Writing with Integrity — The Dying Art of Creating Quality Content
There has never been a time in human history when so much was written on so frequent a basis. No other era even comes remotely close. We are, as a species, flooded with words. All day, all night, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year.
An increasing amount of it is utter garbage.
Or rather, more and more of it is low-quality, money-grabbing babble disguised as useful content. I suspect that this may sound like a controversial opinion to share, but is it really?
If I asked you right now how you would describe the majority of blog posts, influencer-based social media content, or cheap ebooks, what would your answer be?
I rest my case. And before my fellow writers, authors, and bloggers get heated, I must clarify that I am not criticizing the frequent production of content or the quest to make an income. That would be very hypocritical of me. What I am questioning is the long term effect of thousands of new content creators whose sole focus is marketing and profit, but who attempt to convince the wider world (and often themselves) that their motives are more than that.
According to Oberlo.com, there are approximately 31.7 million active bloggers in the USA alone. In the marketing world, 86% of content marketers (read: advertisers) use blog posts as a part of their marketing strategy. And while these statistics aren’t problematic in and of themselves, it forms the backbone of an increasingly noticeable trend of purely profit-focused writing masquerading as quality content.
Integrity becomes confused, as does the ability of truly quality-driven creators to be heard or to build sustainable careers. The balance is tipping from genuine career writing to “anyone can make a heaping load of cash by pumping out ebooks and blogs.” Many of us are beginning to question the ability of such a muddled market to stay afloat.
There are of course many, many writers who have the best intentions. And there are plenty of amateur bloggers who start out with a genuine desire to share information or insight with an audience. The issue arises when they are bombarded with messages that encourage rapid monetization and digital product creation through tools such as “lead magnets” and “tripwires” which will build up an eternally shifting email list.
They find themselves pressured by circumstance and by a variety of so-called experts to push out as much keyword-heavy, “SEO optimized” content as possible on a frequent, practically constant basis. In their desire to achieve visibility, many aspiring content creators find themselves writing canned and largely un-researched pieces whose only real purpose is to boost analytics and provide opportunities to sell something. Over time the content becomes much like the thousands of other posts found on any number of similar blogs or writer platforms within their niche.
For most readers, everything is starting to sound eerily similar.
To see the proof of this phenomenon you need only go on Pinterest for any length of time and click through some of the blog links attached to pins. You will find some truly useful content, but most of what you encounter will quickly devolve into some sort of marketing ploy.
Supposedly informative e-books are falling prey to the same trends, with ostensible “experts” producing books that are filled with affiliate marketing, profit-focused branding, and shoddy (or non-existent) work quality. Most of these books are very cheap — or free — and from the outside appear to be promising. What they actually turn out to be is a series of increasingly thinly veiled sales funnels.
The minuscule bits of helpful, researched information received from most content is rarely worth the investment of time it takes to sift through the drivel. As a professional writer who, of course, seeks to make my own income and run what is essentially an entrepreneurial career, it is not the profit-motive itself that I am uncomfortable with. Far from it.
My concern stems specifically from the complete imbalance of that glaring motive with any others, be they a passion for the art of writing, a desire to collaborate, or the hope that one’s own information, ideas, and insight might prove valuable to others.
The entrepreneurial spirit is only sustainable when it is fueled by both a desire for profit and other forms of equally valuable success. It is a machine fed by innovation, adaptation, and the constant back-and-forth of need vs. the meeting of needs. Profit plays a part, and a vitally important one at that, but it has always been more useful as a result than as a motivating force. Without innovation and creativity behind it, content becomes just another overdone flash in the get-rich-quick pan.
And we all know how get-rich-quick schemes go.
Over time, having fallen into the profit-hunger trap on several occasions myself, I have been forced to examine my own reasons for being a writer. The exercise has reaffirmed many of my values and principles. I have always loved writing more than life, and that the beating heart of my identity is passion for my art — a passion that sustains itself even when I quite literally lose money to it. The comfort is in knowing that my artistic integrity remains in place regardless of the profit-motive’s influence over the path that same integrity takes.
I fail to see how the influx of reversed priorities can do anything besides saturate and destabilize the market. I would posit that creating content out of a purely business-oriented model is a complete upending of the natural order of things. If a business invests in the creation of content as a business in order to share information and value, it makes sense. If a creator creates content solely so that they might one day become a profitable business, however, the results become pretty ugly after a while.
The rise of “side hustle” culture and the stereotyped image of a stay-at-home mom looking for “extra income” via writing has become so commonplace as to be inane.
“You could make x amount of money a month by blogging/creating ebooks/freelance writing” the alleged experts say, “and all you have to do is take this course I offer on my blog or purchase my books.”
The barest whisper of lip service is paid to the idea of having more than money in mind when pursuing a writing career, or to the concept of making only good-quality content. The true purpose of these platforms and personalities is painfully obvious.
Much of the content world these days is essentially an MLM scheme magnified hundreds and hundreds of times over. It is flooding us with empty work that has no lasting value to anybody. The result is one endless, exhausting sales funnel after another. Once you’re stuck in the loop, you become disoriented and confused as to how you ever got there in the first place.
Many of us feel helpless to stay above water when it comes to our work’s integrity. With so many dime-a-dozen content creators flooding almost every niche, we find it increasingly difficult to promote our own well-crafted work in any meaningful way.
Our voices are drowned out by short-lived platforms that rapidly profit before they, most often, lose steam and go defunct. Most writers feel some sort of pressure to drink the proverbial kool-aid, or they become disillusioned and disappointed about the reality of content creation in general.
Unrestrained profit-hunger is dangerous to the creative mind. Like a cancer, the ravenous demands of this hunger quickly consume and bury other motives when its influence is left unregulated. A natural process becomes a disease that corrupts the potential for quality and integrity to take their place in our work.
When people who don’t have any real desire to write or blog or publish do so out of a purely profit-based motive, they can produce work at an incredible rate without ever providing anything of real value to the world. The resulting sickness is international and pervasive.
Like entrepreneurs who act out of greed at the expense of innovation, the impatient and unfulfilled greed of the purely profit-minded pollutes the rest of the market with cheap products whose only appeal is in the impulsive and the short-term. With such an overwhelming quantity of cheap work being thrust into the view of audiences and creatives alike twenty-four-seven, it is no wonder that quality is becoming more and more rare as time goes on.
I do not have a solution for this trend, nor do I claim to be immune to the draw of those loud, flashy marketing ploys. I also cannot claim to know the deeper motivations of every content creator I encounter. My purpose here is only to foster dialogue, share my experiences, and bring out others’ voices so that we might share words with one another.
At the end of the day, isn’t that what ought to drive us as artists?