The Last Podcast Opinionated Web 2.0 News and Commentary


27 April 2008 @ 8pm


Do Most People Even Really Want to Produce ‘Content’?

Clay Sharky’s (how is that for a great name!) article/talk on Cognitive Surplus and Web 2.0 is definitely a very good read, but it also made me think about the following paragraphs:

This is something that people in the media world don’t understand. Media in the 20th century was run as a single race–consumption. How much can we produce? How much can you consume? Can we produce more and you’ll consume more? And the answer to that question has generally been yes. But media is actually a triathlon, it’s three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share.

And what’s astonished people who were committed to the structure of the previous society, prior to trying to take this surplus and do something interesting, is that they’re discovering that when you offer people the opportunity to produce and to share, they’ll take you up on that offer. It doesn’t mean that we’ll never sit around mindlessly watching Scrubs on the couch. It just means we’ll do it less.

I’m fully with him on the ‘consume and share’ part, but I am simply not sure that most people really want to also produce – at least if producing means more than posting pictures up on a flickr account.

I think there is only a very small part of any given population that isn’t just happy to just consume and really wants to produce — bloggers and podcasters are clearly part of that. Most people are perfectly happy to burn up their cognitive cycles with reading and watching content without feeling the need to respond. For the time being, at least, I don’t think that is really changing – especially outside of the blogosphere echo chamber.

I can see where he is coming from here in a grand historical framework where the industrial revolution freed up cognitive surplus etc., but it seems to me that this is a different situation.

When I posted about this story in FriendFeed, Seek Ground wrote the following: 

Is this part of the new digital divide? What are the short and long term impacts to opportunity?

I think he has a point there – but there always was a divide between those who produce and those who consume.

The difference today is that there is nobody stopping anybody from producing (unless you want to go all Marxist on me and say that the class system is suppressing those in the ‘lower classes’ and keeping them from having equal access). Sure, there will be more people producing ‘content’ in one form or another, but I don’t think this is a mass movement. The large mass of people is perfectly happy consuming. And maybe there is nothing wrong with that either.