What would our grand children consider classics?
It is safe to say that; content is in a state of 911.
I find very few sources where I can get content, where a great deal of though and analysis has been put in. Interestingly, I find many more sources where I can get cat videos and snarky two liners. Truth be told, not too many people are reading thoughtfully written stuff.
Quantity is opposed to Quality
The advent of digital mediums has meant that it is possible for everyone to create content. If you wanted to write a piece like the one I am writing and distribute it in 1900, you needed a newspaper editor to feel that your article was going to be interesting to the readers. With blogs, today pretty much anyone is able to put out their thought for public consumption. But the problem is much worse that anyone being able to write a blog.
This is statistics that the IBM Watson team put out; In 1900 the content available to mankind was doubling roughly every 100 years. By 2020 it will double every 11 hours. This is insane. The amount of content that would be at our disposal is being estimated at 44 Zetabytes. All of us have limited time available to us and the amount of content at our disposal is fast accelerating.
The consequence of limited time at our disposal is limited attention span. We want content that can be consumed quickly and without extending too much effort. Reading a well thought out piece forces us to think and understand; this is not primed for fast consumption.
How many of us have read the Iliad or Plato? How many of us have seen the latest trending video?
When you think of content that can be consumed without much effort, video ends up on top of the charts. Youtube is making money hand over fist, not by accident. Over the next 20 years, ‘text' is going to move to the lowest rungs as far as content format go. Video is already moving up and this trend will gather pace in the coming years with formats such as Vine finding more and more traction.
Scale: YouTube users upload 400+ hrs of video every minute, which at 1GB/hr requires over one petabyte (1M GB) of new storage every day.
— Kontra (@counternotions) February 27, 2016
Read the responses to this one... People know.
How much of YouTube videos can be nuked with zero negative impact on the future of human civilization?
a) 5% b) 49% c) 51% d) 75%
— Kontra (@counternotions) February 27, 2016
Advertising - A Boon or a Bane?
The other thing that is simultaneously destroying content is the fact that most of the income for content comes out of advertising. This implies - firstly, you need to make sure people arrive at the content (click-bait headline); secondly, you need to make the content super easy to consume (so they keep coming back and/or spend the next century clicking though the rest of the stuff). The more time they spend on the site, higher are the odds that they will click on an ad, at least by mistake. Most of what qualifies for this in entertainment and not analysis.
Given a choice between an 8000 word essay on a subject which would take 20 minutes to consumer; and a sequence of 15 videos of guys getting hit in their nuts; which would garner me more clicks and therefore more advertising revenue? The choice for the content creators is clear.
Advertising as a business model has done everything to destroy the quality of content. Thanks Google. Thanks Facebook.
Thanks to all this Music has gone to dogs
Songs have been a means though which emotions and stories were communicated. What makes a song beautiful is the poetry and the metaphors, which make several interpretations possible. It automatically implies that you must give it time to grow on you, for the interpretations to set in and for the songs to get internalised.
With the lack of time and attention, musicians are forced to produce music that is catchy and will hook you up soon. This also means that most songs do not have a soul. Most songs use a particular word repeatedly to get you to like the song.
Count the number of time the word ‘Hello’ is used by Adele in her song ‘Hello’.
Taylor Swift is popular not because a lot of college girls sit around listening to her, although that may be true. She is popular because she makes an attempt to tell a story. At the end of the day a song will stay with you if it connects with your soul. The issue with most of the songs written today is that they have no shelf-life, they are meant to grab attention.
Often I go back and listen to some of the songs I had been listening to a couple of years back because of their popularity and I am genuinely ashamed that I had considered them good. If you do not understand what I am talking about, check this link.
The low shelf life means nobody wants to own any music. Hence Streaming.
Take a great song from 20 years ago, you can still enjoy it. Not the same with a song which is 3 years old.
Everything is about Entertainment
The proliferation of content and the ad economy has resulted in what can be best described as the attention economy. In fact this article beautifully lays out, how scarcity has evolved from food, to land, to labor, to information, and now to attention.
Consequentially, the only thing anybody is vying for is attention. News reporting is going down the drain. The world has a lot of real problems to deal with, inequality, poverty, terrorism, climate change, etc. but all the news is about things that will be entertaining.
The news has been a part of the entertainment industry for a fairly long time now. Look at what praying at the alter of entertainment has brought us - Donald Trump might be nominated to fight for presidency.
If this trend were to persist, and I have no reason to believe it would not, 100 years from now the classics that our great grand children will be reading would be some shit Kim Kardashian wrote (Or worse shot in her bedroom)!