Content is king, but it’s also created by the people

GutenbergOn the World Wide Web, we are a nation of creators. According to a recent report from Forrester Research, almost a quarter of Americans online are “creators,” meaning they post content — blogs or videos or podcasts or other original material.

Since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, the development of content has been in the hands of a few, not the masses. The message was controlled by the church, then the earliest newspapers, and eventually the brands who could afford not only print ads but television commercials airing on networks and later cable.

Now content, at least online, is created by the people. A large percentage of what’s out there is not the product of any particular organization or corporation, but of an individual mind. Any of us — not just the creative and the brilliant but also the paranoid and the deranged — can post content the whole world can see, or at least the part of the world that has Internet access.

What does this democratization of online media mean? It might provide us more truth and it might provide less. It might increase the exposure of raw talent, or it might just clog our computer screens with a stream of self-promoting amateurism.

The thing I love is that it creates an entrepreneurial opportunity for content. Any kid anywhere can come up with a video concept that becomes the next big thing, after it’s posted on YouTube. Some out-of-work writer can start a blog that becomes a must-read for thinking people the world over. Anyone with an idea and the fortitude to follow through can contribute to our collective oeuvre.

In the true spirit of democracy, only the content voted worthy by the most people will rise to the top. The rest will be pushed to the bottom of the Google search. In other words, the content the people think is the smartest, the funniest, the most useful and the most true, will become the content that’s easiest to find. In the grand scheme of things, that can only be good.

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