A friend of mine has this fantastic online business idea. When he was explaining how he was going to grow it, he said something that hit me after we got off the phone:
“I’ll just hire some writers to churn out some content for $150.”
Listen, my inner Robber Baron gets it. It’s a commodity. You get the cheapest price for the cost of goods and then your margins are better. I understand the logic.
But it’s the wrong numbers.
It’s also the wrong logic.
Firstly, writing is not a commodity. Steel is a commodity. So are plastic and rubber and wood and seeds. Writing is not a commodity.
It’s a skill.
When people say we’ve commoditized writing, they’re missing the bigger picture. That’s not what you commoditized.
What we’ve commoditized is attention. It’s YOU.
When you read something that fills you with anger or rage, something that offers a simple solution, something oversimplified, lazy, or “perfectly copywritten” – YOU are the product. You are the commodity.
Not the writing. Because we all know that’s not writing.
And noise produces diseconomies of scale. Ok, that’s not entirely accurate, noise can create the conditions that could cause diseconomies of scale. Five of you are actually interested in this argument and the rest of you are bored, so let’s skip to here:
Remember why McDonald’s doesn’t serve shrimp in the U.S.? Because it would deplete the nation’s shrimp supply, driving the cost of shrimp up, aka: diseconomies of scale. For online businesses, there’s an argument that more noise means inputs will cost more. Aka: Bad stuff will stop working and you’ll need to actually spend money on quality (to get through the noise), which would be a BIG problem for your bottom line.
So, that will be a problem for you at some point. But let’s go even bigger.
The cost to society.
Commoditizing attention makes us stressed, outraged, and lazy. It costs us in productivity, health care, quality of life, marriage, mental health….the list is endless.
When you don’t respect the attention economy you’re leading to the corruption of it.
You care about free speech. You care about your children. You care about the world.
Stop putting out lazy content for a click. (And we should stop accepting that as the norm.) Stop watching entertainment disguised as news. Stop putting stuff on Instagram that is dishonest.
Stop hiding behind, “it’s just business.” That’s not business. That’s lazy.
If you have ideas to get out into the world, take the time.
Build the skill.
Learn how to take an idea that lives in your head and communicate it on paper. Learn how to make an argument in a logical, cohesive manner (with no holes – learn to seek out the holes, that’s a skill too). Learn how to use pacing and tone and narrative structure and story arcs.
Build the skill.
If you want to maximize traffic for an online business reliant on ads for income, then call it something else.
Because that’s not writing.
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We’re a 21-day blend of coaching, accountability, and peer support that’s 100% virtual. We use email, Slack, and Zoom to help you build your writing habit and get back to working on the things you WANT to work on.
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