The Web began as a level playing field, where companies of any size and individuals of any background could create and share their creative works, services, and products. We live in a world where we can be a citizen reporter on Twitter or Facebook, promote our art on YouTube and Etsy, and create computing services and applications with nothing more than laptops and a credit card.
Initially, the Web was free, but it didn’t take long to be commercialized, with the advertising model winning out big time. The success of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube is directly related to extracting user data, mixing it with other data sets, slicing and dicing it, and then selling that data to their real customers. Their customers are advertising companies that use this data to purchase highly-targeted ads to us, the users. In the last few years, privacy concerns related to the vast amounts of data users provide in exchange for free digital services have come under scrutiny.
Opinion: babies are startups
I believe that user data monetization contributes to the gig economy, the side hustle, and the influencer and creator phenomenon.
If you create something, you should own it, and if others gain value from it, you should be rewarded for your effort. If you make a thing and choose to open source it or release it under the Creative Commons, you should still be rewarded for your work. In the first instance, I am hinting at direct financial gain. In the second case, I am referring to intangibles (recognition, credibility, opportunities).
During the first years of our life, we explore, experiment, and create. Every baby is a startup! Babies build, measure, and learn, and they are *creative*. It seems that for most of us, as we grow and enter K-12 (don’t get me started), and continue to HigherEd, and then begin our careers, we lose our startup/creative mindset. Yet, at our core, we are all creative.
The Good News
The good news is that many platforms are available to creators not built upon user data and the sale of advertising. Instead, the customer pays the creator directly for content. The platform takes a percentage of the transaction to maintain and further grow their business and attract more creators.
Given my thought process, in the next article, I will compare and contrast a small number of platforms. I am genuinely interested in your feedback and thoughts. If you’re a creator, what is your platform of choice?
Be seeing you!
- The World Wide Web: Past, Present and Future, Tim Berners-Lee, August 1996
- How do you ethically steer the thoughts and actions of two billion people’s minds every day?, Tristan Harris
- Center for Humane Technology
- Book excerpt: Jaron Lanier's 'Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now', ABC News, June 19, 2018
- What should be the fate of targeted advertising? The Platform Blog, Nov 9, 2020
- Navigating the New Era of Influencer Marketing: How to be Successful on Instagram, TikTok, & Co - Journal, account required.