#2. We're Spoiled
OK, but let's say we're dealing with content creators who aren't dinks, and they're releasing stuff on time. But maybe it's not free enough. Or good enough. People will bitch about it; the Internet is full of people who demand everything to be free and fantastic. And they get away with it because basically everything out there already is free and fantastic.
Remember how we used to check sports scores? You'd flip to the sports channel and watch the scrolling score thingy and try not to blink, lest the score you want scroll by and leave you adrift in a sea of pre-season MLB results.
Fuck you, Grapefruit League.
And if you didn't have cable, then you were waiting for the late night news. And if you liked a team from out of town? It might have been faster to just go there and ask someone.
"Welcome back, man. The Knicks score? Sorry, didn't catch it. Check it, though; I know all the Grapefruit League results."
But now? There are dozens of free websites and apps that have scores for any team you could want, updated by the second, with only as many unimportant baseball results cluttering it up as you want. Technology has spoiled us, and if we see any score-showing website or app that can't do all of this equally as well, and for free, we will bitch about it.
"That'll be $4.99 for those Grapefruit League results, by the way."
And then, as if we weren't spoiled enough by all the fantastic things given to us for free, when we bitch about not being spoiled enough, people actually listen to us!
Take the case of Disney's hit smartphone game Where's My Water? Last year, Disney released a bunch of extra levels for the game, charging an astronomical sum of 99 cents for the set. This was, obviously, an outrage, and a torrent of one-star reviews soon filled the app store in protest. This is a bigger deal than it might sound; given how crowded app stores are, having those five-star average ratings is one of the only ways to stay visible. Which meant Disney was forced to release more levels for free.
Another example: When Mass Effect 3 was originally released, it had an ending that everyone hated. A really epic storm of bitching descended upon most of the gaming sites across the Internet, and before too long the developers caved in. After a couple months, and who knows how many man-hours, they released a massive updated ending for the game, just to try and get people off their backs. People still hated it, but that's not the point. The point was that the developers bent over backward to satisfy us ungrateful bastards.
Imagine what this would do to a child, or to a cat that you were raising as your child.
It would spoil that cat-child rotten. Content providers are teaching their audiences that they're entitled to free, high-quality content. They're teaching their audiences that they'll never stop pandering to the misspelled bitching that fills the Net. They're teaching their audiences that they are more important than anything.
Why on earth would they do that? Because ...
#1. The Audience Is More Important Than Anything
The fundamental reason there is so much high-quality content available for free is because the Internet has thrown the balance between creators and consumers askew.
Creators, you're the porky fellows on the left.
This isn't, as you might think, because content creation is easier now. No, although the Internet and computers and little robots have made content creation a bit easier, the big difference is in distribution. Prior to the Internet, getting people to read your words, or watch your movie, or play your video game was a real hassle. You couldn't get your work on shelves unless you had a deal with the guy who owned the shelves, and shelf owners are notoriously unpleasant people to deal with.
"I want a 40 percent cut, a commitment that you'll take back any unsold inventory, and one night of passion with your wife. Whom you'll also have to take back when I'm done."
But now, there are millions of websites and blogs and something called vlogs and app developers and game developers, all busy churning out work and putting it on the Internet. And having enjoyed the benefits of a marketplace with no barriers to entry, they're now enjoying the side effects of a marketplace with no barriers to entry: millions of competitors.
"Oh, just go away, you horde of assholes."
Which results in essentially all of these creators giving all of their content away for free. This became standard practice on the Internet back during the dot-com boom, when hundreds of brand new companies were given piles of cash by morons and had no requirement to make money immediately. Every one of them set upon basically the same business plan: grow fast by giving away everything for free and hope that profitability would follow. This business plan has since become the standard model for basically every content producer on the Internet. The audience is the first and most important thing.
And for a significant number of them, the audience is the only thing; many of these guys aren't even trying to make money. They're creating shit in their spare time just for fun. They just want the audience. This is one of the main reasons that newspapers and magazines are folding at such an alarming rate. They're trying to make money against competition -- news aggregators and opinion bloggers -- willing to give their goods away for free. Whether those bloggers can deliver quality writing comparable to professional newspaper reporting is debatable, but for a reader just killing time and looking for something to read, the "free = good enough" option is going to be hard to beat.
In the past, we'd always considered these one-way transactions. A reader wanted to read a book, and the author wanted to sell the book, so they'd exchange the book for money and go their separate ways, the reader home to read the new book, and the author to the bar or the bathhouse or whatever. But there was something else at play, too, lurking behind the scenes. The author didn't just want to sell the book. He wanted people to read it. That was worth something to him.
And readers, movie watchers, and video game players have slowly started to learn this. Their time and attention and eyeballs are worth something. When there was less content available and the ratio of content to eyeballs was lower, maybe not so much. But that's changed, and the price for eyeballs has skyrocketed.
You guys get that this is a metaphor, right? Please don't sell your physical eyeballs. If you do, that's not on me.
So unless the Internet suddenly gets a lot less crowded (not likely) or a lot more professional (wow, no), don't expect its citizens to start acting any less entitled. We're being trained that that's the way to be.
"I AM SURPRISINGLY IMPORTANT."