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Is the Internet Bad For Professional Writers

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the won't-someone-please-think-of-the-writers dept.

The Media 193

destinyland writes "The internet democratized writing — but has there been collateral damage? A former magazine editor asks 10 professional writers how the net has changed their profession, and even the act of writing itself. Has the net changed the demand for longer articles, or created more opportunities for more kinds of writing? It's a fascinating read that belongs in a time capsule for the variety of reactions captured — including the author who complains reading time was traded away for time to maintain our applications, and adding "Gates and Jobs...ought to be disemboweled — yes, on the internet.""

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Translation (2)

suso (153703) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899097)

Has the net changed the demand for longer articles

I think that means "Has the net increased the demand for shorter articles".

Re:Translation (5, Funny)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899163)

Sorry, you lost me after "I think that means".

Re:Translation (5, Informative)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899271)

If writers are perceiving a lower demand for longer articles, it's probably because they break them up into 57 pages of three sentences each, with 20 second page loads in between thanks to a bunch of flash ads.

Re:Translation (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899999)

It's not about content length or page count. I think most people here have read long articles or other works online before. The key is that they have to be *interesting*.

While it most certainly has its faults, the most important purpose of the publishing industry today is that it acts like a filter. There are a hundred times more people who want to be published than actually will be, and this is a sad reality of the industry and anyone who wants to write. On the other hand, it's also a benefit; publishers filter out stuff that, for the most part, simply isn't that good -- derivative, written with third-grade grammar, tedious, unrealistic, unimaginative, etc. Even the "filters" sometimes need filters; that's what agents are for. While a given publisher may accept a small fraction of one percent of what is submitted to them, your average agent may end up selling perhaps half of what they acquire. This works because it's now the agent who accepts a fraction of one percent of what they get. Many big publishers don't take unagented submissions; they use agents as a "filter" to reduce the drivel that they have to sift through to find what's good out there. Often, even the agents will use their own "filters" -- say, grad students, paid slave wages to read the incoming queries . Like this person [blogspot.com] , for example.

That said, the internet does have some developing "filtering" mechanisms -- even if nothing more than an email from a friend saying, "Hey, I read this and it was great! You have to read it!" What the internet doesn't have, currently, is a particularly effective profit mechanism for writers, even those who do have some level of popular success. And translating online success to print success is not as easy as it may at first appear. If you have a relevant website that gets tens of thousands of unique hits per day, you might be able to get a little further by citing it as "platform" (esp. important in nonfiction) in your query, but beyond that, what agents and publishers want to see is some direct "filtering" mechanism on your work -- have you won presigious contests with thousands of entrants and recognized judges, have you been published in magazines or major newspapers, have you had a book published before (and how did it sell?), and so on. They want hard evidence that someone besides your friends and family thinks that you're good. Of course, even if you don't have any worthwhile credits, you can still be published based on the merits of your writing at hand.

At least, that's how it's supposed to work. ;)

My biggest gripe with the publishing industry is the "inventing" of best-sellers. At regular intervals, they'll buy what they (a relatively small number of people) consider the best sales potential work out on the market by a new author in their particular field for a huge advance (6-7 figures, compared to the usual 4-5). This starts the ball rolling; the very fact that they paid a huge advance gets the critics buzzing about the work before they even know anything about it. When it comes out, they review the heck out of it. Good or bad reviews, it gets a ton of publicity. Meanwhile, the publisher plugs the heck out of it, everywhere they can. Altogether, they create enough buzz about the work that anyone who reads books in the field feels they have to read it, if only just to know what other people are talking about. The work may, in fact, be pretty lousy, but that's not the important aspect. They could sell almost anything in this manner. The same thing applies to authors who, by virtue of their name, will get published no matter what. Someone like Tom Clancy could practically write a proposal for a diatribe against tube socks on a coffee napkin and get a deal out of it before he pens a word. Simply having the author's name on the side will ensure enough sales to be worth it.

That said, there are inherent benefits to new authors in the industry. Let's say you land a deal with a big house for your debut novel, and it sells 10k copies. Well, your next novel better sell at least 20k, and the next 40k, and so on, or they'll stop buying your books. They want to keep room open in their catalog for that next new up-and-coming author who's going to sell a million copies, and they're not going to wait forever for you to make a name for yourself. Selling a few tens of thousands of copies might work for a mid-sized house, and a small publisher would love it, but the big ones (the ones that pay the biggest advances and have the widest reach) won't go for it.

Re:Translation (4, Insightful)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900195)

My significant other switched from being CEO of a small company being a writer back in 2002, when the economy was in the tank. Now she's building another company around small-volume custom publishing, taking advantage of the changing trends in print media. She had fun being a pure writer while it lasted, but where's the money? She pays $25 for an article from 2nd-tier local writers, and $125 from the top-tier. She has unpaid interns who just want the experience so that one day they can be paid writers. Even as CEO of a small publishing company, she's making far less than she did as a regular employee at her previous high-tech job.

I feel for writers, but their not the only ones feeling the squeeze. This morning I came up with a fairly depressing argument about where the new startups are in high-tech: practically nowhere. If you want to do a startup making chips, forget it. If you build digital, then FPGAs, microcontrollers, and DSPs have it covered on the low-end, and digital high-end ASICs are too damned expensive. Analog is just too hard, though there's some room there. If you want to do a startup in software, you've got Microsoft dominating the market, and tons of free open-source to compete with. What's that leave? The web. The big successes that quickly come to mind for new high-tech companies over the last 15 years are Yahoo, Amazon, Ebay, and Google. Not software, not chips, but something else entirely. Since all those companies started back before the web bubble burst, what's left for us geeks now?

Re:Translation (4, Interesting)

orasio (188021) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900449)

If you want to do a startup in software, you've got Microsoft dominating the market, and tons of free open-source to compete with. What's that leave? The web.
If you are looking for fast money, sure.
On the other hand, free software, or open source software don't have anything to do with money. Most of the money associated with software can still be had with those.
Licenses are not everything. The catch is that in order to make money from free software, you have to actually provide a service. Implantations and consulting on other peoples software is a solid service to sell, and mostly welcome by most players. Custom developments, first level support, reselling second level support. It doesn't make you rich quick, but there's a lot of bussiness to be made. I am planning on starting a company of that sort next year in my country. I will let you know how it goes, if you want.

Re:Translation (1)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 6 years ago | (#20901365)

I am planning on starting a company of that sort next year in my country. I will let you know how it goes, if you want.

