This post originally appeared as a column in The Diamondback
We want good content. We have seen enough bad content to know it when we see it. We know it by how it makes us feel: angry, frustrated and bored. We bemoan the poor state of education, writing and the world.
At the same time, we consume more content on a variety of topics now than ever before. Good content is linked to similar articles, making it almost impossible not to read more from any author, publisher or site. The Internet can make real changes in the world — you have felt the influence of big projects, such as Wikipedia and small, viral ones, such as the short documentary film “Caine’s Arcade.”Why, when we know content can be so good, is there so much bad content? Moreover, why is it so difficult to break into content-creation fields — journalism, music, photography, game design, etc. — without having a friend’s couch to sleep on, or parents to help with rent? Why, when we love art, can’t brilliant artists get by? While it is obviously more complex than this, my answer is economics.
Let’s break it down. Take a moment to think about the money you spend in a month. You pay rent, you buy groceries, and you pay tuition. You donate, you pay taxes, and you see shows. Some months you buy something larger: a car, a TV or a computer. During that time, you have many conversations, watch many shows, listen to a huge amount of music and spend an incredible amount of your day reading.
What do you pay for? What do you enjoy? I don’t have the figures, but common sense says those two groups are hugely disproportionate. It costs practically nothing to create and distribute content. However, good content mostly comes from those who have dedicated their lives to their craft. If we don’t pay them anything for their work, they will not last. We are relegating brilliant kids to living either in friends’ closets or on Wall Street, as if there is not a better way.
Let’s change that.
How? By paying more for content.
This is hard. Paying is frustrating. As students, we feel the bite particularly hard. It is easy to get around payment if you don’t want to pay. More often than not, taking something for free is easier than paying.
What has this given us? A system in which we reward not the people who create value in our lives, but those who stress us out, those who make us feel less than human.
So let’s pay. Let’s not force newspapers to rely solely on advertisements for money and then complain about the state of journalism. Let’s not blame anyone for the state of pop music, movies or television when we, as wielders of the almighty dollar, are the ones ultimately responsible for driving the development of quality new content.
Spread the word to your friends — pay for the content you want. Let’s pay the artists for the music that inspires us and for the shows that make us laugh, cry or think. Subscribe when you can; pay what you can afford. Seriously, rent is multiple thousands of dollars a year so you can camp out and use the Internet.
Pay some fraction of the crazy other costs toward what you want: better stuff. Projects you think deserve to see the light of day, passionate people trapped by a lack of funds — if you want them to be transparent about where that money goes, ask.
We can make the world fairer. But we have to work for it. And we have to pay for it.