P097: Cave-In at the Content Mine

Two interesting data points this week about the people who make things for the internet and the money they make (or don’t) for their trouble. First, The Awl determines once and for all The Value of Content to be about $550. Author Noah Davis struck a deal to get paid by the pageview for his seminal state-of-the-market-for-online-writers (previously featured in Issue 84: Farm-to-Table Media), and this short post (complete with downward trending graph) closes the book on that agreement. Key takeaway, in the classic Awl voice:

”If there’s a lesson here, maybe it’s something about charging your audience with the responsibility of your wellbeing? Idk.”

Secondly, YouTuber Gaby Dunn went long on the precarious balance between internet fame and making ends meet in the wonderfully titled Get Rich or Die Vlogging: The sad economics of internet fame. Turns out: having a well-received YouTube show (Just Between Us) with over 500,000 subscribers doesn’t insulate you from the concerns of the proletariat. Dunn combines her own experiences and those of other YouTube stars to craft a riveting narrative that explores this dichotomy:

”One week, I was stopped for photos six times while perusing comic books in downtown L.A. The next week, I sat faceless in a room of 40 people vying for a menial courier job. I’ve walked a red carpet with $80 in my bank account. Popular YouTube musician Meghan Tonjes said she performed on Vidcon’s MainStage this year to screaming, crying fans without knowing whether she’d be able to afford groceries.”

The level of access and notoriety that the modern internet affords is unprecedented and we as a culture are still working out what that means. It has always been difficult to earn a comfortable living as a freelancer or small business owner, but the temptation to try has never been greater than today. I mean, PewDiePie is a dude playing video games – I’m a dude playing video games! Why can’t that be my story?

For many content creators, the first step is being realistic about their role in the content ecosystem – only then can one identify the steps needed to move up the food chain. Or, you can reframe the argument entirely: if the winners in a gold rush are in the picks-and-shovels business, what are the tools that the next wave of content miners will need?

Periodically yours,

Bob Sherron