I'm always interested in how founders are doing, so please do keep me informed. You have to pass the challenge question (what color is the sky?), but my public e-mail is bill@billrocks.org. I founded a small company back in 2000, and I can't complain, though we're no Google or Yahoo. Actually, we're tiny, but it still delivers what I need and I still have big hopes and dreams. I think there's still tons of room for innovation, but business models need to keep changing. Areas like VoIP seem fertile for small businesses (see David Rowe's awesome Free Telephony Project [rowetel.com] ). P2P has some gas left in it. In hopefully the not far distant future, we'll see the birth of self-replicating hardware [reprap.org] , and I see that creating all kinds of need for designers. I also think the iPhone shows that in the future we will not be tied to M$ for mobile computing products, and there's lots of room for innovation in that direction. I'm anxiously awaiting a real OS on a smartphone, like Ubuntu Mobile [ubuntu.com] .

Re:Translation (3, Insightful)

djupedal (584558) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900725)

"Since all those companies started back before the web bubble burst, what's left for us geeks now?"

Clearly you've been given the gift of 'imagination'. Please let us know when you intend to unwrap it and take it out of the box...

Re:Translation (1)

crgrace (220738) | more than 6 years ago | (#20901395)

Analog is just too hard, though there's some room there.

Ahhh... the sweet, sweet smell of job security.

Re:Translation (4, Insightful)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900597)

It's not about content length or page count. I think most people here have read long articles or other works online before. The key is that they have to be *interesting*.

I don't know about that - I can personally attest that I've stopped reading things because of the moronic pagination on the web. I read fairly quickly, and there have been many times that I simply gave up because I was spending more time watching the page load than actually reading it.

You're right - articles on web or elsewhere have to be interesting. And a ton of page loads is one of the best ways to kill that, in my opinion. It's not web specific - what if newspapers split columns across 7 different pages and made you wait 20 seconds before you were allowed to turn the page? When I'm reading something, I don't like being interrupted, and I don't think I'm alone.

You might think I'm exaggerating, but I've actually seen articles split into up to 10 different pages with two short paragraphs per page. I can read a couple of short paragraphs in 5-10 seconds. I don't want to get the next page every 10 seconds. I won't read it.

Re:Translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20900969)

Sorry, you lost me after the first sentence. Can you please shorten it?

Sorry, couldn't resist....

Re:Translation (3, Interesting)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899315)

No, I think he meant "Increased the probability that an article will unnecessarily be split across several pages" :-P

Seriously though, if the complaint is about blogs, try looking at the mainstream media. A lot of the their stuff makes me feel stupider for having read it. Recently an msnbc, or Time article, I forget, referred to the 1997 Kasparov defeat as being a case where a computer "whupped" a human.

"Whupped"????

If I had tried that in 6th grade English, I would have been sent to a torture chamber. (figuratively, of course, although by this point it's "correct" to say "literally")

Also, they have annoying habits of using longer slang expressions where shorter, simpler ones will do: "divvy up" instead of "divide" and "cents on the dollar" instead of "percent", or even better, "%".

Re:Translation (1)

Keeper Of Keys (928206) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900907)

If I had tried that in 6th grade English, I would have been sent to a torture chamber. (figuratively, of course, although by this point it's "correct" to say "literally")
Although it is literally correct that you should start a parenthetical new sentence with a capital letter.

Re:Translation (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900973)

""Whupped"????

If I had tried that in 6th grade English, I would have been sent to a torture chamber. "

Depends on what party of the country you're from boy.....that's a perfectly croumulent word down here.

:-)

I don't think it has... (2, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899329)

I think the same types of people who wanted longer articles 20 years ago, want them today. However, since the web is currently forcing a lot of short-article people to read, I think it simply seems like the demand is higher for shorter articles.

With the advent of talking heads to read the short articles to them, they'll wander off to listen instead of read, and the average article length will increase again.

On a less sardonic note; many newspapers and magazines--the people who actually produce the longer articles--still only put cropped versions online, in an attempt to lure you into buying their paper product, so the bigger articles don't always make it online.

Re:I don't think it has... (3, Insightful)

e2d2 (115622) | more than 6 years ago | (#20901219)

Yes but think about how hard it was to get your hands on information 30 years ago. If it wasn't in a book or magazine or trade journal you were SOL. So when you got that material you expected more bang for the buck, that's what the market brought. Fast-forward to today when it's information overload and you see the need for smaller articles, at least from a business standpoint. Then also factor in the stress that monitors put on ones eyes, with the page being lit. It's technically "harder" to read a monitor full of text than it is to read a piece of paper. So we see articles getting smaller.

But the idea that writing is now "shorter" is a bit skewed. There is a lot more information being conveyed these days.

Probably (3, Insightful)

earnest murderer (888716) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899387)

It's hard to plagi^h^h^h^h^h quote an article if it is too large. More than a paragraph or so and it won't fit into the summary at Digg.

It certainly seems that the net has created a cottage industry built on not citing the original article and driving technorati. One might say that one denies the other. The drive isn't news anymore, it's notoriety and advertising. Long articles and sources sour both of those. I don't think there's a shortage of people who want to read the long stuff, there's just so many that can't be bothered. Both groups pay the same per view, so who are you going to appeal to?

The internet may have changed some things, but it's AdSense that is murdering information on the web. Is it any wonder that the more successful google is, the less useful their index has become.

Re:Translation (1)

Cutriss (262920) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899773)

I think that means "Has the net increased the demand for shorter articles".
tl;dr

Re:Translation (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899829)

whether he means shorter articles or not you bring up a good point, i like articles that are short & to the point, when i see a long article with mostly opinionated blathering i open my bookmarks and open another page faster than you can say Jack Robinson...

Re:Translation (1)

lunartik (94926) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900723)

Most magazines these days are filled with "Top 10 _____" articles. They are quick meaningless bits of information that are generally just product placement and able to be read quicker than the amount of time you might spend in the bathroom. Blame Maxim, not the internet.

Re:Translation (1)

cHiphead (17854) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900415)

Somebody didn't get the memo.

Professional writers are bad for the internet.

And thats not just in Soviet America.

Re:Translation (1)

rronda (1139207) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900625)

I find hard to read long articles or books in a browser setting, perhaps because one has too many open windows, and it is very easy to jump to something else when the article becomes boring. I also find easier to read a pdf article or book in full screen mode (Ctrl-L in Acrobat). That way things look closer to the situation in which one is reading a hardcopy article or book and I feel I am focusing more in the content.

In a word, yes. (5, Insightful)

Red Jesus (962106) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899117)

Most print publications would have known to end that title with a question mark.

Re:In a word, yes. (4, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899217)

So it should possibly be, "Are Bad Writing Good For A Internet" ?

Classic misdirected anger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20899331)

the author who complains reading time was traded away for time to maintain our applications, and adding "Gates and Jobs...ought to be disemboweled -- yes, on the internet.

Yes, because it's their fault you are too stupid to outsource that function. Because I'm sure all the magazine writers fix their own PCs, run the printing presses, empty the trash, and clean the bathrooms. And I'm sure they also fix their own cars, homeschool their kids, cook ALL their own meals, and dryclean their own clothes.

