The Business of Writing

I hear quite a lot of moaning and groaning from companies that try to cash in on creative work these days. Leading the pack is the music industry. Then there are the publishers. Soon we may see disruption in the film industry. Are the companies operating in these fields … just a bunch of dinosaurs headed for extinction?

Well, one thing is happening that might make them nervous. In the old days, there were relatively limited ways to access creative stuff. To get music you had to buy it. Ditto for getting good writing. But the web is changing our expectations. First, it offers new ways to access creative stuff. It may be called “piracy” and it may be illegal. But if it goes mainstream, that matters not a bit. People will just get the access and ignore the complaining. Hence the hysterical efforts of the music industry and film industry to prevent unauthorized streaming from becoming normal. The battle rages on.

But that is only one change. Folks are also becoming less passive consumers of creativity and more active creators themselves. The rise and fall and rise again of blogging is an example. Why do people blog? Why do I blog? I do it because it is fun for me. It also helps me clarify my thinking. But I am aware that a lot of other people do it to make money. And these folks are changing what it means to be professional writers.

This is a new form of creative industry. And the business models that support this are not that well understood yet. It is sort of like the business model for making cars — before Mr. Ford figured out that they had to become a lot cheaper in order for folks to bring them into their lives. Once that happened, the proverbial shit hit the fan. So what will new business models for bloggers, musicians, videographers, and so on look like?

Well, first they will be more in tune with the sharing economy than the selling economy. I doubt, for example, that I could persuade you to pay to read each and every one of my blog posts. But if I share, I create other opportunities for me and for you. This will become more obvious to creative types over time. They need to have a sharing mindset.

Second, they will be opportunistic. A few years ago, it seemed pretty adventurous to think of generating advertising revenue form a blog. Now it is a little bit gross to litter your site with banner ads that have nothing to do with your content. So no more marketing revenue? Quite the opposite. Now we have “native advertising” and “affiliate sales”. And we are learning that people actually want to buy stuff from creative folks — but it has to be stuff related to the inspiration for the connection. This post on the business of blogging from Forbes gets into this a bit more.


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