Cult of the Amateur?

An interesting article in the NY Times talking about a new book by Andrsew Keen called The Cult of the Amateur. It sounds like the book covers a lot of territory but one point of interest to webcomics was the notion that free content is killing content:

"What you may not realize is that what is free is actually costing us a fortune,” Mr. Keen writes. “The new winners — Google, YouTube, MySpace, Craigslist, and the hundreds of start-ups hungry for a piece of the Web 2.0 pie — are unlikely to fill the shoes of the industries they are helping to undermine, in terms of products produced, jobs created, revenue generated or benefits conferred. By stealing away our eyeballs, the blogs and wikis are decimating the publishing, music and news-gathering industries that created the original content those Web sites ‘aggregate.’ Our culture is essentially cannibalizing its young, destroying the very sources of the content they crave."


Xaviar Xerexes

Wandering webcomic ronin. Created Comixpedia (2002-2005) and ComixTalk (2006-2012; 2016-?). Made a lot of unfinished comics and novels.


  1. It sounds to me like Mr. Keen sees the Internet through the lens of the Ouroblogros. I don’t doubt that journalistic content is primarily produced by a select cadre of professionals, then appropriated by aggregators and remixers. I believe that in other areas, eyeball theft is a sign of cultural rejuvenation, not cannibalism.

    Webcomics, to pick a not-so-random example, are displaying a glorious profusion of stunning creativity. Yes, there’s also crap. The former can follow directly from the latter as a whim becomes a hobby and then an expertise. I think that great long-term cultural value is being enabled by the low publishing costs, fast delivery and high convenience of the medium.


    My avatar is from Erfworld by Rob Balder & Jamie Noguchi.

  2. "the vast majority of webcomics (even some of the big name ones) are well below the standards of anything published by the Big Two."

    I call bullshit. You keep bringing up corporate comics in a conversation about quality.

    I’m saying the standards of the Big Two are irrelevant to quality as a whole. Those standards only apply to making Corporate Comics sell. I don’t read any of their comics and wouldn’t care if they disappeared off the face of the Earth and took Diamond with them.

    Oh, yes. I went there.

    Quality comics, comics that their creators care about as something other than a paycheck, but that paycheck is very nice thank you, would find a way into readers hands. Because the creators would make another way. Because it’s what they do. They create. I still think you’re looking at this backwards.

    I do not care one tiny bit if the number of crap comics outnumber what I consider good comics a million to one. If I care enough I’ll find the good ones.

    Anyone who wants to promote better webcomics should point out the good stuff and quit waving the rest around. It’s obvious that crap is crap. We don’t need to keep saying it.

    I don’t mean by ignoring it, it goes away. it’s just that the bad comics are not important. Doesn’t mean not to review the bad ones either. Opinion is important in helping people to decide what to try and what to avoid.

    Just quit blaming things on them. Bad comics will not go away. It’s part of the process. There would not be more high quality comics if there were less low quality comics. It just doesn’t work that way.

    And don’t equate success with quality, or vice versa. Good comics will be good whether they are popular or not. Gaining popularity is a whole nother kettle of fish regardless of how much crap sits around them.

    Ignore the bad comics. They are irrelevant.

    I’m pissed off now. So I’m going to go focus that energy on making the next page of my comic a little bit better. But then I do that on every page.

    Is it "good" enough to get published by the Big Two?

    God, I hope not.

    Greg Carter Abandon

  3. Webcomics have not cannibalized print comics. Unlike, for example, the newspaper business (in which people are simply reading online what they once bought and paid for), online comics have expanded sequential art’s readership. Why has the web expanded the readership? There are many reasons, here’s one; Reading online comics carries no stigma and does not bestow a specific identity, while printed superhero comics and artsy underground comics are each associated with a specific stereotype.

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