Support good things; otherwise, they die. That’s the truth, and I often need to remind myself of it in this age of free content, ad blockers, and information glut.
I'm excited to begin Support It, an ongoing series of recommendations, an appeal of sorts, on creators and publications deserving of broader support. Why? Well, otherwise they might die, and I'd like them to continue doing good work.
But why do good things die?
Consistency Requires Commitment
More precisely, consistent quality requires commitment, and that's a two-way street. For creators, commitment means showing up, doing the work, and putting in the time to do it well. The responsibility of creators also includes their motivation. This ought to be something higher than profit, which is why I won't be singing the virtues of internet-ordered mattresses here.
For readers, viewers, whatever, commitment involves more than showing up and leaving satisfied. Good content is never just content, it’s downstream of fears, longings, and experience; content is human (except when it’s algorithmically generated). It’s easy to be an indiscriminate consumer today, but it’s also easier than ever to leave a comment — try it on this post — and engage creators.
Without a commitment on both sides of the equation, the resources and desire to continue good work, even important work, dry up. Of course, commitments beget commitment. Which brings me to the next point.
Committed Creators Should be Supported
No one else is going to do it.
Ads are terrible and particularly annoying on the internet, so we install ad blockers and enjoy our content freely, for free, against clean, minimal backdrops — then they die.
Yeah, blocking ads, refusing to pay subscription fees, and still showing up for free stuff isn’t exactly the definition of sustainable. Which is why good things deserve support. I love public media, and I think trustworthy, independent publicly funded outlets like the CBC in Canada and NPR and PBS in the US are important.
But independent creators are valuable, and they need to eat. A healthy culture cannot and should not be outsourced to the government, so the people doing good work, especially in quiet corners of our culture, deserve support. This is unavoidably relational, however. Consumers can’t keep consuming with no thought to the human hands behind the internet buffet.
Sometimes I’m tempted to even limit myself to only the sources of information I can afford to support. One day I’ll experiment with this and chronicle it here. I imagine it’ll involve more trips to my local library.
Support Keeps Everyone Honest
Free stuff isn’t really free. Even if we were to resign ourselves to the web’s gasping advertising regime and sell our eyes and attention for free things, it would only create a monster.
In reality, we’ve been feeding this monster for years, and it’s already a leviathan: Surveillance Capitalism. Products are no longer the glue that holds the most powerful companies and consumers together in capitalism’s embrace. The economic order is increasingly “focused on data extraction rather than the production of new goods, thus generating intense concentrations of power over extraction and threatening core values such as freedom.”
I’m oversimplifying, but I do think the path to the growing social and political crises we see playing out on our free newsfeeds was paved by inordinate desires: for stuff, for content, for more of everything, for free.
Support It will introduce a person, publisher, or producer doing good work in their corner of the web. I'll tell you why I love their work and why it's worth supporting.
Support good things, or they will die.