According to The New Analog, a wonderful book about sound, Deep Purple’s singer-songwriter Ian Gillian asked for an adjustment in his stage monitors during a sound check. He told the techs, “Can I have everything louder than everything else?” Though he said that in 1972, it describes the state of the internet today. Everything is louder than everything else.
Back in 2009, when I joined Twitter and Facebook, started a blog, and signed on to The Huffington Post as an unpaid contributor, the online world was much happier. Total strangers commented on my blog, often thoughtfully. Blog comments now are mostly for scammy marketers or angry trolls, or bots, and most of the commenting has gone to Facebook anyway. Facebook has made it harder to become known outside a tiny circle of your friends who have recently had babies. Your posts have practically no velocity at all unless you pay Facebook. Even The Huffington Post, now known as Huffpo, shut down its contributor platform. That puts people like me, essayists, in the hunt to find another place to post.
Even the platform we are on together now — Tinyletter — will change. It is owned by MailChimp, which wrote us to say that something will happen to it. We don’t know what, because we don’t control the platform.
Most of us who produce, create, write and post online are doing it on platforms that we do not control.
If Amazon or Audible want to give away my books for free, they can. If they want to clutter up their platforms with offers for other books, they can do that, too. SoundCloud can run ads for other services and podcasts, distracting my listeners. YouTube proposes other videos, sometimes auto-playing them. Vimeo does, too, unless you pay more.
We creative types all believed the first half of Stewart Brand’s famous dictum, “Content wants to be free,” and we provided free content to win friends and influence feeds. We ignored the second half of what Brand said, which was, “But content also wants to be expensive.” It is expensive to make things. There is an emotional expenditure of effort and joy. We would do the work anyway, no matter who is listening or reading, but we all need to make a change. We need to create work that is discoverable.
Being discoverable means that the work must be found by a small cohort at first, and one that grows. It means that we must control our publishing platforms as much as we can. Just “putting it out there,” is at best a way to lose control, and at worst, a license for the internet to steal your stuff.
WordPress is a platform that you can control. Squarespace, also. Podbean is a podcasting platform that is not cluttered, yet. If you build your own microsite for your podcast, as I have with my food podcast, you control it.
If you want to be discovered, creating media for an online audience will never be a pure process. I can post all I want to my microsite, but I will be at the mercy of Google’s search algorithm and the choices it makes to direct visitors to my site and not some other. I might run Facebook or Instagram ads, or make YouTube videos because YouTube is the second-most-searched platform, just behind Google. I can’t be pure. I have to get my hands dirty. As a creator, I have to make distribution decisions that are louder than everything else.
Thanks for reading,
This is part of a blog series about writing and creativity.