This started as a long comment in response to Martin Bosworth’s well-sourced screed on Boztopia

…but I realized about 1/2 way through that the points I wanted to make were starting to get a little elaborate for just the “Comment” space – and besides, I have far too much experience (and distrust of) the commenting features to see it all disappear when I hit the “Submit Comment” button. FYWP. Also.

I hadn’t read “Noir” – but it doesn’t surprise me that Jeter has his dander up about all the freeloading whippersnappers threatening The Way Things Are (which, not coincidentally, is also the way Jeter puts biscuits’n’gravy on the dinner table). The actions of the RIAA/MPAA hitman read like a pure revenge fantasy, and track rather close to what friends of mine who are (or used to be) in the music industry spit&mutter whilst indulging in their mid-afternoon mood enhancers. Music was definitely the canary in the coal mine, for a lot of reasons – the intersection of 1) the young early-adopters who were on the internet, 2) their perception of music as “high-value content”, 3) the utter dickishness of the major music labels towards their customers for decades, 4) the rise of open-source technology like Napster, and 5) starting in 1999, it was suddently affordable to get internet connection speeds in the 56k (or better) range that allowed users to download a 3-6 megabyte song in less than an hour (unlike the previous 2400 or 14.4k modems prevalent prior to that time).

All those forces then empowered those in category #1 to give the finger to those in category #3. A very well-deserved finger, BTW.

Unfortunately, the Law of Unintended Consequences has kicked in, and the rot has spread from the over-coked, over-sexed & over-paid music industry weasels to … well, pretty much everyone else who produces content/intellectual property. News, movies, computer programs, video games … anything that can be digitized and put on Pirate Bay.

I think that the nut graf in Martin’s piece is here:

“What we have now is the worst of all possible scenarios — a world where so-called fans will pirate material, distribute it freely, and then spend endless days on blogs or forums bashing it for not being good. The creators lose money, and the “fans” get to indulge their resentment of them for their work.”

Yeah, I’ve long felt that we’re in a particularly nasty place, both culturally and business-model-wise. Culturally, we’ve reached pretty much the end of the big-ass centralized media behemoths that cram content down our throats by putting it through what Woody Allen called the “de-flavorizing machine.” We’ve seen in the current economic/foreign-policy debacles what the results of too much Groupthink on the national discourse have been. Too few dissenting voices were raised to de-regulating banks & mortgages; to taking on mountains of debt. Too few dissenting voices were raised about the wars we’re fighting, or the whole adventurist foreign policy we’ve pursued for the last 30 years.

So yeah – the move away from the existing news/information models towards a new ecosystem are happening because of the flipside of the teenage disdain for Big Music; the news/information providers (by which I mean the massive conglomgerates that actually own just about every major newspaper, magazine or TV news network) got it into their heads that they could squeeze some really impressive profits out of the beast by cutting back on the costs of production as much as they could, while broadening their market share by making the product as bland and appealing to as many people as possible.  Like taking gourmet Kobe beef stuffed with melted Roquefort and turning it into a McDonald’s Happy Meal.

I was there when it started. I saw it happening. When even the editorial department upper managers gushed on and on about the new super-fancy printing press, rather than even knowing the slightest bit about the intense stories that we on the I-team were working on … I knew that the war had been quietly lost. That even the people who were supposed to be in charge of making sure that the news was important & gripping, were now themselves in the grip of some kind of greed fantasy.

So that’s why you hear more & more people griping about “the media” because they’re not getting enough of the core product – The Truth – from it. (Or in the case of some wingnuts, they are getting too much of The Truth, but that’s another argument.)

The alternative to this has been fairly well delineated by various Digital Triumphalists over the years – a disaggregated, disintermediated army of indie/citizen reporters, all reaching out to the audience to broaden the stories & suggest new avenues via comments and, well, trackbacks like this.

The problem is that the economic model to make this pay – consistently pay, mind you – is not there yet. Google AdSense? Don’t make me laugh. Partner/Affiliate programs? OK, if you’re in a tasty niche. But for the vast majority of indie content creators, the internet gives just enough revenue to do the absolute bare minimum for survival. Not enough to produce any kind of long-term or complicated content effort – no long investigative journalism projects here. Or moves with a special-effects budget that’s more than the costs of craft-service chili dogs.

I think that there are some interesting models emerging, that blend all sorts of revenue streams. They’re just not completely baked yet – but the interviews that I’ve been doing lately, for my next big case study for the NAA, are starting to make me think that they are not as far off as I had feared.  I think that online video, social media, and mobile – all combined (as or Mr. Creosote would like it “All mixed up in a bucket”) will make it possible for us grimy content creators to keep doing high-quality work.