Stop worrying about the economics behind the future of content, and focus instead on creating meaningful works, speakers said Saturday at Content Camp + PodCamp Philly.
“In a world of total uncertainty, you might as well do the thing that you’re going to feel good about,” NPR writer Linda Holmes advised in a keynote speech at the content and podcasting “unconference,” held at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Holmes writes the NPR entertainment blog, Monkey See, and hosts the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast.
“Writing might be obsolete,” she said. “I don’t know. But I feel really good about what I’m doing right now.”
Focusing only on economic considerations isn’t good for anyone, she said. The better question is, “What kind of world do I want to live in?”
Holmes said it’s often frustrating to learn what kind of content gets the most attention from readers. She voiced disappointment in the level of web traffic received for a series of articles on the state of television, which she spent weeks writing.
“That 11-part series … got about one-fourth the traffic of a post that I wrote in January — that I spent about 20 minutes on — about my favorite parts of the trailer of the Jennifer Lopez movie, Boy Next Door.”
Despair is one way to respond to such a situation, she said. “Why write anything?”
“But the other way is to say, why am I assuming that my measure of success is to have something chortled at passively by the largest possible number of people? That is an economic imperative. That is not a creative imperative.”
She added that she learned from the experience to spend more time upfront finding ways to attract eyes to in-depth pieces like the state-of-TV series. “I would have done a better job of collaborating with people at NPR to promote it and frame it so that more people might see it,” she said.
— Amanda (Clark) Renzulli (@CaptnPollyanna) September 20, 2015
Finding a huge mainstream audience is no longer a prerequisite to creating films and other content that previously required a large investment, said David Dylan Thomas, a local filmmaker who organized Content Camp. Thomas directed Developing Philly, a web series about the rise of the Philadelphia innovation community. Thomas released a pilot for a second web series in February.
Reduced production and distribution costs mean creators do not need to seek funding from film studios and other gatekeepers who are often conservative about what they will produce. This can increase the diversity of voices telling stories, he said.
Through YouTube and other online platforms, artists can directly sell to and interact with their audience—cutting out traditional studios and publishers. Meanwhile, technological advances in the tools for creation have made it easier and cheaper to create professional content. For example, filmmakers can buy an Apple iPad for less than $500 to shoot and edit a feature-length movie, he said.
“I don’t have to go out and buy a camera. I don’t have to go out and buy an editing suite,” Thomas said. “I can make a movie with stuff lying around my house.”
For the entrepreneurial-minded creator, this can be a powerful freedom, he said.
“We are now in the MacGyver age of content creation.”