As much as I'm loathe to recommend a Google service, their Blogger tools are really quite great. You choose your template, set up the layout, and just write. You can even set it to publish things you email in to it, so you can concievably even blog from a mobile device. And if you DO want to get more technical, you even have access to the HTML code in the template.

I think Americans have collectively lost the ability to distinguish between petty and stupid complaints and valid criticisms. But after 10+ years of conservatives being in charge, that's sadly to be expected.

Re:Classic misdirected anger (2, Informative)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899423)

As much as I'm loathe to recommend a Google service [...]
loath

No! (1)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899761)

Loathe.

Loathe
Loathe Loathe (l[=o][th]), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Loathed
  (l[=o][th]d); p. pr. & vb. n. Loathing.] [AS. l[=a][eth]ian
  to hate. See Loath.]
  1. To feel extreme disgust at, or aversion for.
  [1913 Webster]

  Loathing the honeyed cakes, I Ionged for bread.
  --Cowley.
  [1913 Webster]

  2. To dislike greatly; to abhor; to hate; to detest.
  [1913 Webster]

  The secret which I loathe. --Waller.
  [1913 Webster]

  She loathes the vital sir. --Dryden.

  Syn: To hate; abhor; detest; abominate. See Hate.
  [1913 Webster]

        -- From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48

Loathe Loathe, v. i.
  To feel disgust or nausea. [Obs.]
  [1913 Webster]

        -- From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48

Oops! Never Mind. (1)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899789)

I misread what you were correcting. Your correction is correct. My mistake.

Loath
Loath Loath (l[=o]th), a. [OE. looth, loth, AS. l[=a][eth]
  hostile, odious; akin to OS. l[=a][eth], G. leid, Icel.
  lei[eth]r, Sw. led, G. leiden to suffer, OHG. l[imac]dan to
  suffer, go, cf. AS. l[imac][eth]an to go, Goth. leipan, and
  E. lead to guide.]
  1. Hateful; odious; disliked. [Obs.] --Chaucer.
  [1913 Webster]

  2. Filled with disgust or aversion; averse; unwilling;
  reluctant; as, loath to part.
  [1913 Webster]

  Full loth were him to curse for his tithes.
  --Chaucer.
  [1913 Webster]

  Why, then, though loath, yet must I be content.
  --Shak.
  [1913 Webster]

        -- From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48

Re:Classic misdirected anger (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899791)

I think Americans have collectively lost the ability to distinguish between petty and stupid complaints and valid criticisms"

loath
Hmm.

Though I didn't know that that was a different word, thanks for being informative at least, even if you are perpetuating the pedantry :P

Re:Classic misdirected anger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20900741)

I think my point has been proven. As is always the case with conservatives, they will criticize... and whether they are correct or not is irrelevant. It's the act of cricizing which is important: after all, you can't muddy the water without slinging mud.

Re:Classic misdirected anger (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900855)

Indeed. Though I don't see what being conservative has to do with it, I just think that people are asses.

Re:In a word, yes. (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900255)

Maybe you were trying to be sarcastic, however I'd say it won't. At least not immediately.

I know people in my metro area that don't even have an internet connection. They spend most of their time outside or socializing or reading an actual book. For them it doesn't justify the cost (library books are cheap).

Second, as long as you're GOOD at it, you shouldn't have anything to worry. All the internet does is increase the signal/noise ratio from idiots having easier access, allowing them to (to paraphrase PA) be complete fuckwads.

Shit-cock!

zzz (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20899177)

tl;dr

The Internet is GOOD for writers (5, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899193)

I think the opinion of "bad versus good" falls nearly directly in how in-bed the writer was with the old media. For most old media writers, their
"bosses" had massive control over the distribution of their form of media, be in newspapers, magazines, newsletters and journals. This was a "good thing" because the pseudo-monopoly gave them more income. It was bad for advertisers because they never knew how many impressions their ads received, who received them, and what their return was.

I'm a firm believer that the Internet is GOOD for writers. I've been a writer myself since the age of 13, and a newsletter editor since I was 18. The Internet has blown open the market for myself, and the writers I've hired to "pen" articles. We now know who reads our creations, how often they return, what they think of the articles, and even who they forwarded the articles to. Our advertisers know immediately what they're getting out of us, and they also have the ability to be selective over where they advertise and what form of advertising.

The other plus is that we can focus on shorter articles with links to articles providing more material within our own site. I know a site has gained power with our audience when the monthly stats pop up showing the average visitor has gone 4-6 pages deep and stayed over 10 minutes on the site. That's a VERY successful site, and makes excellent income for us via advertisements from direct sponsors who also know they're getting a return.

For many, the downside is competition, but to me this is the best thing possible. The more people that are writing about your topic, the bigger your audience grows. If you're a "top tier" writer in a given niche, your market is growing because of your competition, and they'll eventually find you. Another downside for old media authors is the lack of editors within the new media, because the financial overhead from the previous pseudo-monopoly is lost. I think there's a HUGE market for independent editors (I actually earn some money monthly editing other people's writings), but most old media editors don't like the idea of selling themselves to a large market and seem to prefer focusing on a few writers. The potential for being an editor is so large right now that I am turning away more work than I can manage (it was never meant to be an income source, but instead a form of education for me). The massive amount of corporate blogs, e-newsletters and e-journals is astonishing, and they all need outside consultants to help formulate the clearest writing and a decent SEO.

As to supporting the application, that's bunk. I spend about 10 minutes a week TOTAL on back-end support, and I use a "do it yourself" ISP to host my sites.

I'll write until the day I die, but most of my e-writings will continue for years after. For me, that's the ultimate profit: leaving a legacy of my opinions, teachings and ideas tomorrow and for the future.

A perfect demonstration... (1, Insightful)

The Monster (227884) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899697)

I'm a firm believer that the Internet is GOOD for writers. . . . The Internet has blown open the market for myself, and the writers I've hired to "pen" articles.
The good thing about the Internet is that it makes it easier to write for a wide audience. The bad thing is that it makes it easier to write for a wide audience, without any proofreaders or editors to catch a glaring error such as the use of the reflexive pronoun "myself", where "me" would be grammatically correct [wsu.edu] . (See also: Austin Powers [youtube.com] .)

Maybe you're a good editor when serving as that extra pair of eyes looking over someone else's work; we all tend to have that blind spot looking at our own writing.

Re:A perfect demonstration... (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900357)

Spoken like a web editor---you noticed the misuse of "myself" but not the incorrect use of a comma right next to it. :-D


A comma separates lists of three or more things or complete independent clauses. The part after the comma here isn't a clause (though it does contain a dependent clause) in spite of the presence of a subject and verb....


