The Telegraph just published an article entitled “Why are artists poor? Self promotion and making money in the new digital economy.” The article itself is relatively stale, regugitating arguments we’ve all heard before, but tucked away in a sub-paragraph I found this interesting, and beautifully written, statement.
The gatekeeper, that traditional curator of culture, is withering away. He/She is being replaced by We: the collective cacophony of self-expression, the cult of democracy, an ecosystem of noise.
Rafi and I have had discussions about this before, and my stance is that gatekeepers will never lose their place in society. Traditional gatekeepers, including ‘old media’, might disappear or lose influence, and the new crowd-sourced version of gate-keeping might be closing in, but an original voice of influence will always be respected and heard. Look at Hip Hop blog Nahright, where blogger Eskay provides a very distinct and easily identified voice presenting content with some commentary to a loyal readership. During the last few months he has added Nation and Dre to the fold, each with their own distinct and complementary personality as well. Their content is very easy to duplicate, and so many other blogs do, but they come nowhere close to duplicating the readership numbers in part because of the position Nahright has as a gatekeeper. The same goes for indie music blog BrooklynVegan, and a few other publications started with the identifiable voice of one person.
In the case of established crowd-sourced gatekeeping, think Amazon and iTunes reviews, there is still a central place for people to read those recommendations: the retail location. There are some new ways emerging that take the age-old word-of-mouth recipe to new heights, without a central information location. A friend recently told me he stopped reading movie reviews, because Twitter was keeping him up-to-date on which movies were good and which ones he shouldn’t go and see. His real-life friends, and people who he might not know but whose opinion he respects, were voicing their movie reviews loud and clear in 140 characters or less.
There is definitely a shift taking place in the gatekeeping world, but I do not think it’s quite as dramatic as some make it out to be. It’s not so much a revolution, as an evolution. Different voices are getting louder, others are getting quieter. Print publications are losing readers, online publications are gaining them. Industrial-sized opinion influencers are losing relevance, cottage industry versions are gaining it. Word of mouth has always been a key gatekeeper. Modern technology is just making it more efficient and easy to share opinions. The more things change, the things stay the same.Tweet