For a while there, Internet and World Wide Web showed great promise. They whispered sweet nothings in our ears, promising to be voice of marginalized, new democracy, great equalizer.
But it wasnt to be, for Internet has a new master. No, its not Google. No, its not Microsoft. And no, its not even good ole Uncle Sam. Theyre just caretakers. The Internets new master is bigger than theyll ever be, and far, far older.
The Internets new master is same master who holds leash of all traditional commercial media.
The Internets new master is money and power. Not capacity to earn money or capacity to increase power (although those are certainly nice fringe-benefits). No, Internets new master is moneyed, powerful collective. Those who simultaneously mould and reflect mainstream opinion, values, and behavior.
I suppose we should have foreseen it, given Internets military birthplace. But then, we were young and optimistic, and boy did we want to believe!
A little melodramatic? Perhaps. But fairly accurate nonetheless. Let me explain...
The early promise of equity
The Internet started out as a network of computers set up for military purposes. To cut a long story short, World Wide Web started out simply because it could; Internet was there to host it, and technology was there to deliver it. Both were heralded as new face of democracy at long last, voiceless had a voice.
Of course, even in those heady days, we all recognized some fundamental practical and technological limitations which really threw a spanner in works for New World Orderless theory. To begin with, great majority of worlds population didnt even have access to a computer, much less own one with Internet access. In fact, that was still case even after new master took reins (and probably still is).
But we had faith in Internets potential. I even wrote a paper in mid 90s discussing Internets promise for empowerment, and I quote:
Being such a decentralized, anonymous form of communication, Internet offers great opportunities to worlds oppressed improved (anonymous if desired) communications capabilities, and better access to more sources of local and international news, to name just a couple. At same time, Internet poses great threats to worlds existing media and political powers, not only because of re-distribution of information (and, therefore, power) to populace, but also because of apparent impracticality (impossibility?) of regulating information flowing in and out of any country.
Alas, I did not see Internets true potential for censorship and control... Content.
He who wields content is king
We often hear that content is king. The logic of argument is as follows. For some time now, lions share (some 80%) of Internet traffic to average website has been coming from major search engines. Whats more, when people use search engines, they rarely look past second page of search results. Additionally, research suggests that being number 1 in Google equates to twice as much traffic as being number 2. This means you need to rank in first two pages of major search engines ideally at number 1 before your voice begins to be heard. The only way to reach top of search engines is to have thousands of links back to your website from other websites. There are two reliable ways of achieving this goal:
- Publish helpful information on your website and constantly update it so that others link to your site because its so great keep eyes on paper. Some popular methods include news sites, BLOGS, folksonomies, journals, e-newsletters, and customizable web portals like Google Personalized, which allows visitors to choose (from a pre-determined selection) what they see, e.g. news, email, weather, stocks, etc.
- Write helpful articles and let publishers of newsletters and ezines use them for free on proviso that they link back to your site. (These articles are quite often written by SEO copywriters, and they need to be submitted to established article banks, from which they are gathered by online publishers for free.)
In other words, to reach top of search engines, you need to publish virtual reams and reams of high quality, informed content (i.e. copy). And you need to keep doing it indefinitely.
On basis of this evidence, saying that content is king has become somewhat of a truism. But when we look closely, saying is inaccurate. Theres nothing wrong with logic; its conclusion thats problem. In reality, content is no more king than was sword. In reality, he who wields content is king (and I say he with intent, as wielder is generally male or some patriarchal organization).
And who wields content? Only those with social power to command an education and money to indulge in time-consuming task of researching, writing, and publishing said content (or those who have budget and foresight to engage an SEO copywriter).
Wielding content is getting harder