Re:A perfect demonstration... (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900779)

True on both (the comma and the use of myself instead of me). Slashdot's weakness (and strength) is that you can't edit your posts, and I noticed both even after previewing and then submitting. Doh.

Luckily, I don't get paid to edit my own posts, and on the sites I do edit for my own opinion, I rely on my readers to correct me, at which point I'll go edit the article.

I was trumped here by using "irregardless" once, and since then I have never used that non-term again. Slashdot CAN help your writing skills; thanks go to the grammar nazis.

the sad fate of the comma (2, Interesting)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | more than 6 years ago | (#20901385)

Your discussion remind me of this excellent essay by Robert J. Samuelson entitled The Sad Fate of the Comma [msn.com] .

Re:A perfect demonstration... (2, Interesting)

mangastudent (718064) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900683)

Well, with so many venues where your can write, for each you have to decide what level of quality you're going to shoot for beyond merely communicating. Slashdot postings for the most part don't demand high polish.

Regardless, these many venues certainly encourage you to write, and that's by far the most important thing for everyone concerned. Think about it, in a period in which there were fears that the written word would die (TV and all that), instead we've got more people writing than I'm sure in any period of history.

His point about independent editors is well taken. One of the things I've done for a decade to improve my language skills is free editing (fiction and technical non-fiction) for people or efforts on the net who can't afford to pay money. In addition to the practice/experience, it pays off handsomely pure enjoyment, and I have absolutely no trouble spending all the time I want doing it.

I don't do that much of it, but "an army of Davids" doing this sort of thing in such a low friction system can make a big difference.

Re:The Internet is GOOD for writers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20899857)

I've been a writer myself since the age of 13, and a newsletter editor since I was 18.

I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter....

Re:The Internet is GOOD for writers (1)

GuitarKat (1150077) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900593)

Googlezon! http://www.robinsloan.com/epic/ [robinsloan.com] This flash video that someone made makes claims that there will be practically no newspapers left by 2010. ^^' And before then, the news starts being fabricated... it's not really news anymore... News wars! So, is the Internet really good for professional writers... no, since it will be all fabricated eventually. ;) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPIC_2014 [wikipedia.org]

Re:The Internet is GOOD for writers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20901449)

I'll write until the day I die, but most of my e-writings will continue for years after. For me, that's the ultimate profit: leaving a legacy of my opinions, teachings and ideas tomorrow and for the future.

How worthwhile is that? In the grand scheme of things, the writings of TimeCube guy are much more popular than anything you've written is ever going to be. What makes you think your "opinions, teachings and ideas" are worth saving? The only possibility I can think of would be leaving them as a legacy to your kids and grandkids. But even then it's probably better to leave a hard copy, like people have done for thousands of years.

meh (4, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899199)

it's always been tough to be a professional writer. i can't think of any given time in history where the number of people who could live solely off the income of writing hasn't been insignificant in comparison to the total population.
 
the internet is just new technology that will help in some ways and hurt in other ways. me, i'm not concerned about this dinky little group. my concern is - how has it impacted the reader. there have always been many more of us than the writers. have we been benefited by the internet? i think so.

Re:meh (3, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899547)

But as tough as it may be for the professional writer, it can be a boon for the unpublished writer. I've spent a while editing and publishing science fiction, and I can say honestly that with so few professional outlets for new writers, the Internet provides a gateway for them to get noticed. Mind you, it also allows a lot of dreck to be published that has no business lighting up pixels, but that's the price you pay for the freedom to publish.

Re:meh (1)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900005)

I think so as well. Sure there is some crud, but there was real bad writing out there before the internet too. The volume of both has gone up and I guess the reader has some more work to do filtering it, but I don't mind. I'd rather be the one doing the filtering than a handful of big publishing houses.
 
And it's not like it's all bad for the pros. My favorite new author right now (new to me) is John Scalzi. I found about him because Amazon recommended Old Man's War [wikipedia.org] to me. I've found a lot more about him and other authors that he thinks are good through his blogs [scalzi.com] .

Re:meh (1)

jaymzter (452402) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899617)

Exactly, it's not like the Internet is in charge of Gundam. If you make a good anime (or story) people will tune in no matter the length. It's like asking if the printing press is bad for Illuminators.

Fucking whiners. (5, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899201)

This entire article is the equivalent of a bunch of whining, wanking carpenters complaining that people can resort to do-it-yourself for many home projects these days or that "regular people" have video cameras at home and not just big film directors.

Yes, the internet has made a lot of people much stupider (witness your average idiot's abbreviated text message session) but the probability of such people being consumers of quality magazine or book content is low to begin with, even if the internet doesn't exist.

Let us not get old either (0, Flamebait)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900003)

Fucking whiners

I can imagine a future where old people will be whining about how Google used to be a harmless little search engine, or when you could download Linux freely because it wasn't an illegal hacking tool.

And the young Slashdoters (or equivilant) will be saying those fucking whiners are always going on about dual-booting and typewritters as if they were better that what we have today. And they will receive scores of +5 Interesting.

Re:Let us not get old either (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20900307)

The difference is that the current crop of whiners is free to continue writing if they wish.

Re:Fucking whiners. (4, Interesting)

ben4242 (836284) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900829)

In June, I attended Book Expo America in New York. This is billed as the largest book-publishing event in the U.S., with many other countries sending representatives as well. Besides the thousands of booths, there are a number of seminars and talks about various things dealing with the industry. It seemed to me that one out of every four mini-conferences dealt with whether or not book publishing would be hurt by the Internet. I agree with many of the posters here that say good writers won't be hurt, but bad writers will be. I admit that I don't know a ton about the book publishing industry, but seeing how it works (I published a book two years ago, and I'm working on my second one now), it's pretty ridiculous how some things get mass-produced, while others aren't considered at all. From what I gather, most old-school publishing people are scared by the Internet. Many new authors are not, however, which leads me to believe that eventually, like most industries, a new way will replace the old. It's amazing to me how few authors have any web presence whatsoever. Explaining reciprocal links to some authors is painful. To me, it's not just a matter of being a good or bad writer. It's also about having the drive to market yourself in the proper way and get your name out. You can dispute whether or not John Grisham is a good author. But the man reportedly sold books from his car trunk to find an audience. That's separate from writing.

Re:Fucking whiners. (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 6 years ago | (#20901177)

Yes, the internet has made a lot of people much stupider (witness your average idiot's abbreviated text message session)
People have always been stupid, the internet has done nothing to change that.

Safe for Work Warning (1)

mccoma (64578) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899249)

The ads on the side of the article might not be safe for work depending on how strict things are.

Ads? On the web? What is this? (2, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899367)

I keep hearing about these things but so far I have yet to spot them. I wonder what they are like...

...

...

