Who are you and what this newsletter about, anyway?
I’m Alex, a former content marketing lifer who wrote over 4 million words while working for nearly a decade at an agency. I have some thoughts about writing—and more generally about “content”.
This newsletter is meant to explore the (relatively new, actually!) concept of content—that catch-all word that can mean anything from an immaculately produced YouTube video to, well, the ramshackle newsletter you’re reading. What is content, exactly, and how has this seemingly throwaway word helped promote the interests of monopolists and grifters above those of everyone else? What toll does its creation take on professionals and hobbyists alike?
In exploring the world of content, I also examine how it is digitally native—and thus very fragile, too. There wasn’t much of a notion of content before online publishing and distribution came to the fore around the turn of the 21st century. Content has almost always been something that assumes the presence of the internet, with all of the planetary scalability and fragility that comes with it. A Substack newsletter, an online art portfolio, and a downloadable infographic on a company site are all types of content (somehow) that can reach a global audience, but which can also disappear in a flash when a server goes down or a domain expires. For corporate content, there’s also the issue of proper licensing, without which tons of content disappears overnight from services such as Netflix and Spotify.
Digital storage and transmission once seemed to promise incredible fidelity and reproducibility, leading in turn to a certain permanence that the analog world of tapes, records, and books—with their obvious vulnerabilities to wear and tear—couldn’t match. But online content world became fragile in its own way. Meanwhile, labeling the people who make this content “content creators” paints an optimistic picture of a vast world of opportunities for reaching an audience and making money, when in reality many of us are as precarious as the online content we publish, and face enormous odds to success.
So join on this journey of exploring what we expect and get out of content, and whether a different world is possible.
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