Why There’s Lousy Media: Two Models Of Production.

Why is there so much plain lousy stuff in media?

People ask this a lot, and they complain about it even more.  I do it, you do it, our friends do it, and there are people paid to complain about it.  Certainly we have enough material to complain about.

Lately, the internet-savvy became aware of Ark Music Factory due to a mocked video they released.  Ark is pretty much a Beiber Machine, and its sudden prominence heralded a short, and apparently now dead, discussion of talent cultivation in various circles.  I expect it to be forgotten shortly because there will be some other example of questionable content creation to complain about.

Content Farms were all the rage to talk about for the last few weeks, especially after the AOL/Huffington Post merger.  Google even tweaked some of their searches to deal with Content Farms, those low-quality attempts to generate high hits (usually for ad dollars).  I don't hear much of that now, though I'm sure it'll come back.

This got me thinking about why there's so much lousy media, and I think I have an idea – a broad, in no doubt flawed idea, but an idea.  I'd like to share it and get comments so we can either avoid using these ideas, or exploit them mercilessly and dominate the world.

(If you do dominate the world, invite me.)

Those of us that enjoy creating content and media obviously focus on quality.  Oh sure we may actually be bad at it, but we're trying, and may not realize how lousy we are.  But we're aiming for quality in many cases because we want to do things right – and we don't want to be humiliated and not sell things.

So first of all, it's necessary to understand that plenty of people in media don't care about quality, they're looking at the dollars.  If you look at the dollars, there are actually two basic, obvious, approaches to generating them:

The first is creating a ton of content quickly and easily to generate what income you can.  This is the idea of the Content Farm, some reality TV, and even some DLC.  You create a lot, fast, and even if it doesn't last long.

The second model is to try and find The Big Hit.  Big Hit cultivation has two sides to it – you can either cultivate a few properties and work on them carefully, or you can cultivate a lot of properties and sort of darwinistically sort them out.  The goal is a single or few cases of highly profitable content.  You see this in a lot of films, some AAA games, and in novels.  It's the Superstar system we often hear mentioned.

Notice neither model actually focuses on quality, except if it helps pay the bills and perform the services needed.  These are methods of getting attention and interest and thus dollars because that's what some people are focusing on.  That's the way it is.

I like these two models, as they seem to be a useful way to look at media that's, well, crappy, and understand why it is.  Spams of cheap reality TV shows cost little but get attention and ad dollars with titles like "Celebrity Car Accidents" and "Bridal Sex Diet 12."  Mega-merchandised, tweaked and marketed films fit into the Big Hit Model.

(These are not the only models – I just feel they're the prominent ones.)

I'm going to see how these models work for me in understanding lousy media, bad TV, and overmarketing.  Let me know what you think.

Steven Savage