Why This Will Work: An Editor-in-Chief’s Rationalization
At one point early on in this venture’s humble beginnings, Joe and I were celebrating one of those sporadic, euphoric manic bursts that are a pleasant side effect of risking you and your family’s livelihood on something as pipe-dreamed as a media company, especially one that blatantly defies everything that is making current similar vehicles successful.
I looked at him, our ‘foolproof’ idea written out on some Google Doc, and asked, “How has no one else thought of this?”
“They have,” he replied, “We’re just the only people dumb enough to try it.”
And maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s overly quixotic of us to start this site and this company. But really — and what I always hide from potential investors — is that Random Nerds isn’t really just a website and it isn’t really just a media company. Really, it’s a parlay bet. #
The first bet is, like any entrepreneur’s, on me and my team’s ability. But the second bet is a little more risky…
It’s a bet on you, the average reader, and who you really are deep down.
It’s a bet that is based solely on my optimistic belief that you, sentient human being reading this, are capable of discerning quality from crap and that you are still capable of giving a shit if, like a good murderer, you are given the means, motive, and opportunity to do so. And giving a shit is different from just Liking something and different from being ‘totally obsessed’ with it. Giving a shit means being willing to offer a piece of yourself back in some way. It means putting your money or your energy or even your most valuable commodity, your time, where your touchscreen-finger is.
So really this second bet is more of a social experiment…
“If a person REALLY values something they have read/seen/heard/experienced and believes the creator of that something was undervalued (read: underpaid) for their work, they will help support the creator of that something until they feel he or she has been properly valued (read: paid), in hopes that said creator might create again.”
It doesn’t sound so crazy when it’s written out like that, right?# However, thanks to a myriad of reasons that I can’t even really comprehend myself, our current media system is basically the exact opposite of that.
Right now, almost all other media outlets in the world work like this:
- Users are able to access content from a website for free.
- That content is put together by a writer who is paid a predetermined, finite amount by that site’s parenting company.
- That company gets the money to pay that writer by selling ad-space# to a bankrolling third-party, who is betting the invasive shittiness of their ads will be forgiven in exchange for access to that site’s ‘free’ content.
- The more users that view that content (and thus that third-party’s shitty ads), the more money the website makes off their ad-spending bankrollers.
Seems kind of inefficient, huh? Might lead to an influx of view-courting clickbait, right?
It’s also pretty damn unfair to that writer who actually came up with the content in the first place, since they’re the ones driving all these financial transactions in the first place.
Here’s the model we at Random Nerds have proposed:
- You, the user, are still able to access content for free.
- That content is still put together by a writer who is paid a predetermined amount by us (the company).
- However, instead of that being the end of the financial arrangement, we’ve made a deal with our writers that all profits gained from their content within 90 days of its posting will be split 49/49 between them and us (the other 2% goes to a predetermined charity that we will choose each month).
- That ad-space and that bankrolling third-party who doesn’t really care about you are left out of the equation entirely.
The only problem with this model, and the reason it’s not currently in vogue, is that it foregoes the financial reliability of selling your soul to the advertising devil. Instead, it relies on you, the user.
With Random Nerds’ one-of-a-kind Patronizing system, you’re really the ones that get to tell those advertisers to screw off because you’re the ones cutting them out as middle-men gatekeepers.
By spending your money on the actual creators of the thing that you value, you make quality, not clicks, the new guiding principle.
It may feel weird and a bit (ahem) patronizing at first to tell someone who worked their ass off on a piece that you think they deserve a whopping $1 extra for their trouble, but trust us, those $1’s add up. Just ask anyone who’s ever had a Kickstarter project funded…
To put things into perspective, take a guess at how much money the writer you really like got for writing that one article that basically changed your life, the one you shared on Facebook and Twitter and Snapstagratinder? Probably somewhere between $100 and $300, if they were paid at all. Do you know how much money that writer’s company made in ad revenue thanks to all those clicks they (and your social network) helped generate? Approximately a fuck-ton more. How does that make sense? How does that reward, or more importantly sustain quality?
The answer is it doesn’t. And it’s the reason why you ‘hate the Internet’ these days. It’s the same reason why Huffington Post went from a political and journalistic gamechanger to a home for fish porn, and why The New Republic had to sell out to some piece of shit who helped found Facebook, a site scientifically proven to depress you the longer you’re on it. It’s the reason Buzzfeed still gets to chant “SCOOOREBOOOAAAARD!” whenever people criticize their endless cycle of listicles.
So something has to change. Something has to be done to counteract this devolution of the online experience. Maybe this ‘foolproof’ idea of ours isn’t it and we’re being incredibly naive, but I really think it is. It just seems like the only ones losing out in this model are the soul-sucking advertisers that both readers and writers (and Editors-in-chief) have always hated in the first place, and this might be one of the few opportunities the good guys have to outsmart the bad guys. You know what I mean?
I’m betting you do.
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