Upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to. The vast majority of articles, videos, and other “content” we all consume on a daily basis is paid for — directly or indirectly — by corporations who are funding it in order to advance their goals. And it is measured, amplified, and rewarded based on its ability to do that. Period. As a result, we get…well, what we get. And it’s getting worse.
That’s a big part of why we are making this change today.
We decided we needed to take a different — and bolder — approach to this problem. We believe people who write and share ideas should be rewarded on their ability to enlighten and inform, not simply their ability to attract a few seconds of attention. We believe there are millions of thinking people who want to deepen their understanding of the world and are dissatisfied with what they get from traditional news and their social feeds. We believe that a better system — one that serves people — is possible. In fact, it’s imperative.
The problem isn’t with the content we’re producing. Cheap content that generates lots of pageviews is not going away, no more than crappy TV is going away. We will always have the McDonalds of content. And let’s be honest, even the best of us are happy to snack on it every now and again. There’s nothing wrong with McDonalds, but when it’s the only thing I can eat, there’s a problem. Consumers want more options.
The internet is inherently horizontal, with millions of niches full of passionate communities. And yet publishers and advertisers have grafted on old models of creating destinations (be it a website or a print edition) to attract eyeballs. The most efficient way to get a lot of eyeballs is to cater toward average things with mass appeal. In almost all cases, advertisers love mass appeal, so that’s what we readers get.
Let’s imagine a reality where there aren’t any major publishers who will reasonably pay for quality stories because they’re all playing the pageview game (tough to imagine, huh?). What does that world look like? You’re out there with your Syria piece trying to make ends meet. And no, hundreds of thousands of people might not want to read it. But you know this story is important and believe that your readership is out there. You’re absolutely right. They’re out there looking for something other than McDonalds.
When you strip away the decay of old publishers and the pageview mold from the world of “content,” you are left with three essential things: the storyteller, the story, and the reader. If we’re to create a strong economic structure for journalism, it will need to be hyper-focused on the value created between those three things.
After setting up a server and WordPress yesterday, I figured it made sense to start some sort of version control so I could test and deploy changes. So while the site looks the same, my relaunch technically only lasted a day — I redid everything so I could tinker with Git.
I’ve created plenty of WordPress sites before, but I’ve never used Git – I always just deployed code to a live server. And since I don’t really know what I’m doing, I’ve bricked a few and been unable to backtrack to safety.
So to fix that, I set up a local development server and a GitHub repository. That required:
- Destroying yesterday’s server
- Creating a new server through DigitalOcean
- Set up a local server with a WordPress installation
- Creating version control for my local server with SourceTree
- Creating a GitHub repository and syncing that with SourceTree
- Pulling from GitHub to my live server
- Setting up RSA keys
- Reconfiguring Apache to a new root directory
I want to learn how to code, but every time I try, I end up getting lost in all the systems administration work. It’s sort of fun, but I can’t imagine how difficult this used to be when it all had to be done in a command line.
I definitely like relaunching this site more than maintaining it. If you don’t know me personally, that’s probably all you need to know.
For 2017, I’m trying to pare back all the social media profiles that exist out there for me. The last version of this site lived on Tumblr. And Tumblr has a nasty habit of getting hacked, so I’m back to rolling my own WordPress installation.
I briefly tried running this on Ghost, which always seems so appealing. Wordpress is so bloated, and logging in just makes me think of work. But Ghost’s theme ecosystem was pretty scant, and they’re barely updating the Ghost blog. WordPress, for all its flaws, still feels relatively future-proof.
I have so many abandoned themes lying around that I can’t convince myself its a good idea to get a new one for this. So I’m giving the WordPress default one a try for a while. Maybe I’ll customize it over time.
And maybe I’ll write this year. Maybe I’ll post more photos, and tell some stories about them. Maybe I’ll get into video, and this will become a rolling log of different experiments.
Or maybe this post will lay here, unread and alone, as a testament to a brief burst of interest before it’s flushed in the next redesign.
Who can say? Here’s to 2017.