A few weeks ago Ben Elowitz, co-founder and CEO of Wetpaint, a platform for social websites, addressed the issue of quality in published content in two parts. First he went through the checklist of what traditionally made content great: credential, correctness, objectivity and craftsmanship and dismantled each one of them.
Some of his points are valid: that to publish no longer requires a printing press, ink and rolls of newspaper. All you need is a computer, an internet connection a platform from which to broadcast and well, a lot of free time.
His prosecution of traditional publishing values is not always convincing, however, citing that because audiences rely on many different new sources for their content, they "don't care where the content comes from as long as it meets their needs.” But even blogs, though there are millions of them, still carry credentials and readers can quickly separate good from the not-so-good.
4 Rules for Quality
In his second article, he offered up four new rules of quality that publishers “must obey to flourish” and then defined them. The new rules include
- Make experiences, not content
- Point of view
All of these aim, he says to establish a code for the new generation of publishing. Elowitz writes:
In the era of Publishing 1.0, when production costs were high, alternatives low and time ample, the editor deemed something quality or not. But today, content isn’t scarce at all—in fact, it is in oversupply. And it is the audience that judges quality directly, dozens of times per day.
While these “new” rules make sense, we’d like to think that they have been governing content production and publishing for some time. Even those churning out the print dailies are concerned with offering up varying points of view, yet need to carefully balance them with actual facts. Otherwise it’s like getting all your news from CNN iReport or YouTube.
Past Publishing 2.0
Elowitz is courageous for redefining the publishing industry’s quality of content. But we’re way beyond Publishing 2.0. With the popularity of tablets and e-Readers, publishing has already moved passed what we now consider to be traditional media of blogs and user generated content. Interestingly, what we don’t see mention of in Elowitz’s new rules is money.
He cites examples of Failblog and ICanHasCheezburger and marvels in their page views. But publishing doesn’t need page views, it needs revenue. And while many of these new rules may help make publishing content new again, it fails to address the real issues facing the publishing industry: pay walls, advertising and investments necessary to keep publishing flourishing into the future.