Friday, July 27, 2012

The End of Writers?

This article claims that writing is set to disappear as a profession, because there's so much free content available online.

I'm skeptical. Yes, the Internet is changing writing in general, and journalism specifically, in huge ways.

But while lots of people want to write, not everybody can do it well. In fact, most people don't do it very well, from what I can tell as a lifelong avid reader. And I think the public will always be willing to pay something for the best writing, no matter how much free dreck is available out there.

Consider this: There are likely millions of recipes and food tips available for free online. I quit buying cookbooks and used Google recipe for a while, but I was never very happy with my results.

Then, earlier this year, I found Cook's Illustrated. For a modest annual fee, I get unlimited access to quality, tested recipes, detailed product comparisons and instructional videos. It's fantastic and I'm happy to pay for it.

I think that's where writing is going, as readers claw their way through lots of free material of varying quality and decide to continue paying for their favorite stuff.

What do you think?


  1. I don't have much to add. There've been all sorts of dire predictions but it's really just change. The publishing industry is changing, and people who have been working in its traditional trenches for a long time are scared because they don't see how it's going to work out for them. It's the wild west out there.

    I think it's a good thing. The means of distribution are now in the hands of the people, and we have more choices. That doesn't mean nobody's going to get paid. It only means that, at least for a while, we don't know how it's all going to work out. But people are still willing to pay for good writing, or at least good stories. Work that incorporates both is solid gold.

  2. Such a huge topic. I think the way things are today, from a news standpoint, people are getting a very narrow view of events because so many visit only those sites with opinions that match their own, and hear about the world through this single filtered lens. Which, I think, has led to the incredible political polarization we see today.

    On the plus side, inexpensive access to Cook's Illustrated? I'm there.

  3. The polarization of society and the bifurcation of news have certainly arisen in tandem, haven't they?

    Yeah the CI was about $35 for a year and you get a weekly enewsletter that is really good, too.

  4. I bought a year's subscription to Cook's Illustrated for a recipe of tender thick pan-seared pork chops. I rarely used the site after that, quibbling with some of their perspectives, making the pork chops THE most expensive recipe I've ever bought. Worth it, still.

  5. I really like the CI site and look forward to their weekly email newsletter. I've found some terrific recipes there and I particularly like their product comparisons/reviews. In fact, I was never particularly brand-loyal, but I've started buying several brands (pasta, yogurt, coffee) based on their rankings and am very glad I did.

  6. They do all sorts of scientific analysis of the products they test- which is really kind of interesting to read - and they also take into account taste and price.

    They recommend De Cecco pasta because the type of semolina they use retains a nice bite when cooked. And they recommend Maxwell House coffee, over Starbucks and other newer brands believe it or not. My mother-in-law was here a couple weeks ago and she complimented me on what great coffee I served - that's a first! ;-)
    (They should put me in a commercial, right?)