Monday, August 22, 2011

More on the vanishing business of writing

Andrew Gelman has a good response to Jonathan Rauch's anti-blogging blog post but I think this section deserves extra comment:

Pace Alex, the average quality of newspapers and (published) novels is far, far better than the average quality of blog posts (and—ugh!—comments). This is because people pay for newspapers and novels. What distinguishes newspapers and novels is how much does not get published in them, because people won't pay for it. Payment is a filter, and a pretty good one. Imperfect, of course. But pointing out the defects of the old model is merely changing the subject if the new model is worse.
You'll notice that he said novels and not short stories. The business model that allowed people to make a living selling short fiction (something people used to do in this country) has been dead for decades, long before the arrival of online content. Rates for freelancers have been flat for almost as long. For the past fifty years it has gotten increasingly difficult to make a living as a writer.

These are worrisome trends -- I suspect it will take a few more decades to realize just how much the loss of the creative middle class has cost us -- but you can't blame this one on the internet.

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