I’m writing in protest of the business of digital “content.” What a disgusting word! While flirting with the idea of another web site redesign, all of the same stuff is coming back at me. I’m already losing my good humor. So I’m indulging in a new fantasy. It’s one in which the business of digital “content” just gives it a rest for a while. It’s a nauseating niche. There are seemingly millions of sites, millions of videos about creating what has come to be known as “content.” God, it gives me chills. Where did all of these millions of “experts” come from, all trying to make a living in the gig economy as digital entrepreneurs? They make videos about making videos and write blogs about blogging, all the while referring to what they create as “content.” It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. I can’t relate to being in my twenties, acting like a mogul in an industry of digital vapor, talking to an expensive camera in my bedroom. In my twenties, I wanted to write enduring songs and explore the depths of the human spirit.
Actually, I still want to do that.
But at least I’m not hustling about hustling, while anxiously monitoring statistics about my engagement as if they were an EKG. It used to be the work, the art, whatever it was for you, and then the marketing of that. Now it’s just folded in on itself and it just makes me feel terrible.
I didn’t get into this racket because I considered myself a “creative.” The word wasn’t a noun, just an adjective, nothing more. I want to write, not create content. “Content” is assumed to be the commodity, but in labeling it as “content,” the real ideas become completely devalued. It’s just stuff. I love the words. I love the language. I love good writing, not good verbiage. Even as I write this piece here, some plugin is making an algorithmic assessment of my verbosity. I haven’t even finished my thought and it’s already coaching me about keyword relevance and SEO ranking. It makes me want to wretch. In fact, let me pause here and uninstall that festering violation of my sensibilities. To hell with that.
This whole thing reminds me of something I read once about the early days of modern advertising. After World War II, it seems that Americans wanted something for all of their wartime hardships. The country had come into some bread and there was an explosion of consumer goods. The trick became to sell people all of this stuff that they probably didn’t need. So they stopped selling products on their merits. You don’t sell people on your product, you sell them their dreams. No one knew they needed an electric dog polisher until it was suggested to them that it was a symbol of affluence and success, an indispensable appliance in the modern American household that provided convenience as well an increase in leisure time.
Appeal to who they think they are, or what they want to be, and you can come back big, or so I’m told.
Even in the content business, not much has changed. Every goddamn WordPress theme is designed with sample photos and wording about growing your business. “This completely customizable theme enables you to create pixel-perfect layouts to enhance your online presence. It includes SEO optimization and is perfect for corporate sites, small businesses and even personal blogs and portfolios, enabling you to reach your target audience in a matter of fucking nanoseconds!” Then they hook you for the premium version, which you need pay a yearly fee to use, just to get some esoteric piece of functionality that as a non-web developer, is driving you up the wall as you struggle to make it real on your site. It’s not them, though. It’s you. Because your site is created on the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly blogging platform in the known universe. Did you know that it powers 40% of the internet? Super colossal!
What a bunch of fucking nonsense. All I wanted to do was create a website that I liked the look of so that I could feel good writing for it. Instead, I’m off in non-writing land, thinking like a content creator and trying to master CSS or to execute passable PHP hacks that disable everything that says “Powered by.” Stop it! I can’t stand it!
They sell you your dreams. “I can make a living blogging, or on YouTube. I just need this plugin, or this camera, or this lighting rig. Then, I’ll be set up for unlimited success.” Not really, but the machine of nothingness that is the digital content industry will churn a little while longer. And not a one of us will be better for it. Not even the creatives and their whole meta thing. What a drag.
With that, I sink deeply into my fantasy where people want to be writers, composers, artists and purveyors of ideas that have nothing to do with rancid entrepreneurial palaver. I know it’s just a fantasy, but it does power .00001% of the internet.