I was on a TV interview recently, promoting my new book, and was asked whether print is dead? How could I answer this but with a resounding “NO!” me, a writer who churns out reams of print matter all the time? How dare the interviewer ask me this question when I was on the show promoting...well...print!
Coming out of the interview however, I got to thinking about this question more deeply. If he had asked me whether “print for money” was dead, I may have been inclined to say that “the patient was in the emergency room.” When you consider that writers like Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Salinger were paid in the $’000s per story during the glory days of magazine publishing in the ’30’s and ’40’s, and that now those payouts are down in the $’00’s or less, inflation seems to have worked in reverse here. But if he had asked me whether more people are reading like never before, and therefore whether print is a more integral part of people’s lives today, I’d have said, “Yes, the patient has left the hospital in fine fettle, is fiddling with Twitter and Facebook, is surfing the web, and reading her e-book – channels filled with print, channels that previous generations never had.”
If he’d asked me whether the payment model for print has changed, I would have said “Yes” again, and if those who are reluctant to accept the new model, whether due to pride or principle, are the ones who will be left behind from making their efforts pay, I’d have said a capital “YES!” And yet this change is the most difficult one to make, and has become a moral dilemma for conscientious writers. I recently visited a site on which my blogs are syndicated; certain keywords had been hyperlinked – this was not of my doing. When I placed my cursor on these words, advertisements that synchronized with the hyperlinked words popped up. Someone was making money off my content, no longer with mere banner ads on the periphery of the frame but with commercials embedded inside my content! I went a step further and placed my cursor over some hyperlinked text in one of my syndicated articles and it took me to a site for casual adult encounters. I was shocked and deflated. So, is this the way to be paid for one’s content these days? And in this case I wasn’t even being paid, I was being used. I complained and thankfully this particular site pulled out the hyperlinks. I am not sure that this will happen with every site.
I have never let commercials dictate my content. I am also not a fan of “advertorial” which seems to be commanding larger and larger chunks of the daily newspapers these days. But if advertizing is the only paymaster left, because readers have been conditioned to get their print for free, then content creators (writers) need some radical re-adjustments to their moral compasses.
Now, if the next TV interviewer asks me, “Would you let your content be commercialized on your own website so that you can move it from an altruistic content portal to a source of paying your bills?” my answer will be a resounding “NO” —I will remain “commercial free.” My content will be my sole message.