Gee, might that have something to do with the article? Not just people like me blocking ads (privoxy and squid) but including people like you with their notsafeforwork attitude.

IF you write an article in playboy (yes they do have them) then you can include ads to pay for that that are slightly more risky. IF you write a very similar piece but publish it on the net, well then it better be safe for work and kids and right wingers.

This all ads up to less revenue to pay the writers.

So less money, means less writing obviously, so shorter articles, less time to attract eyeballs, less time to get them watch ads, fewer ads, less money. Voila downwards spiral of doom leading to articles with no contents spanning 20 pages to which somekind slashdotter posts the print link meaning that NOT just do they not get ads views from me, but not even any pageviews.

I could almost feel sorry for them... Well not really.

Left wing censorship to ... (4, Insightful)

Dragon Bait (997809) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899541)

IF you write a very similar piece but publish it on the net, well then it better be safe for work and kids and right wingers.
You forgot to mention the left wing censorship. Pornographic material, or even semi-pornographic material is censored in the work place because of NOW, Anita Hill, and others associated with the left. I know, I know, those of us on the left don't want to admit that we censor things too. It's just a question of who gets to do the censoring and what "we" get to censor.


Remember, censoring porn from kids is bad; censoring porn from hurting women's feelings is good.

Re:Left wing censorship to ... (2, Insightful)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#20901271)

I know some pro-porn feminists, and lots of pro-women-positive-porn feminists. This again runs into the same political problem we keep having with left-right: censorship is on the authoritarian-anarchist continuum, which is poorly correlated with the left-right continuum.

Re:Safe for Work Warning (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899377)

> The ads on the side of the article might not be safe for work depending on how strict things are.

My Ad-block filters are pretty strict. Having said that, the site doesn't appear to be holding up very well under the current Slashdotting, so who's to know?

a better question (4, Interesting)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899261)

Has the Internet given mindless fact less fools equal footing as real journalists.

Just look at rob Enderle, Paul Thurrott, or most computer writers who will say just about anything for a buck. They won't check facts, they refuse to show how they come to conclusions when they actually do research, and the research itself is so one sided it's just plain sickening.

One Lady asked a group of dedicated windows admins if they were considering a switch to Linux. They are Windows admins not Linux admins.
this isn't a flame war, but it's like asking a group of Mac Admins when they are switching to windows. you are going to get skewed results.

Re:a better question (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899443)

"One Lady asked a group of dedicated windows admins if they were considering a switch to Linux. They are Windows admins not Linux admins."

Who else would she ask? Linux admins aren't switching to Linux, they're already there. The question was to determine if Windows Admins were considering the switch, and probably why. Anyone that's half decent as a sysadmin is -always- considering the switch, but the answer is more often than not going to be 'not at this time' after they consider it. Ignoring the possibilities is -bad- and blindly switching is just as bad.

Re:a better question (4, Insightful)

faloi (738831) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899539)

Has the Internet given mindless fact less fools equal footing as real journalists.

Considering that a major portion of the "real" journalism I see these days is notes from a press conference from , I don't think that equal footing is undeserved. Good investigative journalism is more and more rare, and weeks of coverage on some starlet's alcohol problem seems to be on the rise. There's some good journalism out there, still, but it's harder and harder to find.

Re:a better question (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899551)

Perhaps just as good a question would be, were "real journalists" of the past actually as upright, unbiased, and accurate as you imply.

Re:a better question (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899607)

They won't check facts, they refuse to show how they come to conclusions when they actually do research, and the research itself is so one sided it's just plain sickening.

Sounds like 90% of so-called mainstream journalism these days.

Re:a better question (1)

SQL Error (16383) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900659)

"These days?" [wikipedia.org]

Journalists: Like Dan Rather & his forged docu (1)

Dragon Bait (997809) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899671)

Has the Internet given mindless fact less fools equal footing as real journalists.
Real journalists? Like Dan Rather and his forged documents? Sorry, no. It would appear that "real" journalists are too often "mindless, factless fools." They're just making a living at it.

The Internet (4, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899281)

The Internet is good for amateur writers with talent.

I'm guessing the article says it's bad for professional writers with limited talent. And everyone else is to blame for the professional writers' comeuppance.

Re:The Internet (2, Interesting)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899499)

"The Internet is good for amateur writers with talent."

Because on the internet (as well as real life), talent is recognized and floats to the top for everyone to see and admire.

Oh, wait, sorry - it's "scum" that floats to the top. My bad.

The net hasn't changed writing as much as TV has. (5, Insightful)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899327)

I believe that the increasing popularity of television, with its immediacy of coverage, its focus on 30-second soundbytes, and its tendency towards sensationalist presentation, has had a much more profound impact on traditional printed media (newspapers and such) than the world wide web.

Modern life is to blame (1)

Bragador (1036480) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900769)

People in general don't have as much time as before. Especially those who live in urban areas. Free time now comes in short bursts instead of long hours. I think that entertainment has evolved along those lines so that games, books, tv shows etc. can now entertain you quickly.

Dan Brown's books are good examples of what can make people that don't usually read pick up a book. The chapters are short, something is always happening and there is a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. Each chapter is built to entertain someone who has 20 minutes of free time.

As you can see, I don't think TV is the cause. I think that the rythm of today's society is the cause of the change in entertainment. If you can only relax for 20 minutes at a time, reading the Lord of the Rings is more difficult than reading short stories on the net.

Disemboweled on the Internet (1)

zdude255 (1013257) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899341)

"Gates and Jobs...ought to be disemboweled -- yes, on the internet.""
Isn't that what we have Slashdot for?

It's bad if you can't write for the 'net audience (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899365)

I don't think the Internet is necessarily bad for professional writers. There is a trend, certainly among technical folks, to rely on blogs and wikis and the like for information, but I think that will pass. Just as politicians can get away with sound-bites for a while, so the technical audience will tire of reading the same 200-word blog posts with a somewhat rehashed idea of someone else's 200-word blog post, which was just a combination of a couple of ideas mentioned on a wiki they linked to anyway. People don't just read technical writing for a quick idea. They read it for some depth of understanding, an insightful explanation, clear examples, and countless other goals that Joe Amateur just can't satisfy with his 200 words of quickly and casually constructed blog post.

However, the Internet is going to be bad news for people who can't write for an Internet audience. You need a different writing style on-line. Most people don't sit down and read many screens of essay-like text all at once, nor do most people print such articles to read off-line. We can still have depth and insight and all that good stuff, but it has to be written the right way. It needs to be easy to scan. It needs to be organised in relatively short sections, or with other natural reading breaks that suit the material. There needs to be some effort put into effective presentation — and I don't mean turning every essay into a 3Gazzilibyte 1hour video interview, just because you can!

