Ripple Effect of Digital Deflation?
Recent announcements from BuzzFeed, and a slew of other digital media outlets, that they are culling hundreds of content producers (Axios reports total of over one thousand lay-offs today alone), appear to indicate two distinct themes emerging for the 2019 content media landscape.
On the one hand, after more than a decade of growth and pure digital news models showing potential financial viablility, profitability remains elusive. On the other, a tsunami of artificial intelligence, software and hardware improvements over the last 2 years, in particular, have begun to reduce overheads, especially for those bulk production techniques such as employed by BuzzFeed.
While legacy publishers are showing some marginal improvement in subscription revenues, the business model for online media and content production continues to shift in search of a sustainable income mix. Cost of human contributions to content is an obvious issue.
“The restructuring we are undertaking will reduce our costs and improve our operating model so we can thrive and control our own destiny, without ever needing to raise funding again”@PERETTI / BUZZFEED
Basic Cost Cutting or Shifting the Mix?
Lowering overhead by cutting staff is the message sent as the primary explanation for the industry-wide layoffs. Digging just beneath the surface, however, is the not-so-gradual shift in technology that allow digital content production organizations to ramp up output while at the same time reducing costs.
Read: more work done by A.I., software and robots and fewer humans required. Result: Accelerated Digital Deflation.
The entire history of tech advances since the ubiquity of the personal computer has engendered digital deflation (ask anyone in the music industry). Meanwhile, advancements over the last couple of years are creating a massive acceleration of this trend, based on a shift toward automated production in all facets of content creation.
As a content creator the perspective seems amusingly bifurcated; improved tools for visual and verbal expression must be welcomed and adapted to, all while working in a monetization system that does not yet favor the individual creator.
Perhaps a headline: “Thousands of Humans Rendered Obsolete By Improved Robot Software” would seem less compassionate than merely indicating that they (the humans) stood in the way of reaching profitability?
In the long run, using more A.I., together with improved hardware and software tools to increase productivity in digital communication, will lead to lowered barriers to entry. And, for content creators and those 1000+ professionals just liberated, it might be best to consider all their options. One of the best may be to establish a free-lance future using the very technology that erased those jobs in the first place.
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