The Web Has Peaked and No One Wants to Read Your Tweets

The Internet promised to be a haven for creativity, but now the feel is same as it ever was

You’re gonna pay in the future.

There was a piece in the New York Times recently lamenting the write-for-free mentality of the Internet. The truth is there are two classes — those who get paid and those who don’t. And those who do would never work for free; they’re professionals.

I’m not saying people won’t give away their wares for free online in the future, I’m just saying this whining that you can’t make any money, that everyone expects everything to be free online … those days are just about through. Sure, you can read posts for free on Facebook and Twitter, but those sites were built on the public’s back. And they’ve peaked too.

How do I know?

I didn’t post a photo last night because I knew nobody was interested. At least not enough for me to make the effort.

You see the Net has been built on “cool.” It’s been about the new new thing. But now we’ve got winners and losers, and the chances of going from the underclass to the ruling class online are about similar to those doing the same thing in real life — essentially nil. Yes, the American Dream is dying online too. A few people make it through, but it’s like winning the lottery: The odds are low.

Prior to the Internet, did you sit at home watching television saying, “I CAN DO THAT?”

Maybe, but you rarely took action. Videocams have been around since the late ’70s, and they were cheap in the ’80s . Was MTV inundated with homemade tapes? Of course not, especially when videos became slick, expensive productions in the late -’80s and ’90s .

We’ve been sold a fiction. That the Internet has leveled the playing field. That all are welcome and respected. Hell, you can’t even get people to read your tweets; what makes you think you can get them to watch your YouTube clips?

Sharing has peaked. At least your own personal stuff. Sharing will be limited to sending along what has already broken through. Because no one has the interest or time for the wannabe.

So we’re returning to the old era. Just when you believed we were on the cusp of a new.

There’s no tech breakthrough on the horizon, no new Website paradigm. We’ve already got mobile phones, maybe we’ll get watches. As for Google Glass and other wearable computers, other than specific items like Fitbits/trackers, that help us individually, they’re niche, because they don’t do something we want them to.

As for paying … For all the hoopla over piracy, unless you’re HBO making your shows unavailable without a cable subscription, it’s no longer an issue. Ten percent of the people will never pay. The rest crumble to convenience. Kids don’t bother to steal music anymore; they just go to YouTube, where the artists do get paid.

The Wall Street Journal is behind a paywall. The New York Times has got a soft paywall. They no longer care about dominance; they want to survive. There are micropayments on iTunes. Figure out a universal payment system that’s friction-free, and suddenly you’re paying for everything.

That’s the online trend. Not freemium, not give it away and hope to make it up on the road, but raw payment. And it might not be much now, but it’ll grow. It might not be what it once was, but what will be what it once was is the culture of winners and losers.

The Internet has been taken over by the Man .

And that includes everybody who went to Silicon Valley to get rich. As for Google saying to do no harm, they’re gonna use your identity in ads without permission, unless you’re sharp enough to opt out.

Apple was never free. Sure, its OS is now free, but only if you own an expensive computer. The company’s goal is to lock you into their system.

So we’re giving you your life back. Same as it ever was. Just you and your family and buddies; no one else is interested.

Read more Bob Lefsetz columns at Lefsetz.com.

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  1. David Pratt says:

    The first spoonful of ice cream tastes best. Now that the “stream” on social media has become a flood, it makes sense that we fall back on the old models of big media content to filter what we consume to just the tasty bits. Do amateurs still have a chance of breaking through? It helps to have passion and expertise in something. It helps to create something of value–like an evergreen blog post that adds a lot of value and earns shares and links. But that takes time. It takes effort. It helps to keep it short, as Mark Twain wrote, if I had more time this would be shorter, and I today he might have added and have better production values.

  2. Finally, everything that can be invented has been invented. Whoever said that 75 years ago was just 75 years early.

  3. I think this is short-sighted and narrow thinking. Didn’t even mention mobile. Half the world accesses the web via mobile. Plus, all growth spurts have pauses… plateaus… to settle and re-form the next phase. And, the future is about (self-organizing) INTEGRATION of all platforms in an aggregate communications/entertainment/education system.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with Lefsetz here. Still not following him on Twitter, though.

  5. DOLLFACE says:

    The funny thing is critics will always be JUST critics…those that judge and tear down (not the entrepreneur, the creator, the risk taker). The heaviness and negativity of this cynical/judgemental piece makes me want to rinse my brain out. I can’t believe this shit was in Variety, the magazine which covers the great land of show business, where dreamers take great risks every day to entertain and make a fortune. Social media is another way to share. Passé or not, it will still evolve and integrate.

  6. Brad says:

    Is this a satire? “Sharing has peaked?” “There is no breakthrough tech on the horizon?” This is so devoid of analysis and thoughtfulness that he is actually making a rather compelling argument that a good part of “professional” writing is worth less than zero. I want my 5 minutes back.

  7. R. Paul Dhillon says:

    Right on man! It’s reached saturation and has become like your car! You were really excited when you got it as it represented limitless possibilities but now it’s nothing more than utilitarian!!!

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