The Decline of Content

Among the shrinking daily newspapers, the troubled major record labels, and the loss of momentum of the Web, the common thread is the decline of content. And economic forces may be the cause.

Newspapers have long been mostly written by amateurs and near-amateurs, freelance writers who often receive no more than a token payment for a feature story. But in a period of high employment rates, skilled writers are more busy and may not have time to write stories for newspapers. This is a main reason why newspapers have so few stories, and why the stories that are there are so often lacking in any real substance.

Similarly, major record labels are having a difficult time recruiting talented musicians to be recording artists. It has always been the case that the average recording artist makes little or no money from a record deal, and that is an especially difficult proposition to sell to musicians who already have day jobs where they make real money.

A recent magazine article described how web designers often buy the content that fills up web sites from libraries that exist for that purpose. This happens after businesses budget large sums for web design, but nothing for content. They then ask the web designers to supply the content for the web site, and the resulting content often has no particular relevance or substance. The web pages look good but have nothing original to say — largely defeating the purpose of having a web site.

Those who doubt the importance of content — and it’s clear that it has, too often, been lost in the shuffle — need only look at the way the declining content of newspapers has been followed by declining sales, or the measures of how many seconds web users spend at a web site that does not have the information they are seeking. Content is the reason all these media have value in the first place, and if the content declines, the interest must also decline sooner or later.

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