The Internet is also going to be bad news for bad writers. There are plenty of decent writers on the web, and more than enough excellent ones in technical fields. No-one needs to read paid-by-the-hour, padded-out-forever-to-bump-the-word-count text-that-goes-on-forever-pointlessly. Writers who have specialised in producing such text to satisfy their contracts are going to be out of luck.

The Internet is also going to be bad news for professional writers who occasionally write something really good, but mostly write filler. It is easy to link to a single article or blog post directly, and good work will typically be recognised as such. But if you want your home page to be the thing people think of, or you want people to subscribe to your blog, you're going to have to produce consistency. Sure, some work will always stand out from the everyday writing, even for the best author in the world. But no-one's getting famous for writing one article and then having nothing.

So the bottom line is, if you're a professional writer who can consistently produce worthwhile content with occasional really good stuff, and you can adapt your presentation to the medium, then there's no reason you can't be successful. If you're not a good writer, even if you once write a brilliant piece five years ago, or if you can't adapt your writing to the target audience, well, you're going to find fewer opportunities than you used to. It's not like writing books is going to die out (though writing for magazines is fast going that way), but the Internet is the ultimate meritocracy when it comes to content, so if you're not up to standard with enough material a cut above to get you noticed, this isn't the career for you.

Yes (1)

MeditationSensation (1121241) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899419)

Almost no one pays for subscriptions and everyone runs an adblocker these days. Writers are going to starve.

Re:Yes (2, Insightful)

FreddyKnockout (1114959) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900301)

I personally have subscriptions to a few of the websites that I frequent. If a website is worth reading, I'll drop them a few dollars every month for the privledge. The fact that most people won't is nothing new. It has always been like this. It's like the music industry's charge that music downloads are cutting into their profits. As far as I can see, most people are still paying for the music they love. Yes, I've downloaded some records, but generally it's stuff I don't know very well, or something I want to gauge the quality of prior to purchasing. If I decide it's not worth my money, the artist/label don't lose any money, because had I not downloaded the CD, I still would never have purchased it. And most people don't run adblocks. While yes, most /.ers do, the average email-solitaire-googler out there (aka 98% of the internet population) have no idea what an adblocker even is.

Internet bad for second-tier essayists (5, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899611)

Look who's complaining. The whiners are all second-tier essayists, pundits, or worse. The article itself is by "RU Sirius". Complaints are by people like Erik Davis, who used to write music articles for Details and Spin. That's groupie journalism. Mark Dery wrote psuedo-journalistic crap like "The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink". John Shirley was an early cyberpunk author, and not one of the better ones. These guys are no great loss.

The top-tier essayists, like John McPhee, are doing fine. The top-tier political writers are getting their books published. Novelists continue to flood bookstores with paperbacks. Even romance novel sales are up.

The real damage from the Internet is that pounding-the-pavement newspaper journalism is no longer cost effective. That's not because anyone can blog; it's because Internet advertising is killing local newspapers. Ads for jobs, apartments, garage sales - all have moved to the Internet. Classified ads were a major money stream for newspapers, and that stream has dried up. Most newspaper content today is driven by press releases and other publicity. "News is what someone doesn't want published - all else is publicity". Pick up your local paper and mark the stories that didn't start from a speech, press release, wire service, or police report. In many papers, there won't be any. That's the problem.

Re:Internet bad for second-tier essayists (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900125)

Even romance novel sales are up.

"Even"? Romance has long been the bread and butter of fiction sales. While Slashdot geeks may be more familiar with Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF), they're just a couple percent of the entire market. Romance has the lion's share.

Re:Internet bad for second-tier essayists (1)

wordsnyc (956034) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900739)

"Look who's complaining. The whiners are all second-tier essayists, pundits, or worse. The article itself is by "RU Sirius". Complaints are by people like Erik Davis, who used to write music articles for Details and Spin. That's groupie journalism. Mark Dery wrote psuedo-journalistic crap like "The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink". John Shirley was an early cyberpunk author, and not one of the better ones. These guys are no great loss.

The top-tier essayists, like John McPhee, are doing fine. The top-tier political writers are getting their books published. Novelists continue to flood bookstores with paperbacks. Even romance novel sales are up. "

Thank you. My jaw dropped when I saw the selection of "writers" surveyed. "No great loss" is putting it mildly. Now how do we get "RU Sirius" to STFU?

Is the Internet Bad For Professional Writers (1)

Alzheimers (467217) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899677)

Yes.

Err, No.

Well, maybe.

Depends.

I guess.

dtIck (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20899679)

To the politicall7 steadily fucking to underscore

GOOD for Fiction Writers (2, Insightful)

no_pets (881013) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899683)

There are different media outlets for writers so I suppose it might depend on the type of writer that you are. As an avid reader I would say that it is GOOD for authors of (mainly) fiction. Several of my favorite writers have their own websites with forums that they actually contribute to.

Instead of having to rely on jacket cover blurbs, these writers can steer me toward other good writers with links to their websites. It's what the world wide web was designed for, it works well, and I believe these types of writers benefit from it. Not to mention that they can sell things directly to their fans (not just books, other novelties or even autographed works and limited editions).

Re:GOOD for Fiction Writers (1)

masdog (794316) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899927)

It is also a good gateway for new writers. In addition to fiction newsgroups, websites, and forums where would-be authors could get their work reviewed and critiqued, there are new types of media like Baen's Grantville Gazette, which is "professional fan-fiction" and self-publishing.

Buggy Whip Manufacturers (1)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899717)

They need to learn how to make something besides "Buggy Whips".

I agree, mixed blessing (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899733)

Jay Kinney

It's a mixed blessing.

If the hardest part of writing is just making yourself sit there and write, and what used to be a typewriter and a blank sheet of paper has been transformed into a magical portal to a zillion fascinating destinations, then the internet can be a giant and addictive distraction.

On the other hand, it's a quick and simple way to do research without ever leaving your chair, and that can be a real time-saver.

So, on those counts at least -- color me ambivalent.
I think you need to draw a distinction between people practicing writing as an art/hobby and those who make it their profession. As far as the actual practice of writing, I agree with the quote above.

I think there is a good point to be made that the amateur writer has a far greater audience than ever before. In the past, amateurs produced their own newspapers or pamphlets two hundred years ago or fanzines in more recent times -- now those same sorts can blog and circulate the information amongst their friends. I think it's a bad time for the professional and a good time for the amateur.

