Non si può dire che AOL paghi poco gli autori dei suoi blog/siti. Anche 30,000 dollari l'anno. Ma non si può neanche dire che sia tutto oro ciò che luccica. Su The Faster Times c'è il racconto di uno di questi autori, specializzato in programmi televisivi e licenziato dopo meno di un anno. Nella sezione commenti all'articolo, ovviamente, apocalittici e integrati stanno già litigando. Ma alcuni dei problemi sollevati da Oliver Miller sono spine nel fianco del Web e della creazione di contenuti sul Web. A cominciare dal trionfo algoritmico/economico della quantità sulla qualità e dall'illusione di potere/dovere andare sempre più veloci.
I was given eight to ten article assignments a night, writing about television shows that I had never seen before. AOL would send me short video clips, ranging from one-to-two minutes in length — clips from “Law & Order,” “Family Guy,” “Dancing With the Stars,” the Grammys, and so on and so forth… My job was then to write about them. But really, my job was to lie. My job was to write about random, out-of-context video clips, while pretending to the reader that I had watched the actual show in question. AOL knew I hadn’t watched the show. The rate at which they would send me clips and then expect articles about them made it impossible to watch all the shows — or to watch any of them, really.
That alone was unethical. But what happened next was painful. My “ideal” turn-around time to produce a column started at thirty-five minutes, then was gradually reduced to half an hour, then twenty-five minutes. Twenty-five minutes to research and write about a show I had never seen — and this twenty-five minute period included time for formatting the article in the AOL blogging system, and choosing and editing a photograph for the article. Errors were inevitably the result. But errors didn’t matter; or rather, they didn’t matter for my bosses.
When I pointed this out to my bosses, they were annoyed by my complaints. Errors didn’t matter. Grammatical errors — be they major or minor — didn’t matter. The brainless peons who read the website simply wouldn’t notice. What mattered was getting the “product” published. What was happening was that words were starting not to matter. The words that we wrote didn’t matter, and the words that we got in response to them definitely didn’t matter.
...this isn’t just an article about AOL. This is an article about a way of life. “The AOL Way” doesn’t simply stand as a pattern for a major corporation; it’s the pattern of the Internet as a whole. The Internet has created more readers than ever before in the history of the world. And yet, perversely, the actual writer is more undervalued than ever before. Every news site that hopes to survive, The Faster Times included, thinks about whether their titles will show up in search engines. In the age of Internet news, Google “keywords” matter. …Regular old words, not so much.