As a consumer of content, how do you choose what to consume? Do you allow the social media sites to occupy your time, or do you purposefully choose?
If you are a creator, who are you writing for? For an actual audience or for an algorithm? Because it matters.
Seth Godin writing at his blog:
Publishing to an algorithm is not the same as publishing to an audience. If the creator has no publisher and no permission asset, then being heard is dramatically more difficult. As is getting paid….At the same time, we [creators] benefit when we realize that the algorithm isn’t rooting for us and quite probably is working against us. The only winning approach is to earn permission and a direct connection with our fans and then act as curators for ideas (and as our own publishers).
Martin Scorsese writing about Frederic Fellini at Harper’s Magazine notes:
Curating isn’t undemocratic or “elitist,” a term that is now used so often that it’s become meaningless. It’s an act of generosity—you’re sharing what you love and what has inspired you. (The best streaming platforms, such as the Criterion Channel and MUBI and traditional outlets such as TCM, are based on curating—they’re actually curated.) Algorithms, by definition, are based on calculations that treat the viewer as a consumer and nothing else.
Algorithms aren’t designed to care about quality. The algorithms aren’t, as Godin says, rooting for you. They want to occupy as much mind share as possible.
That is the biggest difference between when I first started blogging and today. It used to be the case to read someone’s blog you had to actually visit their site or follow their RSS feed. It was a conscious choice, in contrast of much of what we consume today.
That is maybe the most positive aspect of the trend toward e-mail newsletters, as exemplified by Substack. You have to opt-in to someone’s newsletter and in some cases choose to pay for it. That is a feature, not a bug. That is a very different calculus on the part of both the writer and the reader. It is a permission-based transaction that values your most valuable asset: time.