Beware (3, Insightful)

xPsi (851544) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899837)

of people you've never heard of who claim to be Writers who write about writing. Like musicians who write songs about being on the road doing gigs or business people who spend all their time attending effectiveness training seminars, it demonstrates a certain loss of perspective in the craft. Isn't it interesting how most people who write these "how to publish a novel" books are either obscure or unpublished themselves? That snippy comment aside, I think the hubris-ridden article raises some good points. Writing well is a craft, but like any craft it takes place within constraints. Those constraints are dynamic and writers should be judged within their appropriate local conditions. However, if the constraints on your craft are rapidly expanding (e.g. in the case of writing and the internet) and you don't acknowledge the adjustment, your rigidity sounds about as silly as a Sumerian high priest bitching about how no one seems to do cuneiform right anymore.

Re:Beware (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 6 years ago | (#20901375)

Beware of people you've never heard of who claim to be Writers who write about writing. Like musicians who write songs about being on the road doing gigs or business people who spend all their time attending effectiveness training seminars, it demonstrates a certain loss of perspective in the craft.
So freakin' true. And my personal favorite: Hollywood screenwriters and directors who make movies about the [choose one: fabulous/romantic/cutthroat/melancholy/hilarious/gritty] world of life in Hollywood.

Like everything else, it depends (1)

Cleon (471197) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899883)

It's a mixed bag, I think.

On the one hand, there are a lot more opportunities for making money from writing--blogs, namely. The downside of that, however, is that because there are so many people doing so, the pay is usually crap. To be successful, writers have to work much harder at promoting themselves directly to the readers. In the Olde Days(tm), writers had to promote their work to publishers, who then in turn promoted their work to their readers.

For fiction writers, I think it's a different animal altogether--in fact, I'd say that beyond offering a new medium for promotion and sales (Amazon), the Net hasn't had much effect on fiction writing. eBooks are not getting any traction. Online fiction zines typically don't pay very well (if at all), and aren't really well respected or frequented by readers.

I was at a con this weekend where there was a panel on Print-On-Demand, which is a technology used mainly by self-publishing companies and "vanity presses." Sites like Lulu.com are taking some of the stigma out of self-publishing (I've done it myself [lulu.com] ), but self-publishing again requires massive amount of work at self-promotion. (And some of the sleazier methods of said promotion are creating yet another stigma on the concept.) It's really only useful if you either have an audience already, or if you don't intend to sell more than a few hundred copies. As a means to earn a living, it just plain sucks.

For a fiction writer, the world hasn't changed much--dead trees are still the name of the game, as are the publishing firms that control them.

Yet again (1)

Zebra_X (13249) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899931)

Is the internet bad for ________ - insert latest thing here.

Re:Yet again (1)

aicrules (819392) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900203)

HTML is bad for _______, because it takes all those ______________ that you put in a row and only shows them as one _. So, if you would say that not being represented fully is a bad thing, then the HTML part of the internet is bad for ______.

Deadlines (1)

dontspitconfetti (1153473) | more than 6 years ago | (#20899939)

Well, because of e-mail, deadlines can be shifted for journalists to whatever time the editor damn pleases.

2 Thoughts about this (1)

TheJodster (212554) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900401)

First of all, it's a pretty poor time in the history of humanity to be a professional writer. Hobbyists and semi-professional writers can easily reach wide audiences and they often submit their material to the same places as the professionals. Supply becomes higher than demand.

Second, I get almost all of my news from the internet and I think I know what's going on in the world at any given time. However, I will occassionally sit down with a newspaper when I can string together several minutes of free time. By the time I am through reading a long article about a current event, I am always amazed at how much I didn't know about it.

Lots of folks have already said that the internet is driving short, data dense prose and I agree that we are all the poorer for it. However, I know that I will continue to bypass longer stuff for higher density content because I can get my info quicker. I am a lazy bastard at heart and want to get my info and move on with the least amount of effort possible. I am frankly amazed that I was able to overcome my laziness and complete this post.

Stupid liberals slit own throats. (2, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900495)

Western Civilization is a spectrum, and even though I'm a conservative, I'd rather thought that we ought to have a place of value for our crazy liberal friends, because, at the end of the day, they do amazing work.

We have before us, a class of people whose livelihood depends on control over the mechanical means of producing a copy of a work, and that means is stripped away from them. So, yeah, the internet screws writers, along with phographers, artists, musicians, and anyone else who used to make a living selling copies of their work.

Who are these people getting screwed?

They are really, liberals. And, as a right winger, I have to admit, I find this funny and sad at the same time. It's funny, because all of the people really leading the charge to get rid of copyrights and the writing class, are those who tend to have a leftist bent themselves. It's sad though, because by the same token, those people do make good work. I may not like all of Bob Dylan's politics, or Vonneguts tirades against Reagan, but, I love Highway 61 and Slaughterhouse 5.

Today's liberals owe their political lives and the way they think to a literary tradition and they are destroying for reasons that are positively vain. "Free beer" for Steinbeck? Dickens? Vonnegut? Without the likes of a number of great liberal writers, there could be no liberalism, and honestly, there could be no western culture. Conservatism can't exist by itself, any more than liberalism can.

Liberalism, in its truest (that is, pan political party sense), is based on ideas that are deeply contemplative, and, you can't stuff that into an angry blog post. It's about images and ideas and emotions, and, really, the arts is what drives it. Daily Kos and liberal blogs cannot hold a candle to the likes of Steinbeck or a Dickens, to just name two great progressive (gasp liberal) writers, and it is reckless and irresponsible to pretend they can. This culture that the internet is trashing is -important-, and it is a downright disgrace that liberals own leaders of today are doing the trashing of their own roots, and, viewed broadly enough, are undermining the very basis for western culture.

We are what we Art. Is art really so expensive that it must be free? Are songs really that mundane that you need to have thousands of them? Are images so cheap? Must they be?

I counsel my liberal patriots to think carefully before you act, and I don't think that you are.

Re:Stupid liberals slit own throats. (1)

Ksisanth (915235) | more than 6 years ago | (#20901249)

The writers, artists, and musicians are the creators, not the gatekeepers who are "screwed" when the gate is opened (unless they've made themselves dependent on it). Liberalism is based on the idea that complex problems can be proactively solved, which may lend itself to the notion of central-planning/administration--the gate--but it isn't necessary. The transition will be bumpy, perhaps painful, but that's life: what's convenient for some will be an impediment for others.

The replies here are so predictable (1)

GamblerZG (866389) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900665)

Are you kidding me? I mean, do you really think that there will be many people who are paid to write for online publications that will say, "yeah, internet is the cause of rapid degradation of writing style" or something like that? Would this news even get published here if the authors concluded that internet sucks for writers?

Internet is bad for the quality of writing. Trying to type this goddamn message before the page gets swamped with other replies is one of many examples why. If you really think that 2-kilobyte blog entry, unedited and hyperliked all the way through is better than (or equal to) a real article, then you simply engage in groupthink.

Internet can be a conductor of good writing, of high-quality articles that rely on words (rather than pictures and hyperlinks) to conduct the meaning. It can be good for writing, but right not it is not. Right now it's mostly a source of fast-food writing where being quick and cheap is much more important than being meaningful and thoughtful.

