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All Internet Content is a Gamble

There was a recent Reply All that covered a number of topics, including a response from a YouTube creator who felt discouraged when she heard on an earlier episode that she needed many more subscribers (like millions more) in order to be noteworthy.

The guys mused that with all of the thinking they do about the online world, they should have a better sense of how one goes about getting more subscribers or creating a viral video.  They brought up a Darius Kazemi talk from XOXO that you can watch below:

Kazemi likens content that resonates to winning the lottery: They is no magical formula just as there are no special numbers you can play that make it a sure thing that you will win the lottery. BUT if you don’t create content (or you don’t play the lottery) you definitely can’t win. So… create good content and then let go of the process. It will either resonate, or not.

He states: “What I’ve learned is that – beyond a certain level of effort – there’s basically no correlation between the amount of work you put into something and how successful it is.”

It’s sort of freeing to think that there is nothing you can humanly do once you give it your best shot.  I mean, it’s sad, too, because the whole thing sounds like a slog from that angle.  What’s the point if you can’t influence your work’s success beyond a few tiny steps you can take to nudge it in the right direction?  But it’s also freeing.  It’s okay if I’m sitting back or moving on to the next thing.

With things pertaining to luck: creative work, relationships, baby making — it’s all about showing up and putting in the effort, and then understanding that your work is done and it’s just a matter of chance.

Does his philosophy make you feel hopeful or just plain sad?


1 katherinea12 { 09.20.16 at 7:52 am }

There’s a sense in which it’s a little frustrating, given that there’s a definite strain of the cultural narrative implying that if you do x, y will follow. This would probably be less of an issue (for me at least) if it didn’t come with a bit of blame at times – for example “well, no wonder you didn’t get pregnant you didn’t eat pineapple/stand on your head/drink this magic potion”.

I find the idea that once you’ve put in the hard work and it either goes or it doesn’t somewhat freeing. It means not dissecting every tiny decision, wondering if doing something different would have gotten the deeply desired result. Instead of guilt and long sessions of wondering, a philosophy like this makes it easier to say “well, I did everything I could and now I’m moving on”.

2 Beth { 09.20.16 at 8:42 am }

It generally makes me feel hopeful. But there have been times, mostly related to helping my children through something, where I am extremely frustrated that I can only help to a certain point. But as far as work goes, it gives me peace as a controlling person, to sometimes know that I can let go of feeling responsible. I’ve given it my all and what happens will happen.

3 a { 09.20.16 at 10:43 am }

I think…it’s not entirely true. Marketing is a huge part of getting yourself noticed. If you write fantastic things, and never send them off to anywhere that they can get noticed – like, if you have an anonymous blog with only 3 readers – you have no chance, even though you’ve put in the same amount of writing work as a JK Rowling. So your best effort is not only the thing you create, but how you draw people’s attention to it.

I think it’s sort of natural for gregarious, social people to assume that everyone can cast a wide net. But that’s not actually how it works. There is always some bit of luck involved. Take my BIL, for example – he’s a photographer, and he has a Facebook page, where he lists the art shows where he will be selling his work. But since he’s not terribly well-informed about SEO, that’s about as far as it goes. So, whenever he posts the show he’ll be at that weekend, I share that post, because maybe someone I know might want to go to an art show. But I’m pretty much the only one in our family that does it regularly. Imagine his exposure if all of his friends (who are not art show vendors) did the same thing – he could pursue a lot of free advertising if he asked us (just his family, who are somewhat vested in his success) to share his show information.

Also, he had a picture of the Superbowl Halftime show with Prince – I had no idea he had it until he posted that he had made a print for my SIL just after Prince died. It wasn’t part of his stock, and I don’t know if he would have made it available, if several of us hadn’t told him that it would sell. (His focus is sports, not music.) So, timing is also sometimes as important as the work and the marketing.

You can do the work and put it out there, but the work itself (writing, music, art, what-have-you) isn’t the only work that must be done for things to get noticed.

4 Lori Lavender Luz { 09.20.16 at 4:25 pm }

I suppose that makes me, um, neither hopeful nor sad. I’ve been disconnecting from the desire for virality. But I will say the times that I’ve had a post take off, it was because it was a really good post and I’d spent a lot of time on it.

(But I guess I could say that about a majority of my posts).

5 torthúil { 09.20.16 at 5:59 pm }

I understand the frustration of content creators. But as far as going viral and/or gaining followers, I think there should be a fair amount of chance involved, because if there wasn’t it would be creepy. If there was a formula to follow for influencing people or going viral, it would mean that someone was controlling the media and people’s minds. Of course there are a lot of people doing that or trying to, but the fact that the process is unpredictable and no one can quite make it happen, means that they are not succeeding in controlling everything. Not only am I OK with that, if wasn’t the case I’d be really scared. As for myself, I don’t need to be famous or viral. I’m happy to add to the diversity of voices out there by doing my little thing in my little corner.

6 Risa { 09.20.16 at 9:38 pm }

I love that quote. Some of these things that go viral, I’m like, What? That was supposed to be talent?

7 Cristy { 09.21.16 at 8:13 am }

I find this to be very true. There’s a recent movement in science to revamp how worth of work (impact factor) is judged. Traditionally it was getting one’s work published in top journals, but there is work that doesn’t make it there due to politics or it not being seen as valuable even though it is. There’s also a LOT of negative data that never sees the light of day. There are some people who are just that talented, by the reality is whether something takes off or even works had a lot to do with luck on top of all the hard work that is usually happening universally.

So I do agree about just creating and getting things out there. Because you never know.

8 Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life { 09.26.16 at 3:44 am }

“a” has a point. Good marketing and PR can trump luck and skill. But if you remove that choice, if you’re willing to take your chances that your writing or creations will land in front of the right people based on organic sharing, which is what I’ve done for the past few years, then it’s a bit freeing to accept that you can do the 57 million things to share on Periscope, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to get all the eyeballs – or not. You can just choose to make the stuff and share it and see what happens, if anything. I’m ok with the lower likelihood that my blog will ever reach the heights that some PF blogs reach because I’m enjoying the process of creation more than I desire that notoriety and recognizability. That’s a decision informed by my choice to remain pseudonymous, too.

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