January 3, 2001
Just 12 months ago, too many of these companies were given millions in venture capital and those obscene perks. And to do do what? To produce "content" that would "capture eyeballs".
"Listening to Melanie talk about her website, I was struck by how much her early-2000 25-year-old internet jargon sounded like my mid-nineties 25-year-old rhetoric. Back in the mid-nineties, my friend Hilary and I were bemoaning the lack of opportunities for budding writers specifically and just graduated arts types generally. Three pitchers of cheap beer and we impulsively agreed to each contribute $1,000 - not to mention countless hours of unpaid time and energy - to start a magazine. We were going to "capture the energy of youth." We were going to "give people back their voice."
The same kind of lavish disconnected promises Hillary and I made are still being spouted with similar gusto and naïveté... The difference is, these random, newagey pledges, schemes .... are being met with large sums of cash.
Ah, make that *were* being met with large sums of cash. Capturing the essence of Digital Culture was found to be no cakewalk. At least, not a profitable cakewalk.
Just ask the folks at Shift
Back from the dead, the latest issue of Shift magazine (Nov / Dec 2000) also tolls the bell for the "death of content". Clive Thompson makes some nice points on the matter of content ("Way back in, oh, 1993, we used to call that stuff "culture") and makes this observation:
The irony here is that culture is thriving online, and the humble, unremarkable homepage is where the real action is. That's where all the breakout hits have been -- the pass-around hits that sweep the globe in a week and gather tens of millions of impressions. Stuff like Mahir, Fucked Company, or the Blogger movement of cracked, confessional online diarists.
And the humble homepage is becoming "where the real action is" in more ways than one. In the same issue of Shift is a profile of online marketing firm, ElectricArtists. EA specializes in "grassroots" or "community-based" marketing and have been credited with creating the necessary 'buzz' to turn Christina Aguilera into a star. Essentially, EA uses the web to find "potentially diehard fans and establishing a relationship with same" by feeding kids artist information, advance singles, and helping them find fellow fans. Eventually, these kids become a fan base and on their own initiative, they start making requests for artist airplay and spread the word to their friends.
More and more companies are exploiting human nature's cravings for egoboo. Like Suck - a content provider smart enough to keep their overhead low enough to be profitable and who would rather trade products for placement than to sell swag for cash.
Or perhaps the grand-daddy of word of mouth, Amazon.
Amazon supplements their bookselling efforts with customer reviews, editorial reviews, "sign in to get recommendations" listmania, wish lists, purchase circles, "email a friend about this item", "customers who bought titles by Malcolm Gladwell also bought titles by these authors", "the page you made", and the new "Friends and Favorites."
You should check it out. Tell them Rain Barrel sent you.