I'm a gamer, so I offer you gaming media as an excellent example. Take some paper magazine from 10 years ago. Take some popular website now. Compare, see the difference.

The Internet is the best news ever for pro writers (1)

MichaelCrawford (610140) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900691)

Why? Because if you publish on your own website, you get to keep the rights to your work. Most dead-tree book publishers and magazines require copyright assignments from writers. New writers get the same raw deal from publishers as musicians get from the record labels - they get shafted, and the publishers keep all the money.

And how is one to make money on the Internet? Rather than being paid by the word or royalties from book sales, one can earn money through advertising - Google AdSense, affiliate ads and so on.

I have earned as much as five thousand dollars per month [mistermarkup.com] from Google AdSense on my articles. Quite a few people in the Webmasterworld AdSense forum report earning ten thousand per month or more.

At one time it was my ambition to be a dead-tree author, but no more. I'm happier publishing on the web. Read, for example, my essays on mental illness and recovery [geometricvisions.com] .

paragraphs are dying. (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900789)

I've noticed that over the past 10 years, paragraphs are getting shorter and shorter. It seems that even a simple sentence now constitutes a complete paragraph. So much internet writing is in short direct sentences - this note is no exception. It's sad. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a paragraph could extend for pages and a sentence could have subordinate clauses - more than one - or three or more! Today, it's like:

Paragraph one: SNARKY COMMENT TO GRAB ATTENTION - two sentences.

Paragraphs two - six: each a sentence that supports the main point.

Bold face subhead - to make it seem like there's a change in substance, when in actuality, it's just a development of the main theme.

Paragraphs seven through ten - each at most 3 sentences, tops.

Bold face subhead - announces conclusions with a snarky headline.

Three sentences form a paragraph or two. done.

It's just awful.

RS

Re:paragraphs are dying. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20900927)

Has Netcraft confirmed it?

missing ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20900799)

Apparently.

Seems to be a consensus here (1)

ZeroPly (881915) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900821)

It looks like most of the posters agree that amateurs are just as good as the professionals. In the interests of disclosure, I didn't actually read the postings that were several paragraphs long and filled with punctuation symbols, but if I spent my morning trying to read all that I wouldn't have time to update my blog.

Writing on the Web . . . (1)

l0rd.47hl0n (1099499) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900845)

Here's my two cents: Aside from article length, writing on the web contains significantly more typographic erros than any print publication I have ever perused. This includes articlesd here on /.. The article immediately proceeding this one says . . . Seizures get worse when they abnormal activity of brain cells overheats the brain and causes more abnormal firing patterns. I see this downward trend in much of our world because, sadly, people are lazy and in a hurry. I feel that if you will not do it correctly, you shouldn't be doing it at all. Most people in out society are cows. Their finite, narrow world is all that's important to them. They feel that just getting the information out is the important thing. ERRR - Wrong you pusillanimous creton. They care not to look ahead and consider the ramifications of their actions and how it will impact our children or community. As much care should be taken with grammar and spelling on the web as on paper. The excuse, "Information on the web needs to be posted faster," is pure bull shit. I'd rather hear about something 30 minutes later and be able to read it without mentally correcting than have to re-read some idiot-posted scratch.

I see this as the same as proprietary versus (2, Insightful)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 6 years ago | (#20900979)

...free (as in beer) software. It's a matter of people creating a product to sell or give away for free. The same arguments that apply to proprietary software versus free software applies here. Obviously, if people spend time reading free blogs and online-zine articles, they will reduce time spent on reading newspapers, magazines, and books. The number of hours in a day are fixed. That's a negative aspect, but I believe it's one of the few negatives. (Publication of wrong, unvetted information would be the other negative).

I believe time is the primary resource that's in competition, not subject matter. Many blogs, message board posts, and websites I read are much more narrowly focused than print media, so competition for subject matter seems limited. Narrowly focused topics are a good thing. If it were not for the Internet, I simply would have no outlet for what I write about, because my stuff is unpublishable due to the nature of the content. In the print world, that would be bad for me and those who read my blog.

There is a societal benefit to free information and the online publication infrastructure. More people writing means more people learning to communicate, which makes more effective workers. It also means audience reach is farther compared to print publishing, so there will be more people sympathetic to your issues. On my blog, I regularly see readers coming from China, India, Russia, Iran, and Australia. If I were publish a magazine column, my readers would only be Americans. It's easy to convince those culturally similar to me, but it's satisfying to know I may be convincing those very different from me.

This concept that articles and fiction pieces have to be brief, power-packed, and trendy strikes me as a cop out. People eat up message board threads consisting of nearly 500 words each and 20 messages deep. A thread can easily reach 10,000 words of material, so I don't buy the short attention span argument.

What I buy into is that people are simply uninterested in your work if you believe you need to be brief and trendy. If someone buys a $25 hard cover book, they have an investment in the book for which they need to recoup by reading it from beginning to end, so they may put up with a book that's less than thrilling. They have no investment with your free online piece, so they're going to be far more sensitive deciding if your content is interesting and thus worthy of further reading.

People like interactivity. How many times have you read a newspaper article and disagreed with a critical point? You had no means providing feedback, other than "letters to the editor", which was up to the whim of an editor to publish or not. The Internet provides the ultimate channel for feedback.

The new printing press (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20901061)

After RTFA I was left with the sense of many of the "traditional" authors/publishers as analogues to the Catholic Church after Gutenberg invented the printing press (alluded to by Mr. Shirky). While I agree that there is much chaff to be sorted through in the Internet to get at the precious few seeds, the freedom for authors to reach an audience and the ability of that audience to be reached without a group deciding for them how it "should be" is only good for truly free thought and speech. While holding onto a defunct distribution method may not be the financial best option for those plying their trade in the literary arts (cough, MAFIAA, cough) change is inevitable.

Being of the IT persuasion myself, the possibility of future systems that write and fix themselves terrifies me. However, the onus would be on me to keep myself current with the ebb and flow of technology, instead of hiding under a blanket, suckling my left thumb whilst pining for the "good 'ol days". And so it goes...

Only for bad writers (2, Informative)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#20901165)

The good writers will still be there. The bad writers will be filterd out much faster.

Compare it to the camera vs painters or horsebreeders vs carmakers. Things evolve and change. Get over it.

Internet drowns out promising voices (1)

athloi (1075845) | more than 6 years ago | (#20901269)

There are now so many people convinced they are writers, and so many of them are terrible, that fewer people are reading and if they are, they are turning to what the large publishers are putting out. I think there's two definitions of writers, one the "you get paid to do it" definition and the other the one advanced by Beckett in the original article. Some people are truly artists with text. The vast majority just pretend to be.
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