I was running on the treadmill and listening to Dan Benjamin discuss podcasting with Jim Metzendorf. They were knee-deep into the topic of audio compression (here’s the podcast episode). This is excellent material for audio engineers to hear and learn.
And while they were talking, something important occurred to me. There are dozens of available resources that are already available that cover this material. You could get any number of books about recording high quality audio, but here we are at the end of 2014, and what are people listening to? No, what am I listening to?
We are listening to the new take on audio compression on a podcast that was released yesterday.
Why are we paying attention to the new content rather than the old content that has said the same things? The Internet just keeps getting larger. More and more, there is content a click or two away. But is everyone rushing to consume all of it? No. How about the ten other ways we could learn to record and edit good audio that were made in July, 2012? Even when the resources are particularly good, we spend very little time hunting them down, identifying them, and making good use of "the archive", which in this context is all the available content at our disposal.
Because this is important, I’m going to ask again: How come we are not making use of all the abundance of content? Maybe the answer goes something like this: Each of us has a finite amount of time. Usually, we divide the time into periods we are awake or asleep. When we are awake, we make time to enjoy some media, or read some web pages. But from day to day, we each only have so much time before it is all gone.
And since we are creatures of habits, one of the first habits we adopt is the one where we want what is new, rather than what has stood the test of time. There are many movies, podcasts, TV shows, books, web sites, and magazines that make great content, but they are two or three years old — or older — so we gloss over them to the new stuff.
This is very sad, when you think about it. The older the original Sherlock Holmes books become, the fewer people are reading them. The older classic Bugs Bunny cartoons become, a lesser number of children enjoy them. And this is not just the case for entertainment. This is also true of educational and practical resources. If the content becomes old, even just a few days old, it can very easily be forgotten.
The good news is that most people do this. Most people born in 2050 will not bother to watch Guardians of the Galaxy, or search the archive of Daring Fireball, or make use of a 2013 iPod Classic. The resources and content that we use today will eventually go by the wayside.
But for some of us, the lifespan of our creative goods seems all too short. That music album you made last season? How many people have heard it? If the answer is, “Maybe a few hundred,” then don’t be embarrassed, surprised, or too disappointed, because you are not a failure. This happens to lots of artists.
And the reason this is a good thing is that it makes way for the new content from content creators, like you. I used to think that this was a bad thing: bad that large amounts of great resources were going away. Artists, teachers, and innovators in every field of culture would like to see their works stand the test of time. If you are a creative type, you know what I’m talking about. You publish a blog with the intent that people will read what you published a year from now. You would like someone many years from now to discover you and appreciate you, so that you have an undying legacy. So, if people out of habit won't make use of your content, then isn’t it tragic that we put so much time into our goods that are basically disposable?
I think now quite differently. I think that it is ultimately beneficial for everyone that content is forgotten.
Content creators still want to create more content. If I want to talk about Star Wars on one of my movie podcasts, I should be able to without wasting people’s time. Two things are in my favor: most people that heard my shows before will not remember what I said about Star Wars on previous podcasts, and most people will not have even heard it in the first place. This means that people exposed to my show now will have reason to enjoy it, and I still have a good reason to create that show where I discuss Star Wars next year, believe it or not.
Content creators have got to create. There is always that itch to write another song, to record another video, and to craft another app. Creative people want all the opportunities afforded them to create. If people stopped using the new stuff because people were spending most of their time enjoying the endless sea of available content that precedes December 12, 2014, then the creators would be in trouble. We would become the disposable entities. Instantly, all of the creative jobs would become unnecessary, because there is already a vast amount of entertainment, tools, and other resources to busy the world’s population for the rest of time.
So it is sad that, one day, there will be a person who is the last person on earth to read your blog post from last Tuesday, but it’s not sad that thousands of people still want what you want to create for them tomorrow. The more important thing is that creative people have something to do in the present and in the future that is fulfilling. If it means that most people will not make use of what you designed last quarter, that is okay. You would rather be a creative person that still has a purpose in the future.