Historically, all content was created for a bundle.
As seen with magazines and newspapers, the bundle was designed with a dual-revenue stream in mind, a larger one from ads and the other from readers. In the case of newspapers, the bundle also presumed some degree of exclusivity of readership (read: monopoly), and thereby the need to cater to a wide range of customers.
Thanks to the high profitability that these publishers saw, they were able to invest in and commission content of extremely high quality. Witness long-form articles in Esquire, Rolling Stone, GQ, or Vanity Fair, or even in the newspapers in mid-tier US cities, which are often out of place with the rest of the content (photo features, fashion spreads, local news, etc).
Curation was thus built into the very act of creation or commissioning.
Such a high degree of filtering at the stage of creation, and the constraints of print (limited pages and finite titles) meant that little was published, it was typically always of high quality, and it was well paid for. Most importantly, it was still possible (for someone with a lot of time on hand) to read almost every single high-quality story.
The Internet, however, changed things. It removed the constraints of space, it removed the formidable entry barriers that restricted the entry of newer media outlets, and, lastly, it eviscerated the bundle.
This leads us to three very interesting and well-known problems.
There is so much content out there, you can’t read even 1/100th of high-quality long-form content.
1. Take science writing alone. I can readily think of three high-quality, science-only content sites – Nautilus, Aeon, and Quanta – and I am sure there are more out there. The old ones such as Wired, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and Scientific American are all there as well.
2. I would hazard that you can’t even discover one-tenth of such content. Volume is also the enemy of discoverability, not just consumption.
3. There is the challenge of compensation for the content. Historically, ad revenue indirectly paid for the content. Today the broken bundle means the subsidy has entirely disappeared, even as the brakes on creation of content has been lifted.
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