This week my work hosted a conference specifically addressing technological issues in the book industry. It was a fantastic forum for harvesting ideas and, I believe, if publishers were open-minded and fore-thinking enough to look at some of the panelists’ presentations in metaphorical terms, could stimulate some interesting new directions for marketing the creation of content and the promotion and dissemination of digital publications.
As the end of the day approached, my perspective began to sharpen. I’d previously held the idea that illegal digital distribution, piracy, would in the end ensure that the content output into the market, the stuff that actually receives funding to become a full-fledged film or novel or television program, would increase in quality until the only content being produced professionally and distributed to the masses legally, would be stuff you’d want to pay for, because it would be that stimulating, that beautiful, that thought-provoking.
Instead, since piracy began, I’ve seen only a decline in quality in popular culture goods – yet an increase in quality in more underground content. I can’t say if it’s always been like that or not; I’ve only really been fully aware of mass-produced and distributed content versus independent content for the past five to ten years or so anyway, and I like to think my tastes are constantly improving. I might just be expositing the usual nostalgia for the a better, fictitious past.
I think I can say, though, that the frequency of really exceptional films being brought to market is far, far lower than it was even five years ago. It’s becoming increasingly more rare for me to be impressed by a popular film. I would argue that it’s true – that piracy is actually reducing the quality of content being produced for the masses, therefore aiding in the lowering of our collective IQs.
When I thought that piracy would ensure that only the best things get funded, instead in reality what appears to be happening is that only the worst, cheapest projects get funding, as if the content creation industries are casting a wider, more cheaply made net to capture a larger audience – who cares if the net rips in various places and many fish fall through? Overall, because the net is covering a much larger area, the parts that aren’t ripped will capture more fish.
So, if your goal is to sell as many copies as possible, then they’re probably doing a good job. If you want to fulfill the consumers of your content, and ensure their return time and time again, then the content creators are failing miserably.
Why don’t the people in charge of content creation want to take more risks? Why are there so few who would prefer to put out one heavily funded, well-produced, inspiring and intellectual product a year that did even just well enough to break even, than to put out fifty mediocre, formulaic, stereotypically conserving the status quo films a year that make me rich. Which category’s going to be remembered? Which category’s going to contribute to culture? Which category is likely to be shown time and time again to people with a certain underlying value structure?
This is not really a new debate, I suppose. It was just struck me how wrong I was about my assumption. Funding is not going to better quality content. The people producing quality are still doing so; but it’s remaining independent. Only passion can and will always be the driver of magnificent content. Not money.
What the lack of money being put back into the content creators’ industries seems to be doing is ensuring lower-quality content, in greater amounts, is pushed out to popular culture. That’s just too bad.