Dissemination of the written word can benefit from an expanded supply of online gatekeepers in the same ways that music and painting can, and more.
Writing is a product whose value depends almost entirely on standards and tastes. But who is there to reasonably assess the vast quantity of material that is being produced? Paper-based publishers are completely overwhelmed. Some have attempted to offload their pre-screening functions to agents, but all this has ultimately done is overwhelm the agents.
Online publishing via the Internet has attracted many writers as a possible way around the paper publishing bottleneck. Unfortunately, they tend to discover rather quickly that just making their work available to the public is of little benefit to anybody, if they can't connect with people who want the kind of thing they’ve written.
On today’s Internet, the material most likely to be found isn’t necessary what anybody wants most wants to see.
Even material whose appeal has been proven beyond any shadow of a doubt tends to get lost. For example, in one test, searches by subject matter were attempted for the lead articles in the online editions of America’s 10 highest-circulation magazines. Not one of these articles showed up within the first 50 search results for its category.
If material whose appeal is already widespread cannot be found online, what hope is there for material from sources not much of anybody has heard of?
If we want to make the Internet truly viable as an open publishing medium, we need to increase the online supply of people who are skilled at matching content to tastes.
As with music and the visual arts, the best way to do so is via independent taste mavens who post their recommendations online, and are compensated each time a user chooses content based on these recommendations.
Once there are enough gatekeepers to evaluate what’s being written, readers will be able to find a wealth of new material better suited to their own individual tastes. Many more writers, meanwhile, will finally be able to reach their natural audiences.
Such an environment will not only enrich the supply of writing available to the public, it will also enable the written word to play new roles.