating and disrupting and doing other cool stuff. Those may help, but what matters most is what each of us does better than anybody or anything else. The term “content” insults the nature of that work. And of its sources.

The revolution that matters — the one that will not be intermediated — is the one that puts each of us in the driver’s seat, rather than in the back of the bus. Or on a bus at all.


  1. Mike Warot’s avatar

    Doc… I really need an editor…… someone to help me mine my mind

    Here’s the latest ramble, which tries to tie it all together

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks for the clarifications, Seth. Appreciated.

    And for the reminder that I need to get Leading Authorities (from which gigs come very few and far between) a bio (with a picture) that’s less than a decade old.

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