There are two clear differences between almost all published media that has come before and the social media we know now.
1. Available audience
Not cost to the consumer.
I’m about talking cost to the publisher – the person who wants to distribute their content.
In the past there has always been a greater cost to produce and distribute content, whether it in time, effort, materials or straight up money to get others to do work.
There were higher barrier to publishing and distribution: paper, printing, physical distribution of real media, a limited audience who would see the material. It was not readily scalable, nor was it cheap to scale.
That cost generally translated to a need in higher quality content, because the producer had to maximise on their return.
By that I mean: they couldn’t afford to produce shit no once would waste their time on, whether they were paying or not.
They needed maximum return on their money spent, for what was generally an expensive outlay to spread their content.
In addition, and partly due to the cost of media a type of distribution, the audience was limited.
Distribution was limited, harder, and bound my the physical medium.
Again, the producer needed to ensure maximum adoption of their content.
But with the Internet and social media that has all changed.
Social platforms allow “free” and easy distribution of content.
They also allow a “free” and easy inclusion of a massive audience.
That’s an incredibly low barrier of entry on both sides of the equations.
Combine that with increasingly easier ways to create content – written, audio and video – through readily available consume tools, and an abundance of cheap add-on services offered via outsourcing, and we have now have social platforms open to publish almost limitless amounts of content, of every quality, at almost zero cost to both the publisher and consumer.
But there is a cost.
Some may say it’s distraction. Some say privacy. And others see pathways for disinformation.
All are true to varying degrees.
What is see as the ultimate cost to the average person is:
Time and attention.
Because every piece of content generated and distributed on the social platforms is calling for our attention. And it take away our precious time, to both consider and digest, regardless of value.
People are hungry for it (for whatever their individual reason).
And worst of all, in the world of social media:
There are no editors.
No one to check for quality or facts.
No one to curate the chaff from the wheat.
Our time – our precious, limited time alive – is second-by-second being consume by other people’s shit.
Shit that is now without the barrier of economics that anyone can produce and distribute things to suck our time.
Yes, we get a momentary hit of joy or a hint of interest, but how often do we get value that actually enriches us or is usable?
I wonder: what if the social networks flipped the model and started charging for content to be published? How will the world look in 10 years time?