I have a family connection to a Pulitzer prize winning journalist. So when I decided that I want to write for a living, I gave him a call to pick his brain. His wife answered; he was out of town. “You want to be a journalist?” she asked. “Well I can tell you right away, my husband would say choose another career. Newspapers are dying.” Well. That was deflating.
As it turns out, angst about free content and the demise of journalism is ubiquitous. Debate rages on whether it’s ethical for writers to produce free content whether publishers should capitalize on its availability. Quality control is one corollary problem; funding is the other. Advertising is increasingly being dispersed amongst search engines, games, websites and social media so that traditional print venues are now only one among many choices for both consumers and advertisers. And as more competitors vie for advertising dollars, the amount of time that the average consumer has remains stable.
There are only so many ads in one day that each average consumer will see. And more and more ad-worthy spaces are screaming for said average consumer’s eyeball—and wallet. Publishers scramble for advertising bucks and writers scramble for the crumbs that fall off the table.
Is this digital age is a problem or an opportunity?
Websites like Change.org have certainly turned the internet into a force for good. And then there’s the evil. The deep web, the publicly inaccessible region of the world wide web, has enabled users to capitalize on the US Government’s funding of Tor (an encrypting application allowing users to hide their IP address under the cloak of anonymity), turning law enforcement’s greatest tool into law enforcement’s greatest enemy, opening up an arena for all kinds of illicit trade.
Let’s just take the neutral route and agree that every problem is an opportunity. This is what millions of bloggers all over the world already know. All of a sudden, the playing field has flattened and the power to speak out has been diffused among the masses. We’re not just an amorphous, tabloid-spinning mass. We are developing with academic rigor, persistent muckraking and inquisitive critical thinking.
Every human has three precious resources: time, strength and money. While a few have unlimited money, none have unlimited time or strength. So time is really a greater commodity, not money. Is that not the lynchpin?
All aspiring writers must decide whether to let the internet’s sheer volume of information and the sheer speed of its dissemination bully us into submission or to let it thrust us forward on the tidal wave that it is. I may be the internet’s slave, but in some strange sadomasochistic way, I enjoy it. I love writing. I’ll write for free because that’s how I would choose to spend my time. I may have to write part-time till I kick the bucket. Meh. These are the times we live in.
Time is short. Spend wisely.