Personal Publishing

Clay Shirky on being paid for weblogging…

Clay Shirky on Weblogs and the Mass Amateurization of Publishing: “This destruction of value is what makes weblogs so important. We want a world where global publishing is effortless. We want a world where you don’t have to ask for help or permission to write out loud. However, when we get that world we face the paradox of oxygen and gold. Oxygen is more vital to human life than gold, but because air is abundant, oxygen is free. Weblogs make writing as abundant as air, with the same effect on price. Prior to the web, people paid for most of the words they read. Now, for a large and growing number of us, most of the words we read cost us nothing.”

Key-point summary (all of which I agree with) for those without the intellectual stamina to read a short article on the web:

  • For the vast majority of us, writing a weblog will not make us money.
  • Other distributive media products cost money to produce.
  • Because they cost money, they have to be sold for money.
  • Hence books compete on the bases of quality and cost, demand and supply.
  • With no cost to produce and with instantaneous, skill-less publishing, there is no scarcity – in fact there would be almost infinite competition – and hence no easy way to make money out of them.
  • Individual donations (tips) based on perceived value (or affiliate deals) may make a limited amount of money… but…
  • It’s not going to pay your bills, and while we’re at it, why the hell would you want to anyway?

There’s only one line I don’t agree with – “the people who have profited most from weblogs are the people who’ve written books about weblogging”. In fact I suspect these people have made almost no money at all, unless they’ve been added to University book-lists. More likely, the people who’ve made money are freelance web-savvy journalists publishing for mainstream press…