"Everyone who writes original content online needs to get a day job."
June 14, 2001 3:40 PM   Subscribe

"Everyone who writes original content online needs to get a day job." John Scalzi argues that this is the most likely way that we're going to see quality online content survive as for-profit ventures like Suck continue to crash down around us. He points to cool stuff a lot of us are already familiar with (Lileks and glenn macdonald's The War Against Silence) and some sites I hadn't heard of until now (Rick McGinnis' The Diary Thing). Scalzi practices what he preaches: he doesn't post every day -- hey, he's a professional writer and keeping his family fed comes first -- but what he does post is choice. (Probable future URL for today's article is here).
posted by maudlin (20 comments total)
I *heart* TWAS
posted by corpse at 3:46 PM on June 14, 2001

Yeah, that's the answer - all those goddamned slacker creative types need to go get "Real Jobs".
posted by kristin at 3:49 PM on June 14, 2001

Well, no. But for right now it may be the way to go. I'd like to sit and write for the web all day long, but does it pay the bills? No. Something to tide you over until the web is ready for prime time....
posted by owillis at 3:59 PM on June 14, 2001

The article is, on balance, fairly well-written but really doesn't say anything new.

I wrote a reply here, but it was ridiculously long, so I'd like you to read it here instead.
posted by hijinx at 4:11 PM on June 14, 2001

Hasn't it always been the case? I've got a thesis that's about 20 pages from completion, and there are lots of interesting new media projects that I'm working-on; but in the meantime, I knock out reviews and features for dead-tree publications which are intellectually and stylistically puddle-deep, but provide a monthly cheque. (And after all, Suck itself was created in Carl and Joey's after-hours at Wired, aided by the T3 and the fact that they basically lived in the office.)

I suppose there's a sense of injustice when you think of the contribution made by FEED and Suck, and read posts on Slashdot like this one:

Suck was cool b/c they said the stuff you were thinking in a way you might say it. /. lets you do the talking.

Um, no you didn't: it was because /. was picked up during the season of VC insanity, and because there's enough money in the bank, (and possibly enough page churn to keep the banner stuff ticking over, though I doubt it.) There's nothing wrong with sites "that let you do the talking" (heh) but it's not the goose that laid the golden egg. And it'll be interesting to see what happens when the VA Linux money runs out...

But making money was always going to be more luck than judgement.
posted by holgate at 4:31 PM on June 14, 2001

While Scalzi makes some fine points, he misses entirely the point of my site. It's just an excuse to play around with fonts. I find a new font I like, I come up with a reason to use it. God help me if I ever give in and download one of those sexydingbat.zip files that have been tempting me for years.
posted by lileks at 6:06 PM on June 14, 2001

You should have been a lawyer in the mid-80s. My solicitor mate was showing me paperwork from back then, when the first WYSIWYG word-processors hit the office, and the typographical atrocities committed in the name of technological innovation... well, it'd make a good section on lileks.com.
posted by holgate at 6:18 PM on June 14, 2001

Yes...unfortunately how to make $$$ on content is an old dilemma. (as well as how to make ends meet on sites that are created for love and not money). It has just started to hit the mainstream now, so more people are taking notice.
posted by webchick at 6:40 PM on June 14, 2001

Damn...old dilemma. (bad link).

Sorry...you'll notice I do that from time-to-time. I'm a new parent, and learning how to do things one-handed. :-)
posted by webchick at 6:48 PM on June 14, 2001

Retro was way ahead of its time.
posted by crunchland at 7:08 PM on June 14, 2001

I also heart TWAS but I wonder whether anyone has told Glenn about this favourable Metafilter treatment?
posted by davidgentle at 7:41 PM on June 14, 2001

it used to be people spent four years getting a liberal arts degree that mixed some generally oddball skills like geology or art or whatever in with the ability to write and a higher level of cultural awareness. you paid money for this with your parent's help usually, and spent most of your time goofing off and finding yourself, networking / finding your soulmate, etc.. well, colleges just don't cut it anymore: you need, instead, to go online to do these things, as soon as possible, and spend your entire 20s not making any sort of a living except pin money as a bartender.

i'm serious. it's a good system.
posted by mitchel at 7:50 PM on June 14, 2001

Hey - for what it's worth, you Can pay the bills by sitting and writing for the web all day long. You just need to be insanely fortunate.
posted by Perigee at 9:25 PM on June 14, 2001

That's what you get for taking a medium designed by geeks and scientists to pass notes and nuclear launch codes and trying to make it into a magazine rack.

posted by fooljay at 9:44 PM on June 14, 2001

Hold on, so this guy is positing that if you can't make money doing content on the web.. you have to make money in some other way? This is all so new and confusing!
posted by beefula at 8:10 AM on June 15, 2001

There goes that crazy salsa-dancing (I have the videotape) Scalzi, making outrageously true claims that only common sense can back up. How dare he?
posted by Dreama at 9:23 AM on June 15, 2001

One good point he alludes to is the fact that many of the folks doing web journalism, or a combination of web/print journalism, are simply producing too much.

The kind of "democratization" (scare quotes required) that the web/blogging has brought to publishing is powerful, no doubt. However, many of these writers are spinning out an absurd amount of mediocre garbage...
posted by preguicoso at 11:07 AM on June 15, 2001

Well, I'm not sure that can be avoided, pregusicoso; after all, the net is pretty much an author's Karaoke bar. Some folks out here are burning the house down, some others are flickering with a tea lamp. I'm not all that sure that trying to fine-tune the quality of online content would be possible - a moderated internet? I'm not prepared to be read, judged, edited or axed by someone who Isn't paying me for the content I produce.

Producing too much? Yeah - possibly. I know I'll be spinning off a 300- 400 page product in September for a two-month run, and that's probably excessive. A little. Maybe. But in the end the only excessive page is the one written and not read. And the strange thing is, they are never the pages you think they're going to be. So, I prefer to offer a full spectrum feast and let people take what they want from the spread.
posted by Perigee at 1:17 PM on June 15, 2001

and the typographical atrocities committed in the name of technological innovation...

Back before Windows started becoming prevalent, several academic types attempted to "prove" that PCs were superior to Macs for writing, because Mac users were too tempted to play with the machine's typography and paleolithic page design features, while PC users, with their single VT100-style monospaced green-text-on-black-screen word processors, continued to focus 100% on the words, just like the Good Old Days of typewriters.

Naturally, the debate quickly died as Windows caught on. But I have to admit that the last time I got a chance to using Appleworks on an old Apple IIe a couple years ago, I too found myself seeming to be more focused than when I was on a Mac. It would be nice to see someone try such a study today.
posted by aaron at 1:18 PM on June 15, 2001

Yawn. Two words for Mr. Scalzi. Fuck off!

I don't have a family to feed. That was a choice I made.
posted by dr. zoidberg at 10:56 AM on June 18, 2001

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