So next month, I'm talking to college students out in LA (as mentioned ... I'm repeating this because everything I'm posting between now and then will tie into that presentation.)
The tricky thing with the "How To Be (Internet) Famous" presentation is that a lot of people have trouble accepting the reality of distribution on the Internet.
So before we get there, we have to establish a few things first.
You see, content is bullshit.
And I don't mean in the way social media is bullshit. Social media was / is bullshit in the sense that the tools all work and do great things. We just allowed a bunch of assholes to take those tools, make up a bunch of shit about them (which still happens to this day), and then cash in on that misinformation. The platforms themselves are fine, depending on what you're going to use them for.
"Content" is bullshit in a different way. Because now we're talking about this huge cognitive leap that everyone is making to justify the creation of it.
A few of those leaps are as follows:
1. You need to be producing content to create "Brand loyalty"
This is controversial, but I don't think there's such a thing as brand loyalty (in most cases). That means the idea behind creating content to generate that is BS.
You see this in comic books all the time. You might really like Jason Aaron's work on Thor, because it's fucking excellent, but he's not going to write Thor forever. And when he goes on to write another book, sales for Thor will drop dramatically. That's because the readers are not loyal to the Thor comic. Almost every comic book character over the past 75+ years has experienced this if they had a monthly title. A great writer comes on, they buy the book. The writer (or artist) leaves, the book declines. Dan Slott on She Hulk is a great example too. Dan Slott's She Hulk was great, but then he left and it fell off a cliff.
It used to be, before we had the Internet, you could say you're a Marvel girl or a DC girl, but now with all this information out there, that has gone (almost) completely out the window. Now you buy good comics, regardless of who puts them out. I'm convinced Image Comics does as well as it does entirely because of the Internet. Because they don't have the reach or media impressions Marvel and DC does, but their sales are excellent because people know a lot of their books are excellent. You see, the secret here is ... Image doesn't have any more brand loyalty than Marvel or DC. The customers are just smarter and better informed about their buying options.
("Revival", by the way, is a GREAT Image comic book. Go read it. Go go go.)
So this idea that you're going to put out "great content" in order to create "brand loyalty" is a flat out lie. You MIGHT get people's attention for a while, but it won't last. And even then, good luck getting people's attention. (See below.)
Now do the writer's have brand loyalty? Maybe! But you see, because we're now talking about another human, and not an intangible "thing" like a brand, things are different. There's scarcity (there's only one Jason Aaron), you can't discount him in some way (I can buy a better, less expensive Jason Aaron Thor story over at this other place ...), and we're biologically hardwired to respond to other people. They make us feel things.
Yes, advertisers and marketers will claim they can make you feel things to, but when you're eating at McDonald's, and you're "loving it", you're not "loving it" the way you'd love another person.
(That last point could probably be argued by people who really fucking love cheeseburgers ...)
2. Nobody has time for your shit
Ok. Look, you may produced THE GREATEST THING OF OUR TIME. I don't fucking know, because I don't have enough time in the day to experience the GREATEST THING OF OUR TIME.
And that's bad news for everyone if you're looking to "make it" using the Internet. It's also incredibly bad news for brands and others who are churning out content like crazy.
Here's something that's kind of funny to me: We've always been busy. Always. People get up, they work, they do other shit, eat, and then go to bed. Somewhere in there, they check their phone, text their friends, maybe go on Facebook for a bit.
The amount of time ANYONE has. ANYONE, not just the little guy but the big guy too, to grab someone's attention is VERY SMALL.
And that's how it was before everyone (seemingly anyway) had a smart phone. So now it's just way worse.
Yet everyone who extolls the virtues of content is constantly telling you things like "if you build it, they will come" and "make great content people love and that is going to be the thing that wins them over", all with the assumption that people have the time for your content in the first place.
They totally don't.
That's not to say don't do anything (something I'll get to in a few days), but this idea of creating content for an audience of people just starving for it is insane to me.
You're better off limiting your production to just what you need to make Google happy (despite the hype of social media, SEO still matters) and maybe not much more.
Also something I'll get back to. The point here is something I've said before many times: Content for content's sake is stupid.
3. You Have Something Interesting To Say
Ok. I'm going to sound like an asshole here. I apologize in advance. But there's this weird cognitive leap where people think they have something interesting to say, and so that leads to a ton of content being produced by them.
To be absolutely clear: If you write, then you write. That's your thing. It's cool. Hey I do it. This blog has no real reason to exist anymore, but I keep it around. So I'm not talking about doing creative things because it makes you happy. You should do whatever makes you happy (as long as it doesn't harm someone else.)
Cool? Everyone good on that?
What you shouldn't do is assume you have something interesting to say.
One of the things I've noticed over the past twenty years or so as an avid Internet user (note: Capital I, I'm referring to Internet culture. Lowercase i means internet as in the technical infrastructure that connects us) is that everyone has started to talk in the same voice.
It's this weird, "Ha ha! We're friends. Everything is cool. I like the things you like. Unless suddenly you don't like that thing. Now I hate it too. Let's make fun of it together! YOLO! But I'm saying YOLO ironically, just like you!"
You can go scrolling through the archives of any major web-media (in other words, a media outlet that doesn't have a traditional media component) that has been around for a while. And it's not just the web-media, you see it played out in most communication channels people like to use as well.
So what happens is people set out to create X, whatever X is, and when they're producing content around it, they're using that same weird faux friendly Internet voice.
Which completely makes them uninteresting. (Most of the time. Any time I say something that seems like a hard, declarative statement, you can mentally add "Most of the time" after it.)
This means a lot of content just sounds dull and exactly the same. Nothing stands out. You hear people complain and go, "Man there's so much noise!" That's similar to "Not enough time", except not enough time is legit as an excuse. "So much noise!" is not.
Don't assume you have anything interesting to say. I sure as fuck don't. And that should be taken as a challenge to you, not the final word on the matter. I'm pushing you and saying, "Not interesting". Your response should be "I'm going to show that guy what a dick he is!"
Because if you can do that, and make something truly unique and interesting, that doesn't require a lot of time to consume, and has no expectation of "building a brand" ... then you might have a shot at something more.
Maybe. But you need to know this stuff. Because if your thing, whatever X is, is not what I just said, then the lack of distribution or the inability to get honest to god distribution on the Internet isn't going to matter.
So think about that.